Thomas Jefferson: Pragmatist or Visionary?

How should we view Thomas Jefferson? Colin Bonwick offers his assessment of the man as America's third president, party leader and Enlightenment enthusiast.

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt PealeThomas Jefferson believed he knew the value of his own work. He described himself on his tombstone as:

author of the Declaration of American Independence [,] of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom & Father of the University of Virginia, because by these, as testimonials that I have lived I wish most to be remembered.

Few admirers or critics have accepted this self-assessment, and few historians assign them the same relative importance. But all commentators from the eighteenth to the twentieth century acknowledge the centrality of Jefferson's work to the new American republic.

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