Open Access Honors Program Thesis
The written word has great power. It has been said that the pen is more powerful than the sword, and one would be hard pressed to prove otherwise. When studying a figure from history like Thomas Jefferson. it is possible to study the architectural designs, pictures, artifacts from his Iifetime, as well as the recent DNA discoveries. but his written words allow for the most complete study of his life. Like other men and women of his day, Jefferson wrote many, many letters. These letters were written to scores of different people over the course of his life. I le spent time corresponding with various friends, acquaintances. and business associates. As Jefferson himself wrote in a letter in 1823, "The letters of a person, especially of one whose business has been chiefly transacted by letters, form the only full and genuine journal of his life." Many of these letters have been preserved. It is from these letters and Jefferson's personal writings that historians can catch a glimpse into the mind of Thomas Jefferson in an attempt to determine what Thomas Jefferson• s religious beliefs were. This is a large undertaking. as he wrote many letters and documents which discussed and/or contained references to his religious beliefs throughout his lifetime. The purpose of this paper will be to ascertain Thomas Jefferson's religious beliefs as they existed and were thought about in the context of his lifetime, and also how those same beliefs must be studied today in the context of how religious language and denominational beliefs have experienced change since the 18th and 19th centuries. Before beginning this discussion of Jefferson 's beliefs, however. it is important to discuss the source of the letters and documents that will be used as well as how these sources have been preserved over time.
Year of Submission
Department of History
University Honors Designation
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors
1 PDF file (48 pages)
©2012 Nolan Christian Hovland
Hovland, Nolan Christian, "Thomas Jefferson and His Religious Beliefs in the Contexts of History and Today" (2012). Honors Program Theses. 729.