People have always loved symbols and monuments, and monumental architecture has always been as much symbolic as functional. The pyramids of ancient Egypt were artificial mountains expressing the link of the pharaoh to the gods, and mountains have always been associated with the divine in the human imagination. The Colossus of Rhodes, the Roman Senate House and Temple of Capitoline Jove, the Forbidden City of Peking, the Parisian Arc de Triomphe de l'Etoile, and the Brandenburg Gate of Berlin all provide or provided material focuses for national ideals, beliefs, and culture.
The story of the United States of America is one of a nation founded upon the loftiest ideals of representative government, attempting to fulfill its goals while encountering competing domestic and global forces. From the beginning Americans debated how their national government should govern, balancing powers between the federal government and the states, which led to the establishment of the first political parties. At the same time, the nation has struggled to reconcile its guarantee of universal rights and individual liberties with several stark realities, including the presence of millions of slaves at the time of the Declaration of Independence.
Nobody spent more time in the thick of these debates than Thomas Jefferson, one of the most famous and revered Americans. Jefferson was instrumental in all of the aforementioned debates, authoring the Declaration of Independence, laying out the ideological groundwork of the notion of states' rights, leading one of the first political parties, and overseeing the expansion of the United States during his presidency.
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