Thomas Jefferson Biography

3rd President of the United States

Years Served as President: 1801-1809

Vice President: Aaron Burr, George Clinton

Thomas Jefferson

Party: Democratic-Republican

Age at Inauguration: 57

Home State: Virginia

Date of Birth: April 13, 1743

Died: July 4, 1826

Married: Martha Wayles Skelton

Children: Martha and Mary

Nickname: Father of the Declaration of Independence

declaration of independence day

What is Thomas Jefferson known for?

Thomas Jefferson is best known for writing the Declaration of Independence. He was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

He believed that the federal government should have a limited role in the lives of U.S. citizens.

declaration of independence

Early Life

Thomas Jefferson was born in Albemarle County, Virginia to Peter and Jane Jefferson. He had six sisters and one brother. Thomas was the third child and the eldest son.

He enjoyed playing the violin and was very studious in school.

When Thomas was 11, his father, who was a successful planter and surveyor, passed away. Thomas inherited his father’s estate and began managing it when he was 21.

In 1762, Thomas graduated from the College of William and Mary. America had no official law schools at the time, so Thomas began studying law under the mentorship of a Virginia attorney.

He began working as a lawyer in 1767.

practicing lawyer

Family Life

In 1768, Thomas started building a brick mansion called Monticello on the large property he had inherited from his father.

He designed the homes and its gardens himself. Over the years, he decorated the inside of the home with art, fine furniture, and interesting gadgets. He remodeled and expanded it several times.

In 1772, he married Martha Wayles Skelton, a young widow. Martha moved into Monticello, and the couple had six children. Only two of their daughters, Martha and Mary, survived into adulthood.

His wife Martha died at the age of 33 after complications from childbirth. Thomas never remarried.

Monticello dome museum
Monticello dome museum

Political Career

From 1769 to 1775, Thomas Jefferson was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses. This was part of Virginia’s legislature.

Thomas gained recognition when he wrote a pamphlet called “A Summary View of the Rights of British America.” In it, he argued that the British Parliament had no right to rule over the American colonies.

In 1775, he was selected as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress. He joined John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and others on a drafting committee that discussed the contents of the Declaration of Independence.

Since Thomas was a talented writer, he was asked to put their ideas on paper and write the Declaration of Independence.

declaration of independence discussion

He later wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which he considered one of his most important achievements.

The statute was a major inspiration for the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment grants several freedoms to American citizens, including freedom of religion.

He also served as governor of Virginia, the U.S. minister to France, the first secretary of state under George Washington, and vice president under John Adams.

In 1800, Thomas Jefferson ran against John Adams for the presidency and won. He also won re-election and served as president for two terms.

thomas jefferson john adams

Presidency

Thomas Jefferson’s presidency is perhaps most famous for the Louisiana Purchase. This was a $15 million purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France. It doubled the size of the United States.

He hired the explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark (better known as “Lewis and Clark”) to map the territory and provide information on its geography, animals, and plants.

Thomas Jefferson also tried to reduce the federal budget to give more power to the states, and he lowered taxes.

When his first term was over, Thomas ran for re-election against Federalist candidate Charles Pinckney. He won with more than 70% of the popular vote.

Charles C Pinckney
Charles C Pinckney

During his second term, he successfully kept the United States out of Europe’s Napoleonic Wars. However, the U.S. later went to war against Europe in 1812.

After the Presidency

Thomas Jefferson chose not to run for a third term and retired to Monticello. He continued reading, playing music, and exploring interests like architecture and gardening.

He also helped found the University of Virginia. He influenced the university’s design and curriculum, and he ensured that the school would have no religious affiliation (unlike other universities at the time).

Thomas Jefferson died at Monticello at the age of 83 on July 4, 1826.

Fun Facts About John Adams

Thomas Jefferson was one of only two signers of the Declaration of Independence to become president. The other was John Adams.

Jefferson nickel

His inauguration (swearing in as president) was the first to be held in Washington D.C.

Instead of riding in a horse-drawn carriage to the ceremony like previous presidents, Thomas Jefferson broke tradition and walked to and from the ceremony.

Thomas Jefferson is still an American icon, with his face on Mount Rushmore and the nickel.

Both Thomas Jefferson and his friend and political rival John Adams died on the fiftieth anniversary of the approval of the Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson Mount Rushmore

Thomas Jefferson wrote his own epitaph for his tombstone. He listed his major accomplishments, which surprisingly did not include becoming president of the United States.

What did Thomas Jefferson consider to be his major accomplishments? His epitaph reads: “Author of the Declaration of Independence [and] of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom & Father of the University of Virginia.”

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