Today we celebrate the birthday of the man who united the colonies with mere parchment and pen. As we remember the legacy of Thomas Jefferson, we commemorate the document that embodies the principles of America.
At the age of thirty-three, Thomas Jefferson accepted the challenge of writing the Declaration of Independence. John Adams insisted that Jefferson was the one for the job, because, Adams admitted, “I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular… [and] you can write ten times better than I can.” Many delegates wondered if the colonists could join together to defend themselves against Britain. Such unity would be possible with the right statement of purpose. In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson harmonized the dissenting voices echoing across the colonies. The self-evident truths rang from the swamps of Charleston to the sea-ports of Connecticut.
Jefferson not only united the colonists, but he gave future generations a clear vision of the purpose of government. His succinct statement of principles resonated with the delegates of Philadelphia as they crafted a new Constitutional government. The principles proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence and promulgated by the Constitution still define us as a nation and inspires us as a people.
Jefferson boasts an impressive resume—including Governor of Virginia, Minister to France, Secretary of State, and United States President. But, as his gravestone enshrines, the Declaration was his greatest legacy. Perhaps nature knew Jefferson’s attachment to the parchment; for on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration, he passed away proclaiming, “It is the Fourth!”
Brittany Baldwin currently is a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/internships-young-leaders/the-heritage-foundation-internship-program