Alien and Sedition
· The Alien and Sedition Acts were a pair of laws passed
under the Adams Administration to draw attention away from the
XYZ Affair. All criticism and dissent against the sitting government were
outlawed, forcing opponents to air their objections anonymously.
These measures sparked Jefferson into publishing the Kentucky
Resolutions under an assumed name.
Anglican Church -
· The Anglican Church was organized under King Henry
VIII in 1534 after the Roman Catholic Church failed to grant him
a divorce from his wife Catherine of Aragon. As the official religion
of England, Anglicanism quickly gained a prominent place within
the Protestant hierarchy, and continued to exercise its influence
in the American colonies. Today, the Episcopalian Church functions
as the American wing of the Anglican Church.
· An Anti-Federalist was opposed to the strong centralized government
structure provided under the Constitution. Such a thinker would
have supported a looser organization of political power, as detailed
by the Articles of Confederation (See
the Articles of Confederation SparkNote
Articles of Confederation
· The Articles of Confederation laid out the plan for
the loose system of government originally assumed by the United
States from 1781 to 1789, before the Constitution officially replaced
it as the fundamental document of political organization. (See
the Articles of Confederation SparkNote
Assumption Plan -
· The Assumption Plan, arrived at by Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton
in 1791, was an arrangement that provided for the federal government
to forgive all outstanding state debts in exchange for the relocation
of the government seat from Philadelphia to its present site in
Bank of the United States -
· The Bank of the United States was a centralized federal institution
devoted to the control of the national economy. Originally conceived
by Alexander Hamilton, it fell in and out of favor in the ensuing
decades, supported by advocates of strong government and decried
by those who valued local and state rights. The fiercest opponent
of the National Bank was Andrew Jackson, who waged a savage war
against it during the 1830s. Eventually, the necessity of federal
involvement in financial affairs was conceded as a given, and today
the Federal Reserve Board wields unsurpassed power over the world
Barbary States -
· The Barbary States are the present-day countries of
Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. Barbary, which in Latin
means "foreign," designated the nature of this territory in relation
to the Roman Empire, and the name has stuck. As Islamic powers with
control of the southern Mediterranean coast, the Barbary States
were able to exact exorbitant tributes from American and European
seafarers during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries,
before they lost their sovereignty to the extended reach of colonization.
Bill of Rights
· The Bill of Rights is the name given to the first ten
amendments to the Constitution, passed as a group in 1791. These
amendments outline the basic rights of all American citizens, including
the freedom of speech and the right to bear arms. (See
the Constitution SparkNote
College of William and Mary -
· The College of William and Mary, founded in 1693 at Williamsburg,
Virginia, is the second oldest institution of higher learning in
· The Constitution is the basis of the American system
of government, outlining the demarcation between federal and state
power, and enumerating the several powers of the legislative, executive
and judiciary branches. Further, a Bill of Rights and several
successive amendments have served to refine the direction of government.
Upon being ratified in 1788, the Constitution replaced a more
weakly organized system of government as outlined under the Articles
of Confederation. (See
the Constitution SparkNote
· The Democratic-Republican Party, organized under Thomas Jefferson
during the 1790s, initially stood in opposition to the consolidating
principles of the Federalist party. Composed of many old-time
Anti-Federalists, the Democratic-Republicans were initially suspicious
of the powers of the Constitution and believed in the necessity
of strict construction. Upon gaining executive power under Jefferson
in 1801, the party began to suffer from an identity crisis, as
they were forced to serve in capacities that they fundamentally
opposed. Over time, the Democratic-Republicans effectively became
the sole party in the United States, enjoying over two decades
of federal power under the presidencies of Jefferson, James Madison,
and James Monroe. Correspondingly, their first principles became muddled,
and they suffered a partition in the 1820s, out of which an entirely
new political organization occurred.
· Disestablishment, spurred by Jefferson in the late
1770s, was the means by which the Anglican Church lost its position
as the official and exclusive state religion in the Commonwealth
East India Company -
· The East India Company was a mercantile venture in
the Asian subcontinent that did much to fuel the overall success
of the British empire. First established in the seventeenth century,
its progress gave rise to corresponding initiatives in far-flung corners
of the globe, and its rise and fall were closely linked with British
successes in other colonial ventures.
· The Enlightenment was an intellectual movement that
began in Europe during the seventeenth century, and stressed the
values of humanism and rationality over divine principles.
· Entail, a long-standing institution in British law,
outlined a codified inheritance pattern within an immediate family structure
rather than allowing the deceased to disperse property according
to preference via an itemized will. Jefferson attacked and dismantled
the institution of entail in the late 1770s.
Essex Junto -
· The Essex Junto was a group of New England secessionists
that congealed in opposition to the Embargo Act during Jefferson's Second
Federalist Party -
· The Federalist Party came together in the 1790s under
the leadership of Alexander Hamilton. Supporters of a strong central
government and the loose construction of the Constitution, they
advanced the powers of the federal government under the executive
leadership of Presidents George Washington and John Adams. Upon
losing executive power to Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans
in 1801, the Federalists watched as the new establishment proceeded
to subsume many of their ideals and positions, gradually extinguishing
the cause of Federalism into a distant memory.
House of Burgesses -
· The House of Burgesses was a legislative body established
in 1619, for the purpose of granting a measure of autonomy to colonists
in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It was overseen by a royal governor
and ultimately subject to the power of Parliament and the British
· Impeachment is an official measure of censure against
a government official, followed by an investigation that may or may
not lead to removal from office.
· Impressment was the method by which the British navy
would forcibly remove deserters from American merchant ships and return
them to service under command of the crown. American sailors were
also frequently subject to such belligerence.
· Judicial review, established in 1803 per the terms
of Chief Justice John Marshall s Marbury v. Madison decision,
set the precedent whereby the judiciary reserved the right to declare
legislative measures unconstitutional and therefore void.
Kentucky Resolutions -
· The Kentucky Resolutions, authored anonymously by Jefferson in
1799 out of opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts, advanced
states rights and outlined the compact and nullification theories
Louisiana Territory -
· The Louisiana Territory, a vast tract of land between
the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, was claimed for France
in the seventeenth century. In the eighteenth century it was held
briefly by Spain. During this period many Europeans settled amongst
the several native tribes who previously occupied the land. Since
1803, the Louisiana Territory has belonged to the United States,
and presently makes up over one-third of the country's total land
· Mandamus is a right of authority by a supreme court
over a lower court. In the United States, such a right was initially established
by the Judiciary Act of 1789, but later repealed by Chief Justice
John Marshall in the Marbury v. Madison decision of
Massachusetts Bay Company -
· The Massachusetts Bay Company was a mercantile enterprise chartered
by a group of English entrepreneurs in 1629 to establish a firmer
second foothold along the Atlantic seaboard, in competition with
the existing enterprise in Virginia.
· The mercantile system is an arrangement by which an
imperial power strips raw materials and profits from a colony,
providing manufactured goods for sale in return. Thus, a system
of dependency and exploitation is developed, fueling globalization through
industrialization. Far from merely a seventeenth-century phenomenon,
mercantilism, in altered form, is alive and well today.
· Monticello, meaning "hillock," or "little mountain,"
in Italian, was the longtime homestead of Thomas Jefferson, built
on the family estate at Shadwell in present-day Albermarle County, Virginia.
Construction and renovation on Monticello occurred throughout
Jefferson's lifetime, and today the building and grounds stand
as a testament to his architectural and agricultural vision. Monticello
was auctioned off upon Jefferson's death in 1826, and today is
privately maintained as a national attraction by a private foundation.
· Parliament is the legislative governing body of the
British Empire. First established in the thirteenth century, Parliament gradually
increased its power through various reforms. After the English
Civil War and the Glorious Revolution of the seventeenth century,
the Parliament became the fundamental unit of government in the
British system, and today enjoys considerable authority over the
monarchy, which persists as an icon more than a governing power.
Poplar Forest -
· Poplar Forest was Jefferson's second home in Virginia,
a country retreat with an octagon house located in Bedford County,
ninety miles from Monticello.
· Primogeniture, a long-standing institution in British
law, outlined a codified inheritance pattern whereby the eldest
son inherited all lands and means from the deceased patriarch.
Jefferson attacked and dismantled the institution of primogeniture
in the late 1770s.
· Shadwell was the Jefferson family estate, originally
secured and developed by Jefferson's father, Peter Jefferson.
After the Shadwell house burned down in 1770, Jefferson proceeded
with the construction of Monticello, which would come to replace Shadwell
as the Jefferson family homestead.
· Tuckahoe was the Randolph family homestead, where the Jefferson
family lived for a brief time during the 1740s. Jefferson spent
his early childhood years at Tuckahoe, and received his first schooling
· Unitarianism was a reform movement that grew out of
the early New England Congregationalist Church. The most conspicuous aspect
of their doctrine is a denial of Jesus' humanity, a view that causes
many to cast them beyond the pale of Christianity. Today the Unitarians
have merged with the Universalists, and exist primarily in California
and New England.
University of Virginia -
· The University of Virginia, founded by Jefferson, was
chartered in 1819 and first opened its doors in 1825. With its
main campus in Charlottesville, the University remains a prime
example of Jefferson's neoclassical architectural vision.
Virginia Assembly -
· The Virginia Assembly coalesced in the dissolution
of the House of Burgesses, functioning as the commonwealth's first completely
autonomous legislature. From its initial formation in the early
days of the Revolutionary War, the Virginia Assembly has been a
bastion of states rights and a benchmark of state government in
Virginia Company -
· The Virginia Company was chartered in 1606 by King
James I and VI of England and Scotland as a colonial venture along
the Atlantic seaboard. Despite gradual economic progress, widespread
casualties led to the loss of the charter in 1624 and the eventual
dissolution of the company in 1630.
Virginia Resolutions -
· The Virginia Resolutions, authored anonymously by James Madison
in 1799 out of opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts, were
a milder rebuke to the federal government than Jefferson's caustic
Adams was the second President of the United States, serving from
1797-1801. He had previously served as a foreign minister to Britain
and as vice president under George Washington from 1789-1797.
He was the last of the Federalist presidents, and suffered from
a difficult tenure in office, plagued by the XYZ Affair and the
ensuing controversy over the Alien and Sedition Acts. Toward the
close of his life, he maintained a lengthy correspondence with
Jefferson despite previous political differences.
John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams was the sixth President of the
United States, serving from 1825-1829. Son to John Adams and Abigail
Adams, he was a longstanding Congressman from Massachusetts and
later Secretary of State under James Monroe. After stepping down
from executive office upon his defeat at the hands of Andrew Jackson
in the 1828 presidential election, Adams returned for a second
tenure in the legislative branch, serving from 1831 until his death
Adams was the great-grandson of John Adams, the grandson of John Quincy
Adams, and the son of Charles Francis Adams, who served as United States
Ambassador to Britain during the Civil War. A historian of the
highest repute, Adams' main project was a nine volume history of
the United States in the period from 1800-1817, which covered the
Presidential administrations of Jefferson and James Madison.
Marie-Antoinette, wife of the fated French monarch,
Louis XVI, was known for her opposition to reforms in favor of
the lower classes. In the mayhem caused by the French Revolution
and the ensuing Reign of Terror, she was executed by guillotine
ten months after her deposed husband, on October 16, 1793.
Benedict Arnold was a leading general for the American
cause during the early stages of the Revolutionary War. After
marrying a woman from a loyalist family, he switched allegiances,
and fought on behalf of the British for the remainder of the war.
Arnold spent the final twenty years of his life ailing and in disgrace
Napoleon Bonaparte was a prominent French general
during the late eighteenth century who rose to power after a coup
d'etat in 1799. In the ensuing decade, Napoleon launched an ambitious
offensive with the goal of European, and ultimately world, domination.
He nearly succeeded in bringing the European continent to its
knees, but his hold gradually began to loosen as his grasp continued
to expand. Ultimately, he was deposed and imprisoned, only to return
in a second, desperate attempt for power in 1815. Ultimately,
after one hundred days of struggle, Bonaparte was defeated at the
Battle of Waterloo in present- day Belgium. Napoleon spent the
last several years of his life imprisoned on the island of St.
Helena, off the coast of West Africa, where he died in 1821. (See the SparkNote
on Napoleon Bonaparte
Baron de Botetourt
Baron de Botetourt was royal governor of the Commonwealth
of Virginia, presiding over the House of Burgesses from 1768-1770.
Rebecca Burwell was an early love of Jefferson's,
whom he met while a student at the College of William and Mary.
When she spurned him for a younger rival, he was left despondent.
Aaron Burr was a powerful Democratic-Republican politician
from New York who served as Vice President under Jefferson from
1801-1805. After assassinating Alexander Hamilton in a duel, Burr
fled south, where he conspired in an elaborate secessionist plot
in the Louisiana Territory. Eventually, Jefferson caught wind
of the plot and brought Burr to trial for treason. Burr was later cleared
of all charges by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, and
fled to Europe, returning shortly thereafter to live out the rest
of his life in obscurity as a provincial New York State attorney.
John C. Calhoun
John C. Calhoun, a longtime Congressman from South
Carolina, was a staunch advocate of states rights through nullification
as outlined by Jefferson in the Kentucky Resolutions. After serving
as vice president under Andrew Jackson, Calhoun returned to legislative
office, where he continued to fight for southern interests against
the increasing encroachment of the federal government.
James Thompson Callender
James Thompson Callender was a muckraking journalist
who impugned the character of John Adams during the presidential
election campaign of 1800, and was summarily imprisoned under the
terms of the Sedition Act. After being spurned for a desired appointment
by Jefferson, Callender propagated rumors of Jefferson's affair
with Sally Hemings in the national press.
King Carlos IV
Carlos IV of Spain reigned weakly as monarch from 1788-1808, when he
was deposed by Joseph Bonaparte, brother to French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte
the SparkNote on Napoleon Bonaparte
). Carlos IV spent
the brief remainder of his life in exile.
Carr was a member of the House of Burgesses and a childhood friend
of Jefferson's. He later married Jefferson's sister Martha. After
Carr's premature death at the age of thirty, Jefferson assumed
the care of his six children.
was a noted Roman citizen of the fifth century B.C.E. who twice
abandoned the administration of his farm to take power of the republic
during times of political turmoil. In both instances, he relinquished
his power once the crisis had been resolved.
William Claiborne was named by Jefferson as the first
governor of the Louisiana Territory. He was above suspicion but
also largely oblivious with regard to Aaron Burr's secessionist
plot. Later Claiborne was elected senator from Louisiana, but
died before taking office.
William Clark was the Clark part of Lewis and Clark,
the two men who made an extensive exploration of the Louisiana
Territory under the guidance of Sacajawea and the somewhat underhanded
encouragement of Jefferson in the aftermath of the Louisiana Purchase.
Clay was a prominent Whig senator from Kentucky who ran unsuccessfully
for President on three occasions. He was a supporter of internal improvements
per his American System, and is well known as "the Great Compromiser"
for his role in the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850.
Clinton was governor of New York state in the early nineteenth century,
and assumed Aaron Burr's place as Vice President on the Democratic-Republican
ticket in the election of 1804. He served as Vice President under Jefferson
from 1805-1809, and later under James Madison from 1809-1812, after standing
against Madison in the election of 1808.
Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer who
made several voyages to the Western Hemisphere under the auspices
of the Spanish monarchs King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in the
late fifteenth century. Contrary to popular belief, Columbus never
reached the American continent, instead arriving only in various
Caribbean islands, which he believed up until his death to have been
islands off the coast of India.
Lord Cornwallis was a statesman and soldier who led
the British campaign against rebellious American colonials and
French supporters in the Revolutionary War. After his defeat at
Yorktown in 1782, Cornwallis continued to function in the service
of the crown, seeing action in Ireland and later India, where he
died in 1805 after being named governor general there.
Cosway was an English painter raised in Italy, who had a brief dalliance
with Jefferson during his time in Paris as American minister to
France. She later returned to England with her husband, only to
abandon him and their child when she ran off to the European continent
with an Italian castrato. A sporadic correspondence with Jefferson
in later years ultimately proved insubstantial and unsustainable.
Jefferson Davis was a two-term senator from Mississippi
who resigned his seat in the face of the impending southern secession.
Mere weeks later, in 1861, he was named President of the Confederate
States of America, a position he held throughout the Civil War
the Civil War SparkNote
). Reluctant to give up his post
in the aftermath of the Confederate surrender at Appomattox, Davis
was treated leniently during Reconstruction, and lived to the ripe
old age of eighty- one.
Stephen Douglas was a senator from Illinois who rose
quickly up the ranks of the Democratic Party. He proposed the
controversial Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and defended his doctrine
of popular sovereignty in a series of debates with Abraham Lincoln
in 1858 (See
the SparkNote on Abraham Lincoln
). Although he defeated
Lincoln in the Senate race, he later lost the presidential election
to Lincoln in 1860. Undeterred from fighting for what he believed
to be right, Douglas joined forces with Lincoln in an attempt to
preserve the Union, but died just after the outset of the Civil
War in 1861 (See
the Civil War SparkNote
Earl of Dunmore
The Earl of Dunmore served as royal governor in both
New York and Virginia. He was the last British peer to serve over
the House of Burgesses, fleeing Virginia upon their final dissolution.
He launched several attacks against natives and colonists alike,
but was transferred out of the Americas at the beginning of the Revolutionary
War. He later served as royal governor in the Bahamas.
Queen Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth I acceded to the throne of England
in 1558, upon the death of her sister, Queen Mary I. She never
married, and ruled for 45 years as the Virgin Queen, securing Anglicanism
as the official state religion while fending off competing empires,
establishing England as a colonial power in the Americas and elsewhere.
the SparkNote on Queen Elizabeth I
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was a New England transcendentalist
who came out of the Unitarian religious tradition and went on to
establish his own doctrines of divinity and spirituality in works
such as Nature
and The Conduct of Life
Benjamin Franklin was an author, inventor and scientist,
in addition to being one of the foremost statesmen of his day.
remains a renowned work of
American letters. He spent his later years as a diplomat in England
and France on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and later
the United States.
Frederick the Great
Frederick the Great was king of Prussia in the middle
stages of the eighteenth century, and advanced Prussian fortunes
to the point where they became the foremost power in Europe. Allied
with Britain during the Seven Years War, Frederick the Great was
later generous to the United States in forging a trade alliance.
Albert Gallatin, born in Geneva, served as Secretary
of Treasury under Jefferson and later under James Madison. His
adept fiscal policies helped significantly reduce the national
debt. He later served as minister to France during the administration
of James Monroe. Gallatin was at times suspected of treason because
of his foreign birth, which precluded him from a potential run
at the Vice Presidency in 1824.
Genet was French ambassador to the United States during the early
1790s, and conspired to reclaim Florida for France and Spain by
recruiting Americans to enlist in combat against British forces.
He eventually fell out of political favor with President Washington
and was recalled, later claiming asylum in the United States and
marrying a daughter of George Clinton.
King George III
King George III served as monarch of Britain from
1760 until his death in 1820. He was plagued by mental afflictions
throughout his tumultuous reign. After gaining a victory in the
Seven Years War, his empire lost ground to the Americans in the
Revolutionary War. Later the English forces under King George III
enjoyed success after many trials against the French expansion headed
by Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.
Gerry was an important member of the Second Continental Congress,
later serving as governor of Massachusetts and Vice President under James
Madison from 1813-1814. He died while in office.
Alexander Hamilton was an influential political figure
from New York, who served as the first Secretary of Treasury under
George Washington. His ambitious fiscal plan and strong value
on centralized government characterized the Federalist philosophy.
After successfully blocking Aaron Burr's candidacy for governor
of New York State, Hamilton was challenged to a duel, which he accepted,
only to be shot and killed on a plain at Weehawken, New Jersey
on July 11, 1804.
Hancock was the president of the First and Second Continental Congresses,
and the chief signer of the Declaration of Independence (See
the Declaration of Independence SparkNote
). He later
served nine terms as governor of Massachusetts.
William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison was the ninth President of
the United States, serving an abbreviated one-month term in 1841,
cut short by his death from pneumonia. Harrison was previously
involved in the secessionist plot of Aaron Burr, and gained honor
for his role in both the Battle of Tippecanoe and the War of 1812.
Hemings was the slave mistress of John Wayles. She gave birth to
as many as six children by Wayles, including Sally Hemings, who
was later cast as Jefferson's own slave mistress.
Beverly Hemings was born in 1798 to Sally Hemings,
and has long been alleged to be a son of Thomas Jefferson. Circumstantial
evidence strongly suggests this to be so. Hemings ran away from
Monticello in 1822 with Jefferson's tacit approval, and later settled
in Washington as a white man.
Eston Hemings was born in 1808 to Sally Hemings.
Recent genetic evidence strongly suggests the paternity of Jefferson.
Hemings was freed under the terms of Jefferson's will in 1826,
and enjoyed a successful career as a popular musician in Ohio and
Harriet Hemings was born in 1801 to Sally Hemings
and has long been alleged to be a daughter of Thomas Jefferson.
Circumstantial evidence strongly suggests this to be so. Hemings
left Monticello in 1822 with the support of Jefferson. Thereafter,
she lived in Washington, D.C., passing and marrying into a white
Hemings was born to Betty Hemings and John Wayles, and was elder
brother to Sally Hemings. He traveled to France with Jefferson,
and became a noted chef during his tenure in Paris. Hemings was
freed by Jefferson in 1796 but floundered into alcoholism as a
free man, committing suicide only five years later.
Madison Hemings was born in 1805 to Sally Hemings
and has long been alleged to be a son of Thomas Jefferson. Circumstantial
evidence strongly suggests this to be so. Hemings was freed under
the terms of Jefferson's will in 1826, and later moved to Ohio
to work as a carpenter and farmer. In 1873, shortly before his
death, he went on record with a local news reporter, claiming to be
the unacknowledged son of Jefferson. This claim was widely discredited
for over a century, and has only recently been recognized as a
potentially valid testimony.
Hemings was born to Betty Hemings and John Wayles, and was the younger
sister of James Hemings. As a teenager, she accompanied Maria
Jefferson to France in 1787, and later enjoyed a privileged position
as Jefferson's personal attendant at Monticello. Suspected by
many to have been Jefferson's longtime secret mistress, circumstantial
evidence points strongly to this possibility. Significantly, as
a result of her parentage, she was also the unrecognized half-sister of
Jefferson's wife, Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson. Hemings herself
may have borne as many as six of Jefferson's unacknowledged children.
Although not freed under the terms of Jefferson's will in 1826,
she was retained by his white heirs and freed shortly thereafter.
Henry was a leading member of the Virginia cotillion who pushed
for independence in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War.
He later served two separate tenures as governor of Virginia,
and played a key role in regaining the Great Lakes Region for Virginia
from the conflicting claims of Britain via the Quebec Act.
Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson
Wayles Skelton was the daughter of John Wayles, and had initially
married Bathurst Skelton. After being widowed, she was introduced
to Jefferson, whom she married after a brief courtship on New Year's Day,
1772. In just over a decade of marriage she suffered from frequent
ill health, and bore several sickly children who died in infancy.
She herself died in 1782, leaving Jefferson a lifelong widower
in the company of their two daughters, Patsy and Polly.
Martha Washington Jefferson,
known as Patsy to her family, was the eldest surviving daughter
of Jefferson and Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson, born September
27, 1772. She was married to Thomas Mann Randolph at Monticello
upon returning from France, and bore twelve children. She served
as hostess at the President's House during Jefferson's administrations,
and later helped the family gather itself after Jefferson's death
and their disinheritance.
Maria Jefferson, known as Polly to her family, was
the youngest surviving daughter of Jefferson and Martha Wayles
Skelton Jefferson, born August 1, 1778. As a child, she traveled
to France to join her father and sister, and upon returning to
the United States, married John Eppes. She died from the complications
of childbirth at the age of twenty-four.
Jane Randolph Jefferson
Jane Randolph Jefferson was married to Peter Jefferson,
and gave birth to their eldest son Thomas Jefferson in 1743. After
the death of her husband, she worked together with Jefferson to
maintain the Shadwell estate, and later Monticello. Family relations
were tense until her death in 1776, mere months before Jefferson
authored the Declaration of Independence (See
the Declaration of Independence SparkNote
Peter Jefferson was a Tidewater youth who moved west
to the Piedmont Frontier of Virginia. Most famously, he was the
father of Thomas Jefferson, but also amassed an impressive resume
of political accomplishments in his own right, surveying the border
between Virginia and North Carolina and serving multiple terms
in the House of Burgesses.
Touissaint L'Ouverture was the leader of a slave
insurrection on Santo Domingo, and an instrumental force behind
the establishment of an independent Haiti. Nevertheless, he was
eventually captured and imprisoned under orders from Napoleon Bonaparte,
and he died in a dungeon in the Jura Mountains of France in 1803.
Marquis de Lafayette
Marquis de Lafayette served in the aid of George
Washington during the Revolutionary War, and gained wide esteem
for his heroism. He later played an instrumental role both in
the French Revolution and the eventual restoration of the monarchy.
In addition to being a close friend of Jefferson's in both America and
France, he is noted for his tricolor design on the French flag.
Richard Henry Lee
Richard Henry Lee was a longtime member of the House
of Burgesses who played a key role in initiating the composition
of the Declaration of Independence at the Second Continental Congress.
He later opposed the Constitution, but was instrumental in establishing
the Bill of Rights.
Meriwether Lewis was the Lewis part of Lewis and
Clark, the two men who made an extensive exploration of the Louisiana
Territory under the guidance of Sacajawea and the somewhat underhanded
encouragement of Jefferson in the aftermath of the Louisiana Purchase.
He later became disillusioned with his role in the territorial
expansion and died an alcoholic on the western frontier in an apparent
Abraham Lincoln was
the sixteenth President of the United States, serving from 1861-1865.
Extending his executive privilege at all costs to preserve the
integrity of the fragmented Union, Lincoln issued the noted Emancipation
Proclamation on New Year's Day, 1863. After being re- elected
in 1864, Lincoln presided over the conclusion of the Civil War
the Civil War SparkNote
), only to be assassinated
days later by Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth. (See the SparkNote
on Abraham Lincoln
Robert Livingston was a chief foreign minister during
Jefferson's first administration. Alongside James Monroe and Charles
Pinckney, he brokered the Louisiana Purchase for the United States
together with Talleyrand and Napoleon Bonaparte of France (See the SparkNote
on Napoleon Bonaparte
King Louis XIV
Louis XIV, known as "the Sun King," reigned over France from 1643-
1715. During his rule as absolute monarch, a series of costly European
wars damaged France's economic prospects even as he lived in lavish
court style in the newly erected palace at Versailles.
King Louis XVI
Louis XVI reigned over France from 1774-1792. He was the last in
a long line of consecutive Bourbon monarchs, and was famously married
to Marie- Antoinette. His rule was disrupted amidst the French
Revolution which saw him deposed, imprisoned, and ultimately beheaded,
stripped of his title as Citizen Capet.
Madison was born of Quaker parents, and left her religion after
being widowed to marry James Madison. She played hostess at the
President's House during the administrations of both Jefferson
James Madison was the
fourth President of the United States, serving from 1809- 1817.
He worked with Jefferson on drafting a code of laws for the Virginia
Assembly, and later played a crucial role in the composition and ratification
of the Constitution. He authored the Virginia Resolutions, a milder
companion to Jefferson's Kentucky Resolutions, and served as Secretary
of State under Jefferson from 1801-1809. During his own Presidency,
Madison presided over America's role in the War of 1812, known
to opponents as "Mr. Madison's War."
Marshall was the fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, serving from
1801-1835. His most significant decisions, including Marbury
and McCullough v. Maryland,
to advance Marshall's Federalist agenda. For his value of judicial
review and a strong central government, Marshall was in constant
conflict with Jefferson during Jefferson's administrations. In
addition, Marshall was frequently drawn to scandals, implicated
in the XYZ Affair, and later clearing Aaron Burr of treason charges
in the midst of Burr's failed secessionist plot.
Maury was an Anglican clergyman who served as the teenage Jefferson's
tutor for two years. He also taught Dabney Carr and, later, James
James Monroe was the fifth President of the United
States, serving from 1817-1825. Fresh out of college, he saw action
in the Revolutionary War, and later studied law under Jefferson.
During Jefferson's administrations, he served as a foreign minister,
playing a key role in the negotiation of the Louisiana Purchase.
Under President Madison, Monroe served as Secretary of State.
During his own administrations, Monroe's crucial actions were to
sign the Missouri Compromise and issue the Monroe Doctrine under
advice from John Quincy Adams.
North served as Prime Minister of Parliament from 1770-1782. His
close relationship with King George III ensured his longevity in
office, but was not enough to withstand the damage to his reputation
as a result of losses in the Revolutionary War.
Paine was a political theorist, best known for his work Common Sense,
furthered momentum behind the Revolutionary War movement in America.
He later took an active role in the French Revolution and opposed
the growth of the Federalist Party in the United States. In his
later years, Paine was severely ostracized, and died an impecunious
outcast from society.
Charles Wilson Peale
Charles Wilson Peale was best known as a painter
of heroes from the Revolutionary War era. In addition, he founded
the first major museum in the United States, the Peale Museum at
Charles Pinckney was a foreign minister during Jefferson's
first administration. Previously implicated in the XYZ Affair,
he redeemed himself alongside Robert Livingston and James Monroe
in brokering the Louisiana Purchase for the United States.
Quincy was a longtime member of Congress from the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts. He was a staunch Federalist minority leader during
Jefferson's administrations, and a vocal opponent of the Embargo
Act. He had a tangential relation to the Essex Junto, propagators
of a New England secessionist plot. Later he served as president
of Harvard University and was a founder of the Harvard Law School.
Sir Walter Ralegh
Sir Walter Ralegh was by turns a court favorite and
enemy of Queen Elizabeth I. He made extensive explorations in
North and South America, and was imprisoned for various intrigues
during the late sixteenth century. He was eventually executed
under the reign of King James I and VI of England and Scotland.
Peyton Randolph, brother of John Randolph, was a
cousin to Jefferson who served as a longtime member and later speaker
of the House of Burgesses. Like John Hancock, he served tenures
as president of the First and Second Continental Congresses, but
died before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War.
Randolph, brother of Peyton Randolph, was a cousin to Jefferson who
remained a loyalist in the months leading up to the Revolutionary
War, and eventually relocated to England in the interest of his
own personal safety.
Thomas Jefferson Randolph
Thomas Jefferson Randolph was the eldest son of Martha Washington
Jefferson and Thomas Mann Randolph, and the eldest grandson of Jefferson.
He was the designated primary heir to Jefferson's estate, but
lost his birthright upon the lottery and auction of Jefferson's
holdings that took place in 1827.
Thomas Mann Randolph
Thomas Mann Randolph was married to Martha Washington Jefferson
at Monticello, shortly after her return from France in 1789. Although
Jefferson fully approved of the match, Randolph was constantly
plagued by feelings of inadequacy in his new family, and degenerated
into alcoholism in later life.
Reagan is the fortieth President of the United States, having served from
1981-89. He was noted for his fiscally conservative brand of Republicanism, and
was the first President to serve two full consecutive terms since
Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the thirty-second President
of the United States, serving from 1933-1945. He was a bastion
of the Democratic Party, and was elected to office an unprecedented
four times running. His liberal social policies and overarching
government programs provided relief to many during the hardships
caused by the Great Depression.
was a Shoshone native who guided Lewis and Clark in their western expedition
through the Louisiana Territory beginning in 1804. She recently
won newfound fame via her placement on the new dollar coins minted
by the United States federal government.
Bathurst Skelton was a lawyer and first husband to
Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson. He died shortly after their marriage,
leaving considerable holdings to his childless widow.
B. Taney was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1835-1864.
He issued the landmark Dred Scott
1857, and fiercely opposed Lincoln's extension of executive privilege
during the Civil War.
Charles Maurice de
Talleyrand was a longtime French diplomat and chief adviser to
Napoleon Bonaparte in the early nineteenth century. He was embroiled
in the midst of the XYZ Affair, and later served as the chief broker
on behalf of France during the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau was a prominent New England transcendentalist
and a close associate of Ralph Waldo Emerson. He is known for his
values of self-reliance and nonconformity, and wrote several tracts
on life in nature, including, most famously, Walden.
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the thirty-third President of
the United States, serving from 1945-1953. He succeeded Franklin
Delano Roosevelt in office, and presided over the conclusion of
World War II as well as the unfolding of the Korean War.
was the first President of the United States, serving from 1789-1797.
He served as commander-in-chief of the American forces during the
Revolutionary War, and later advanced a Federalist agenda from executive
office with the primary support of John Adams and Alexander Hamilton.
Wayles was father to Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson, and one of
the most prominent landowners and speculators in the Commonwealth
of Virginia. He amassed holdings and debts in equal proportions,
and passed this dubious inheritance to Jefferson, his son-in-law.
Wayles also fathered several children by his slave mistress, Betty
Hemings. Among their offspring was Sally Hemings, later styled
as Jefferson's own mistress.
James Wilkinson, a hero of the Revolutionary War,
served as deputy governor of the Louisiana Territory under the
command of William Claiborne. He played a significant role in
Aaron Burr's secessionist plot, but was cleared of wrongdoing after
revealing the scheme to Jefferson. He later served an unremarkable
tenure in the War of 1812.
Wilson was the twenty-eighth President of the United States, serving
from 1913-1921. He is also noted for serving as president of Princeton
University. Wilson advanced the fortunes of the Democratic Party,
which had been in disarray for nearly half-a-century in the aftermath
of the Civil War (See
the Civil War SparkNote
). After avoiding involvement
in World War I for several years, Wilson finally committed the
United States to the Allied cause, and later spearheaded the negotiations
over the Treaty of Versailles (See the World
War I SparkNote). His efforts to advance the League
of Nations were frustrated by congressional opposition, and he
died shortly after leaving office.
Wythe served as law tutor to the young Jefferson, and later worked as
a law professor at the College of William and Mary. He was one
of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and assisted
Jefferson in preparing a new code of laws for the Virginia Assembly.
In 1806, Wythe was poisoned to death by his nephew after a complicated
inheritance scheme involving Wythe's slave mistress and their son
came to light.
Barbary Wars -
The Barbary Wars were a series of conflicts fought with
various North African principalities, chiefly Algiers and Tripoli.
Jefferson initiated an American offensive in 1801 after tribute demands
from the Muslim suzerains grew outlandish. Fighting ensued for
several years, and never reached a conclusive endpoint.
Battle of Bunker Hill -
The Battle of Bunker Hill, fought June 17, 1775, was
a violent triumph for the British over rebellious colonials at
Charlestown, Massachusetts. Despite their success, the British
were unable to take control of the port of Boston, and the Revolutionary
War suddenly became more than a brief flare-up confined to the Atlantic
Battles of Lexington and Concord -
The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first conflicts
of the Revolutionary War, fought April 19, 1775 just to the northwest
of Boston. A surprise triumph for rebel colonials led to increased
confidence in the cause of secession, providing a renewed sense
of purpose at the Second Continental Congress, which began in Philadelphia
a few weeks later.
Berlin Decree -
The Berlin Decree, issued by Napoleon on November 21,
1806, established a blockade of all British ports. However, in
the initial months of this system, the shipping interests of neutral
nations such as the United States were left alone, allowing the
American economy to prosper and sparking the resentment of Parliament.
Tensions between the three nations bubbled over one year later,
when France, Britain and the United States passed strong trade measures–the
Milan Decree, the Orders in Council, and the Embargo Act, respectively–in
Bloody Kansas -
Bloody Kansas was the term given to the widespread violent conflict
that arose in the Kansas Territory during the 1850s as a result
of Stephen Douglas' principle of popular sovereignty, established
via the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.
Boston Port Act -
The Boston Port Act, one of the so-called Intolerable
Acts passed by Parliament in 1774, resolved to close the Port of
Boston until the East India Company was compensated for tea destroyed during
the Boston Tea Party. It was met with stiff opposition throughout
The Civil War, fought between 1861 and 1865, was a battle
to determine the fate of slavery and union in America. Under the stern
leadership of Abraham Lincoln, union was eventually preserved,
and slavery was abolished per the Thirteenth Amendment. (See
the Civil War SparkNote
First Continental Congress -
The First Continental Congress was held at Philadelphia
in 1774. An attempt to bring cohesion to colonial dissent, it
was followed by the more radical Second Continental Congress, which
began the following year.
Continental Congress -
The Second Continental Congress was held at Philadelphia
in 1775-76, and took a radical turn upon the news of conflict between
British and colonial forces at the Battles of Lexington and Concord.
Eventually, the Second Continental Congress culminated in a Declaration
of Independence and the establishment of a sovereign national government.
Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence, initiated by a call
to national sovereignty by Richard Henry Lee, was drafted by Jefferson
in June of 1776. Approved after a lengthy debate by the Second Continental
Congress on July 4, the Declaration was later signed by President
John Hancock and fifty-five other delegates to the congress. (See
the Declaration of Independence SparkNote
Embargo Act -
The Embargo Act, passed December 22, 1807, forbade all import/export
trade between the United States and foreign nations. It was a
stronger re-formulation of the existing Non-Importation Act, and
was passed in response to the Berlin and Milan Decrees of Napoleon
and Parliament's Orders in Council. Because it was essentially
unenforceable, the Embargo Act was an out-and-out failure from
both an economic and political standpoint, and was repealed upon
the inauguration of James Madison on March 4, 1809.
English Civil War -
The English Civil War, fought from 1642 to 1648, was
a battle between royalist supporters and a radical wing of Parliament under
the leadership of Oliver Cromwell. Ultimately, the sitting monarch,
King Charles I, was deposed and beheaded, and Cromwell ruled over
the newly established Commonwealth for nearly a decade. The monarchy
was restored in 1660, but Parliament had permanently strengthened
its role within the English government.
The French Revolution was a major political reorganization
that began in 1789 with the storming of the Bastille and the rise
of the Third Estate, the mass of common people who had been oppressed
for centuries under the authoritarian rule of an absolute monarchy.
The sitting monarch, Louis XVI, was deposed, imprisoned and eventually
beheaded in the political chaos known as the Reign of Terror that
eventually led to the rise of Napoleon as an emperor every bit
as powerful as the monarchs who had come before him. ( See
the French Revolution SparkNote
Glorious Revolution -
The Glorious Revolution occurred in 1688, when King William III
and Queen Mary II usurped the English throne from King James II.
In exchange for this turnabout, King William III agreed to function
as a limited monarch, further increasing the growing power of Parliament.
Intolerable Acts -
The Intolerable Acts were so-called by the rebellious
colonials who reacted harshly against a series of measures passed
by Parliament in 1774 as a response to the Boston Tea Party, including
the Boston Port Act and the Quebec Act.
Louisiana Purchase -
The Louisiana Purchase, accomplished in 1803, was a sale
of the Louisiana Territory from France to the United States for
a sum of $15 million. Although the Louisiana Purchase raised several thorny
issues of constitutional interpretation, it was ultimately approved
by Congress, thus initiating the rapid growth of an American Empire
in the Western Hemisphere.
Marbury V. Madison -
The Marbury v. Madison decision, issued
by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall on March 3, 1803,
overturned the Judiciary Act of 1789. In so doing, the decision
established the principal of judicial review, greatly expanding
the role of the judiciary within the federal government structure.
Milan Decree -
The Milan Decree, formally issued in December 1807, was
the result of a long- standing promise by Napoleon to enforce the content
of his Berlin Decree. This aggressive foreign policy led to the
corresponding passage of the Orders in Council by Britain and the
Embargo Act by the United States.
Missouri Compromise -
The Missouri Compromise of 1820 was engineered by Henry Clay.
It allowed for the entry of Missouri to the Union as a slave state,
largely in exchange for the creation of a demarcation line categorically
prohibiting the extension slavery north of Missouri's southern
border. This legislation was later repealed by Stephen Douglas
s Kansas-Nebraska Act and Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney's Dred
Monroe Doctrine -
The Monroe Doctrine, published during President Monroe's second
administration on December 2, 1823, called for an end to European
intervention in the Western Hemisphere. It was largely the brainchild
of then-Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. Although virtually
unenforceable at the time it was issued, the United States later
continued to expand its imperial domain in the Western Hemisphere
with perceived justification via the Monroe Doctrine.
Non-Importation Act -
The Non-Importation Act had its foundations in the colonial protests
that occurred in reaction to the Stamp Act and Townshend Acts.
During Jefferson's second administration, a Non-Importation Act
was proposed and passed but immediately suspended. Eventually,
the Embargo Act filled its function, only to be repealed upon the
inauguration of James Madison. At this point, a Non-Intercourse
Act directed toward Britain and France was passed. Eventually,
these tensions over trade boiled over into the War of 1812.
Orders in Council -
The Orders in Council, passed in November of 1807, functioned as
Parliament's response to Napoleon's Berlin Decree. As a countermeasure
to the French blockade of British ports, the British resolved to
blockade French ports, and to hold American shipping interests
to the same degree of surveillance that British ships suffered
under the watch of the French. This usurpation of American sovereignty
led to the issue of the Embargo Act, and laid another portion of
hostile foundation creating the conditions for the War of 1812.
Panic of 1819 -
The Panic of 1819 was a financial catastrophe brought
about by injudicious budgeting in the midst of the War of 1812.
It was the first of several major panics that hobbled the volatile
American economy in the nineteenth century.
Quebec Act -
The Quebec Act of 1774, classed as one of the Intolerable
Acts by the American colonials who reacted against it, extended
the borders of the Quebec territory well into the Great Lakes region.
This land, which was also simultaneously claimed by the Commonwealths
of Massachusetts and Virginia as well as several native tribes,
was the focus of intermittent fighting throughout the Revolutionary
War, eventually reverting to the control of the newly- established
Revolutionary War -
The Revolutionary War was fought between 1775 and 1782, beginning
with the first shots fired at the Battles of Lexington and Concord
and ending with Lord Cornwallis' surrender to George Washington
at Yorktown, Virginia. In the initial fighting, British forces
overwhelmed the inexperienced and undermanned colonial rebels.
However, significant military assistance from French forces on
land and at sea eventually helped ensure an American victory.
Secessionist Plots -
Various secessionist plots sprung up during Jefferson's presidential
administrations. Two regions proved especially vulnerable: the
newly-acquired Louisiana Territory, which was briefly captivated
by the master plan of Aaron Burr, and New England, which under
lingering Federalist influence formed a rebellious faction known
as the Essex Junto in objection to the woefully ineffective Embargo
Act. Later, during the War of 1812, the idea of secession briefly
resurfaced in New England. Ultimately, none of the plots amounted
to a serious threat.
Seven Years War -
The Seven Years War was fought between 1755 and 1763,
and involved a complicated web of alliances and adversaries in European
and American theaters. The fighting that occurred in the American
theater is often referred to as the French and Indian War. The
big winners in the event were the British and the Prussians, who
increased their claims in North America and Northern Europe, respectively.
As a result of the 1763 Treaty of Paris that ended the war, the
Floridas passed from Spanish to British control. As compensation,
the French transferred control of the Louisiana Territory to Spain.
Stamp Act -
The Stamp Act was passed in 1765 by Parliament in an
attempt to raise revenue for the flagging British economy. Via
this measure, a taxed stamp was required on various documents and printed
materials traded in the colonies. It was met with fierce opposition,
and repealed in the following year.
Tea Act -
The Tea Act was the lone Townshend Act to remain in place
after Lord North repealed the several others in 1770. By continuing
to levy a tax on tea, Parliament symbolically indicated its continuing
authority over the American colonies while at the same time attempting
to revive the fortunes of the floundering East India Company.
Such manipulation was met with fervent hostility, and led indirectly
to the start of the Revolutionary War.
Townshend Acts -
The Townshend Acts were passed by Parliament in 1767,
shortly after the repeal of the Stamp Act. The Townshend Acts
placed duties on several import/export goods, including glass,
lead, paint, paper, and tea.
First Virginia Convention -
The First Virginia Convention was held in 1774 as a nominating prelude
to the First Continental Congress, held at Philadelphia later that
same year. Held in Williamsburg, the First Virginia Convention
was the occasion at which Jefferson published his Summary
View on the Rights of British America.
Second Virginia Convention -
The Second Virginia Convention was held in 1775 as a nominating
prelude to the Second Continental Congress. Moved from Williamsburg
inland to Richmond, this convention was more radical in character
than the First Virginia Convention, and served as a fitting political
capstone to the tense period leading up to the Battles of Lexington
War of 1812 -
The War of 1812 was fought between the United States
and Great Britain over control of international commerce on the high
seas. After a lengthy campaign, the United States emerged victorious,
producing in the process a new set of war heroes including Andrew
Jackson and Winfield Scott.
Whiskey Rebellion -
The Whiskey Rebellion was a 1794 uprising in protest
of taxes imposed under the financial regime of Secretary of Treasury Alexander
Hamilton. The rebellion was summarily squashed by troops sent
in under orders from President Washington.
XYZ Affair -
The XYZ Affair was an aborted bribery scheme involving
France and the United States, in which French minister Charles
Maurice de Talleyrand suggested to American ministers Elbridge
Gerry, John Marshall and Charles Pinckney that an exorbitant tribute sum
be paid in advance of diplomatic negotiations between the two nations.
The resulting political flap, which caused significant turmoil
for the administration of President John Adams, resulted in the
passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts.