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Amy and Jon Kukla’s book, Thomas Jefferson:Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. The book relives the story of Thomas Jefferson’s life and what he did to help shape america. It focuses more on his accomplishments, like the Declaration of Independence, the Louisiana Purchase, and his term as the president. The book starts from his birth, all the way to his retirement and death.

Many sources were used to help Kukla write this book. Such as Jefferson’s own writings and documents, Drafts of the Declaration of Independence. In the book, you will also see many photos and paintings of Jefferson. All of these things helps the reader get a better understanding of Jefferson’s life.

The first chapter talks about Jefferson birth and childhood on the Virginia Frontier. The first page recalls his birth in Shadwell, Virginia, on April 13, 1743. When Jefferson was born, there were approximately 120,000 enslaved Afircan Americanss. Thomas Jefferson’s family had been in the colony since the seventeenth century and his great-grandfather, who was also named Thomas Jefferson, came from Egnland to America in 1679 and bought a tobacco farm along the James River in 1682, Kukla tells. By the time Jefferson was born, his family was well established.

Thomas’s father, Peter, was a farmer and surveyor. After a couple years at Shadwell, Peter moved the family to Tuckahoe Plantation on the James River, about 10 miles west of Richmond Virginia. Thomas attended school in a building on the Plantation with his siblings. Jefferson later moved back to Shadwell. At age 9, Jefferson began studying Latin, Greek, and French with a tutor. His father died unexpectedly when Thomas was only 14. When he was 17, he moved to the College of Williams and Mary. According to his family he studied about 15 hours everyday. When he graduated in 1762, he began to study history and law. From the official records of the legislature, Jefferson often visited the House of Burgesses at the yearly meetings.

As a teenager, Jefferson developed an interest in religion and church. On New Years Day of 1772, 22 year old Thomas had Married 24 year old Martha Skelton. They moved into a house named Monticello, which means “little mountain” in Italian. At the time. Jefferson owned about 10,000 acres of land at Monticello and Shadwell and around 150 slaves.

On August 1, 1774, a gathering of Virginians came together to protect their rights and to encourage the remaining 13 colonies to unite. Jefferson unfortunately got sick on the way and had to send his copies of his pamphlet, by a messenger, to the convention. Jefferson booklet said the Parliament had no control over the American colonies. “Kings” Jefferson writes “are the servants, not the colonies.” Americans cannot be taxed “by any power on earth but our own.” he says. Jefferson wanted King George III to respect their liberty. This convention sent members like George Washington to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where the First Continental Congress took place. The point of this was to get Parliament to quit taxing the colonies. Jefferson left in 1775 to visit home.

Kukla talks about the Declaration of Independence and Jefferson’s importance to it. Jefferson returned in May to help Congress. On July 6, 1776, Richard Lee found a way to resolve the Issue with Britain’s Independence. The four delegates came up with the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence had 3 important parts. The first and main part, called the preamble, which Jefferson wrote, says that “all men are created equal”, and continues to say that everyone has protected rights that cannot be taken away and that “among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

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The next thing Kukla goes on to talk about is the Laws for the Commonwealth of Virginia. In June of 1776, Virginia declared itself independent as a state. This led to the document of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Commonwealth of Virginia had two big parts, one setting up the government and the other was the Declaration of Rights. This protected Virginians’ rights and would allow them to abolish insufficient government.

Kukla next speaks about Jefferson’s travel to France. His departure got delayed to July of 1784. In this time, he was elected to Congress. While he was in Congress, he developed a new money system. At the time, America’s money system was only coins, separated into eights. Jefferson decided to divide the one dollar coin into tenths and hundredths, creating the dime and penny. He later implied that the land west of the Appalachian Mountains could be put into new states. Which later led to the Northwest Ordinance.

On July 5, 1784, Jefferson, and his daughter Martha sailed to France from Boston. He also brought a slave with him hoping that he would learn french cooking. They arrived in Paris in August. In Europe, Jefferson wrote treaties to allow trade with France and Morocco. While he was in France he published a book called, Notes on the State of Virginia. He visited a Roman Temple in Nimes, France. The capitol building in Virginia was based off of the Temple he visited.

When Jefferson was running for president against Aaron Burr, the congressmen casted their ballots 35 times without a majority for either Jefferson or Burr. It was on the 36th time that the ballot was held that Jefferson won and was elected the 3rd president of the US. He was the first president to be inaugurated.

Kukla includes his accomplishment of the Louisiana Purchase. France offered to sell all of Louisiana to America for 15 million US dollars, about 350 billion in today’s money. This would give America over 800,000 acres of land. The official treaty was signed on May 2, 1803. When word reached President Jefferson, he tried everything to make it completely legal. The Senate later approves in October. On December 20, 1803, Jefferson signed the papers that sold Louisiana to the United States. The next year, Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on a journey to explore the new land. This would be later called the famous Lewis and Clark mission.

The last years of Jefferson’s Presidency were hard due to France and Britain being at war. This temporarily stopped trade with France. Jefferson’s career came to an end on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1826, Thomas Jefferson died. He wished to be remembered as the author of the Declaration of Independence and the Father of the University of Virginia.

My opinion of Amy and Jon Kukla’s book, Thomas Jefferson:Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, is heavily influenced by my liking and appreciation for Thomas Jefferson but I enjoyed this book. It covered everything big that happened in his life. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about Thomas Jefferson and his accomplishments. Amy and Jon Kukla did a great job explaining his life and it was very enjoyable.

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