TJ likened the debt of the Eastern Elites to being the property of the London creditors (George Washington
wholeheartedly agreed with that viewpoint). TJ believed that not making payments to London creditors was a type of boycott, which had become an accepted strategy of resistance to the Crown to many in the Colonies. It would be a rich man's revolution . . . the lower classes would be much slower to respond in kind. To the Jefferson and the Eastern Elites, separation from Britain representedtti an attractive economic and ideological future.
Jefferson was elected to the
2nd Continental Congress (an engraving is to the right) on 27 March, 1775 as the Colonies were drifting towards armed conflict with Britain. Lord Dunmore, the Colonial Governor of Virginia, confiscated gunpowder, which effectively denied Virginians their arms . . . he also threatened to emancipate Virginia's slaves if the scurrilous hoo-haw continued. As a result, Virginia and the 2nd C/C accelerated their preparations for war. TJ came of political age not from certitude, but from the rising conflict with King George III and Great Britain.
These declarations led to many neutrals becoming revolutionaries, at least in spirit. There was also the sense that the property of the Virginia Gentry would soon become the property of the British Crown. On 4 February, 1776, Jefferson read a copy of Thomas Paine's Common Sense . . . he agreed with most every one of Paine's tenets and concepts.
But the question was: who should write a draft of the declaration of independence . . .
John Adams said Jefferson should be the primary author (he based this assertion on a conversation he had with TJ two years prior). TJ thought Adams should write the declaration, but Adams stood his ground, and refused, and Jefferson agreed to write the draft (Adams & Franklin helped TJ edit the draft . . . Franklin suggested the term "Self-Evident"). Jefferson drafted the document for neutral Americans, soldiers in arms, and potential global allies. A satisfied TJ turned into a frustrated TJ when the 2nd C/C cut out about 1/4 of his draft, including negative clauses concerning the slave trade.
On 2 July, 1776, the 2nd C/C voted to adopt a resolution for independence from Great Britain, and on 4 July, they ratified the Declaration of Independence. Later, a jealous John Adams said the Declaration of Independence was a theatrical show, not a substantive document.
Jefferson (like Theodore Roosevelt) saw politics as a kaleidoscope . . . loyalties and positions often changed . . . who was an enemy in the morning may be an ally in the afternoon. As a result of his experience in the 2nd Continental Congress, Jefferson was very knowledgeable on political methods and strategies. And, in the Fall of 1776, a 33 year-old Thomas Jefferson met, for the first time, the 25 year-old James Madison in the Virginia Assembly . . . their first battle together: Freedom of Religion in Virginia.
(Below: John Trumbull's revisionist painting of the Signing of the Declaration of Independence. TJ and Trumbull were friends, which explains why TJ is the star of the painting . . . if you look closely, you'll see Jefferson stepping on the left shoe of John Adams, which was most likely Trumbull's idea, according to our Capitol Tour Guide in June, 2014)