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Posted on October 9th, 2012, by

A. Thomas Jefferson’s Exhibition

Thomas Jefferson was one of the founding fathers of the US whose contribution in the development of the US nation can hardly be underestimated. He was not just the third President of the US, the renowned scientists and diplomat, writer and researcher, but he was also one of the major contributors to the Declaration of Independence ”“ the document which laid the foundation to the US as an independent country. In fact, it was the Jefferson’s “Rough Draft”¯ that was revised and edited to create the Declaration of Independence as the official document that marked the official independence of the US from Great Britain. In such a context, online exhibitions revealing the history of the creation of the Declaration of Independence and numerous written works of Thomas Jefferson as well as his library are particularly interesting to the modern audience because they give insight to the atmosphere of that time when the Declaration of Independence was composed and implemented. In this respect, online exhibitions are very helpful because they allow users to view the documents in their original form and they can trace the changes and evolution of the Declaration of Independence as well as the evolution of views of founding fathers in the course of time. At this point, it is possible to refer to Thomas Jefferson exhibition and Declaring Independence: Drafting the Documents exhibition. These two online exhibitions make the audience closer to founding fathers and historical context in which Thomas Jefferson worked and created the Declaration of Independence.

The Thomas Jefferson’s exhibition consists of eight sections. Eight sections exhibit documents and written work created by Thomas Jefferson. In fact, this collection provided by the Congress library reveals the evolution of Jefferson’s views and his personal and professional development. On reading and analyzing documents collected in the eight sections of the Thomas Jefferson’s exhibition, it is possible to trace his career from the beginning and his first successes in Virginia to the Declaration of Independence and Presidency of Thomas Jefferson which marked the peak of his political career.

At the same time, the collection reveals the fact that Thomas Jeffers was not just a statesman and outstanding politician. In fact, written documents, letters, and other papers prove the fact that Thomas Jefferson was a very intelligent man, whose interests went far beyond the political life of his country. For instance, his diplomatic work can be traced the analysis of documents collected in the first eight sections of the exhibition as well as his scientific researches, and his literary work. In such a way, the exhibition reveals different sides of Thomas Jefferson life and personality.

In this respect, the evolution of his views that becomes obvious through the analysis of documents, especially those related to the political life of Thomas Jefferson, is particularly important. The analysis of documents proves that Jefferson did change his views and he evolved as a politician in the course of time. In fact, this evolution of his political views makes him closer to ordinary people. In other words, he was not an almighty, perfect person who had never made errors in the course of his life. Instead, to error was Jefferson as well as all other humans, but Jefferson recognized his errors, analyzed them and made changes which contributed to his progress as a politician. The later documents which relate to the time of the Declaration of Independence and his Presidency reveal that Jefferson had been already a mature politician, who had his own views on the political and socioeconomic development of the US.

The ninth section of the Thomas Jefferson’s exhibition is also very interesting because it comprises the collection of books, which Jefferson collected (See Image 1). The Jefferson’s library is recreated for the Thomas Jefferson’s exhibition to show his preferences and interests because it is possible to understand what a person is through the analysis of books he or she reads. Therefore, the Library helps to understand what a kind of person Thomas Jefferson was and what ideas and works influenced his philosophy and political views.

Image 1.

 

Source: Thomas Jefferson (2000). http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/jefferson/overview.html

B. Declaring Independence: Drafting the Documents

The Declaration of Independence was the turning point in the history of the US. This document had become the starting point for the creation of the US nation and independent state. At the same time, often people have a romanticized, idealized view on the process of elaboration and implementation of the Declaration of Independence. However, in actuality, the founding fathers worked hard to create and implement the Declaration of Independence and the contribution of Thomas Jefferson, in this regard, is particularly significant. In fact, it was Thomas Jefferson who created the Rough Draft on the basis of which the Declaration of Independence was created. In this respect, the exhibition “Declaring Independence: Drafting the Documents”¯ is particularly noteworthy because it reveals the process and details of the creation of the Declaration of Independence.

The exhibition contains the collection of written documents which mirror the process of the creation of the Declaration of Independence.

On analyzing these documents, it is possible to trace the fundamental changes as well as external and internal influences that affected the process of creation of the Declaration of Independence and its official implementation. In actuality, the collection proves the fact that Thomas Jefferson was the major contributor to the Declaration of Independence. However, the Declaration of Independence was entirely created by Thomas Jefferson. His Rough Draft was the carcass of the future Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson was only a member of the Declaration Committee and he could not introduce all his ideas in the Declaration of Independence. Instead, his Rough Draft should be supported by other members of the Declaration Committee, including John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston. The Jefferson’s Rough Draft was initially revised by Adams, then by Franklin and then by the full committee. The exhibition contains all the documents and alternations that were introduced in the original Rough Draft of the Declaration of Independence created by Thomas Jefferson. In general, forty-seven alternations were made on the text before it was presented to the Congress on June 28. In such a way, the exhibition shows documents that prove that the Declaration of Independence was the document created by the committee rather than Thomas Jefferson solely. Moreover, documents exhibited in the Declaring Independence: Drafting the Documents reveal the fact that the Congress also contributed to the final adoption of the Declaration of Independence. In fact, the Congress made thirty-nine additional revisions to the committee’s draft before the final adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4.

Obviously, the process of creation of the Declaration of Independence is very important. The exhibition helps to understand better how the Declaration of Independence was actually created and implemented. As the matter of fact, documents collected and presented in the exhibition prove that the Declaration of Independence was developed and implemented in a democratic way because the original Rough Draft elaborated by Thomas Jefferson was revised and edited at first by the Declaration Committee and then by the Congress. Obviously, this tradition of public discussions and collective decision-making became the milestone of American political traditions. In fact, this tradition laid the foundation to openness of the American political life, its transparency and democratic nature are still the major characteristics of the political life of the US. In such a way, the Declaration of Independence was important historical experience of the elaboration and implementation of official documents which defined the development of the US nation and the US as an independent state.

In such a context, such online exhibitions as the Declaring Independence: Drafting the Documents is extremely important to the modern audience because people should remember about their history and democratic traditions which date back to the first years of the US independence. At the same time, the exhibition helps to identify the major contributors to the Declaration of Independence and the role of the founding fathers in the history of the US.

Image 2.

 

The Declaration Committee, New York, 1876

Source: Declaring Independence: Drafting the Documents. (1995). http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/declara/

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