U.S. President Thomas Jefferson Psychohistory

About the U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, history and a psychological analysis or psychohistory.

FULL PORTRAITS OF SELECTED PRESIDENTS

3rd President

THOMAS JEFFERSON

PSYCHOHISTORY

When Jefferson was 14, his father died, and the boy soon developed an intense love-hate relationship with his mother. As he grew older, his mother seemed to condemn his revolutionary activities, and so those activities took on a new intensity. They came to represent not only a political but also a personal rebellion. His attachment to his mother might also help to explain why he was fascinated by married women; his wife, when he met her, was a recently bereaved widow whose situation approximated that of Jefferson's mother during the time of his adolescence. Self-conscious over his red hair, freckles, and otherwise ungainly appearance, young Jefferson was shy in public and always an awkward speaker. He made up for these shortcomings, however, with the most aggressive use of his pen that was possible; all his life he suffered from the urge to overstate his case in writing. He further compensated for his insecurity by assuming a position of total and unquestioned dominance in his personal relationships. Jefferson always wanted to "own" the people he loved; in this context, his long relationship with his pretty slave, Sally Hemings, is hardly an accident. His letters to his daughters indicate his neurotic desire to possess them, even after they were married, and some of this feeling actually spilled over onto their husbands. When both his sons-in-law were elected to Congress, Jefferson unequivocally demanded that they come live with him in the White House--somewhat to the younger men's embarrassment. Jefferson's closest relationships in politics were also with young men he could dominate completely; observers frequently pointed out the father-son nature of the Jefferson-Madison partnership. With Madison as his replacement in the White House (to be followed by another "foster son," James Monroe), Jefferson's monumental ego could afford to rest peacefully during the years of his final "retirement."

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