Shortly after this the great war began. In a little over a year from the time when the first battle was fought, Congress asked Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and some others to write the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson really wrote almost every word of it. He was called the "Pen of the Revolution"; for he could write quite as well as Patrick Henry could speak. The Declaration was printed and carried by men mounted on fast horses all over the United States. When men heard it, they rang the church bells and sent up cheer after cheer. General Washington had the Declaration read to all the soldiers in his army, and if powder had not been so scarce, they would have fired off every gun for joy.
A number of years after the war was over Jefferson was chosen President of the United States; while he was President he did something for the country which will never be forgotten. Louisiana and the city of New Orleans, with the lower part of the Mississippi River, then belonged to the French; for at that time the United States only reached west as far as the Mississippi River. Now as New Orleans stands near the mouth of that river, the French could say, if they chose, what vessels should go out to sea, and what should come in. So far, then, as that part of America was concerned, Americans were like a man who owns a house while another man owns one of the doors to it. The man who has the door could say to the owner of the house, I shall stand here on the steps, and you must pay me so many dollars every time you go out and every time you come in this way. Jefferson saw that so long as the French held the door of New Orleans, Americans should not be free to send our cotton down the river and across the ocean to Europe. He said Americans must have that door, no matter how much it costs.
States.—Mr. Robert R. Livingston, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, was in France at that time, and Jefferson sent over to him to see if he could buy New Orleans for the United States. Napoleon Bonaparte then ruled France. He said, I want money to purchase war-ships with, so that I can fight England; I will sell not only New Orleans, but all Louisiana besides, for fifteen millions of dollars. That was cheap enough, and so in 1803 President Jefferson bought it. If you look on the map you will see that Louisiana then was not simply a good-sized state, as it is now, but an immense country reaching clear back to the Rocky Mountains. It was really larger than the whole United States east of the Mississippi River. So, through President Jefferson's purchase, Americans added so much land that Americans now had more than twice as much as Americans had before, and Americans had got the whole Mississippi River, the city of New Orleans, and what is now the great city of St. Louis besides.
Jefferson lived to be an old man. He died at Monticello on the Fourth of July, 1826, just fifty years, to a day, after he had signed the Declaration of Independence. John Adams, who had been President next before Jefferson, died a few hours later. So America lost two of her great men on the same day. Jefferson was buried at Monticello. He asked to have these words, with some others, cut on his gravestone:— Here Lies Buried THOMAS JEFFERSON, Author of the Declaration of American Independence.
Directions: Answer the following multiple choice questions. Also, answer the following questions on a sheet of paper: