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Home > History > Thomas Jefferson Biography

Thomas Jefferson Biography

This is a detailed biography about Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson Nickel

Thomas Jefferson

Early Life

Thomas Jefferson was born April 13, 1743 in Albemarle County, Virginia. When he was 14, he inherited his father's estate and slaves. Soon after, Jefferson attended the College of William and Mary where he studied mathematics, metaphysics, and philosophy. In 1767, Jefferson was admitted to the Virginia Bar and practiced law. Jefferson remained influential at the College of William and Mary throughout his life and helped institute the nation's first student honor code.

In 1769, when he was just 26, Jefferson was elected to the Virginia House of Representatives. In 1772, Jefferson began building his home, Monticello. That same year, he married Martha Wayles Skelton. The couple would eventually have six children.

Jefferson's Timeless Writings

As a member of the Second Continental Congress, Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence in 1776 with help from Benjamin Franklin and others. The immortal words "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.." are Jefferson's own. Despite these words, Jefferson owned as many as 200 slaves in his lifetime.

Declaration of Independence
Declaration of Independence

In 1779, he was elected as governor of Virginia. Although he resigned in 1781, during his term as governor, Jefferson wrote the famous statute on religious freedom. Jefferson's writings also formed the basis of the Ordinances of 1784, 1785, and 1787. From 1785-1789, Jefferson served as minister to France. In 1789, George Washington appointed him secretary of state.

A New Political Party

Due to political differences concerning the role of the government with other cabinet members, Jefferson resigned as secretary of state in 1793. After serving in Washington's cabinet, Jefferson and James Madison founded the Democratic-Republican Party, which believed that agriculture should drive the national economy, that America should forge strong diplomatic and economic ties with france, and states should retain significant power. Jefferson's chief nemesis at the time was the leader of the Federalist Party, Alexander Hamilton. Jefferson would often hire writers to insult and spread rumors about Hamilton and other Federalists in his partisan publications. Jefferson soon ran for president but was defeated in 1796 by John Adams. Nevertheless, he was appointed vice president. At the time, the elected president did not get to choose his running ate, but rather, whichever candidate received the secondmost votes became vice-president.

President Jefferson

Although Jefferson and Aaron Burr received equal electoral votes for presidency, Jefferson was elected president by the House of Representatives in 1800. During Jefferson's first term, both the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark Expedition occurred. The Louisiana Purchase more than doubled the size of the new nation, and the Lewis and Clark expedition succeeded in exploring the region and ultimately forging a path to the Pacific Ocean. Jefferson also authorized America's first naval war as the new American Navy defeated the Barbary Pirates in the Mediterranean Sea. Jefferson served two presidential terms. Following his presidency, he retired to his home, Monticello, in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Monticello - Home of Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson's Home - Monticello

Legacy

Thomas Jefferson is remembered as one of the most brilliant men to ever inhabit the White House, whose views on individual freedom, religion, and education still influence today. In fact, the establishment of the University of Virginia reflected Jefferson's views about the role of religion in education - it was the first university in America to be centered around a library rather than a church. Jefferson believed in the strict separation of church and state (national affairs, including education, should not be influenced by a dominant religion). Jefferson was also an accomplished surveyor, author, architect, and agriculturalist. His incredible book collection became the foundation of the Library of Congress.

 

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