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Jefferson drew upon his education in law and Enlightenment philosophy when he wrote the Declaration of Independence (1776) and A Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774), two treatises that grappled with liberty and slavery. At the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, colonial Virginia’s capital, he studied mathematics, natural philosophy (science), and political philosophy with Scottish scholar William Small. Jefferson was exposed to the leading thinkers of the Enlightenment, who stressed that liberty and equality were natural human rights.

Before Americans were American, they were British. Before Americans governed themselves, they were governed by a distant British king and a British Parliament in which they had no vote. Before America was an independent state, it was a dependent colony. Before Americans expressed support for...
Thomas Jefferson is considered the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, although Jefferson's draft went through a process of revision by his fellow committee members and the Second Continental Congress. How the Declaration Came About America's declaration of independence from the...

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