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Thomas Jefferson was asked to draft of the document that would declare to the world that America was independent. During the days leading up to the debate on independence, culminating with the Declaration on July 4, 1776, Jefferson lived in the Graff house working on this history making document. The building is a reconstruction of the original building. Jefferson’s draft was far more sweeping in scope than what was ultimately approved by Congress. As a result, Jefferson’s hope that slavery would end did not become a reality until the bloody Civil War was fought, nearly a century later. Understandably, Jefferson was quite upset that Congress made some eighty changes to his original document. A central theme of the Declaration is that all men are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. Jefferson was a firm believer in the divine design and creation of the world, expressly rejecting the idea of the eternal existence of matter.
Jefferson’s desire to end slavery, although not fully consistent since he was a slave owner himself, was based in part on the idea that God created the whole world, both rich and poor, with inherent rights. Genesis 1:27-28 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (NIV).
These extraordinary words of Thomas Jefferson are carved into the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.:
“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”