Thomas Jefferson and the Environment

Peter Ling argues that Thomas Jefferson’s ideas have had dramatic continent-wide effects on the landscape and ecology of the United States.

Over two centuries since his presidency, most Americans still feel that Thomas Jefferson deserves not just his memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C., but to have his face carved gigantically into the face of Mount Rushmore. Every year, tourists flock to the Virginian’s elegant mansion of Monticello and hear their guides describe Jefferson’s many talents as architect, botanist, inventor and violinist, not to mention politician. Jefferson himself listed three achievements for posterity: drafting the Declaration of Independence, securing freedom of religion under the law, and founding the University of Virginia. Of these, most people know simply the first. But arguably his botanical and agricultural ideas have had the most visible, widespread and long-lasting impact, for good or ill.

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