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Thomas Jefferson: The Man. The Legend. The Debtor?

by J. Money on Monday, June 1, 2009

MonticelloFresh from our weekend getaway, I am still in shock that the father of our Declaration of Independence remained in debt his entire life!

From the day his father passed away, to the day he passed away himself, Thomas Jefferson owed a lot of money to a lot of people.

This may or may not come as a surprise to many of you scholars out there, but it certainly did to me. Especially since in many of his writings he explains how important it is to NOT burden future generations with all your lingering debt! And TJ most certainly did, leaving behind around $107,000 worth of trouble to be cleaned up after he was gone (that’s anywhere from $1,000,000 to $2,000,000 in today’s times!).

That’s not to say it was entirely his fault – he inherited a chunk, co-signed notes for relatives who flaked, endured the Panic of 1819 – but he certainly didn’t live below his means ;) After all, he built (and revised many a times) his dream home of Monticello on 1,000+ acres with a plantation and team of 150+ workers & slaves just to maintain it all! That takes one helluva line of credit, esp. if you’re not bringing in enough to support it. Luckily for him, his public stature was all he needed to back it up – a perk of being a President and founding father.

When all is said and done though, this debt business fails in comparison to the brilliance and remarkable impact Thomas Jefferson had on this beautiful nation of ours. From drafting the Declaration of Independence, completing the Louisiana Purchase, and founding the University of Virginia, he has without a doubt left this country with an incredible legacy.

I leave you now with a piece of advice Jefferson would have certainly agreed with: immerse yourself in education. Whether in architecture, law, or personal finance, the more you learn the better you get at life. Just try not to live such a lavish lifestyle, okay ;) This concludes my book report.


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