Reasons Why Thomas Jefferson is Cooler Than You

As I’ve said in a previous post, Thomas Jefferson was a total babe. Tall, ginger, athletic, and brainy, he’s probably tied with Hamilton for foxiest Founder. Yes, the water starts to get murky when it comes to slavery and his ancestors, but take that (granted rather large) section out and you’ve got a pretty snappy dude. I mean, the fact that he’s the Founder that people turn to time and time again to attribute false quotes to stands the test of time. (For future reference, literally every single Jefferson quote can be checked here, Facebook and meme users!) So before you chalk TJ up to being just another stuffy dude in a wig, keep these in mind.

  • He pretty much invented “foodies.” Jefferson loved food. He loved it so much, he’s responsible for some of our favorites today. Macaroni and cheese? You can thank Jefferson, not Stouffer’s.
  • He was an inventor. What? Is writing the Declaration of Independence and founding the University of Virginia not good enough for you, Tom? Swivel chairs? Jefferson. Helped improve a letter duplicator? Jefferson. Granted, it wasn’t modern in the slightest, but for someone who wrote as much as he did, it let him have two copies of each letter and saved his hand from cramps.
Thomas Jefferson's letter duplicator- a polygraph

Thomas Jefferson’s letter duplicator- a polygraph

  • Hand cramps were important to Jefferson because he broke a ton of bones throughout his life. In the summer of 1785, he broke his right wrist in Paris while jumping over a fence. He was trying to impress Maria Cosway, a married woman he was attempting to woo. He was 42 years old. For the rest of his life, the wrist was deformed. In 1821, at age 75, Jefferson fell off a step at his home, Monticello, and broke his left wrist.
  • He built and rebuilt Monticello numerous times throughout his lifetime. When he died, he considered it still to be unfinished.

Monticello today.

  • He was probably the most passionate person in the world about the separation of church and state. (Rule of thumb, if you’re using a Jefferson quote to defend religion, he didn’t say it). He founded UVA as one of first non-religion affiliated universities in the United States. He also read the Bible, the Torah, and the Quran. In his Bible, he cut out any inconsistency he could find within the New Testament and rearranged them in another book in, what he believed, was a “more coherent narrative.”
  • His bed was too small for his 6’2″ frame and had to sleep partially sitting up or curled up. He slept between 5-8 hours a day and always rose with the sun. Sometimes he’d get up even earlier and just study books for fun.
Jefferson's awesome alcove bed.

Jefferson’s awesome alcove bed.

  • Jefferson’s wife, Martha, died in 1782, when she was only 33 and her husband 39 years old. On her deathbed, Jefferson promised he would never remarry. After she died, it is reported that he had to be forced from the room to his library by his sister, where he fainted. After the funeral, he didn’t speak for three weeks. It is during this time that it is believed he destroyed every portrait and letter from his wife, effectively erasing all memories of her.  Shortly after her death, Jefferson started remodeling Monticello once again. He never spoke of Martha’s name again.
  • He could speak French, Greek, Latin, Spanish, and Italian. When he read the classics, he read them in their original language. He loved books so much, he drove himself into debt. After the Library of Congress was destroyed in the War of 1812, he donated 6,487 of his own books to establish the new library.
Jefferson's books in the Library of Congress

Jefferson’s books in the Library of Congress

  • Thomas Jefferson died in 1826. On the Fourth of July. His last words are reported to be, “Is it the Fourth?”





5 thoughts on “Reasons Why Thomas Jefferson is Cooler Than You

  1. 1. I think Madison was more passionate about separation of church and state than Jefferson, and perhaps Tom Paine, too. Jefferson assumed people to be smart, probably smarter than we really are, and he assumed education would turn people to protection of free thought. Madison, who may have remained much more religious, understood better. He’d seen the Baptists in “gaol” for being Baptist. Madison considering jailing preachers to be a waste of taxpayer money.

    2. I think you’ll find Jefferson sold his library to the Library of Congress (and they are working on putting those original books on display right now). Great loss: Jefferson’s first library burned when he was 27, in about 1770. The books that really formed him, we know only as ghosts from his later writings.

    3. Jefferson was eminently gracious to guests, especially those with other ideas. As with Washington, Jefferson entertained extensively. Washington was a much better businessman, a financial genius, too. But to say Jefferson was “a horrid creature?” Seriously, you need to study the man. Conflicted, self-inflicted wounds enough to fill a couiple of Shakespeare tragedies, perhaps the last rationalist to deny the possibility of much of astronomy (rocks falling from the sky he called “preposterous”), and haunted by a living ghost of Martha (Sally Hemings was Martha’s half-sister, said to be a nearly exact copy of Martha), Jefferson’s life exposes much about the era, and tells us much about rising above personal tragedy to do great things.

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