Presidents: Thomas Jefferson

posted in: Presidents | 0
Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was not only the third President of the United States, but an American Founding Father. He was also the principal author of the Declaration of Independence.

Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743 at the family home in Shadwell. He was born in a time when Virginia was still a colony. He was the third of ten children born to Peter and Jane Randolph Jefferson. He was named for his paternal grandfather.

Upon his father’s death in 1757, Thomas received half of the estate, the other half went to his brother Randolph. It is believed Thomas inherited approximately 5,000 acres, which included Monticello.

Thomas gained his formative education through tutors and several local ministers. By the age of nine he was studying Latin, Greek and French.

Peter Jefferson died when his son was fourteen years old.

At the age of 16, he entered the College of William & Mary.

Jefferson was well educated

Jefferson treasured books and knowledge. He began collecting as a young man, but a fire at his childhood home of Shadwell burned over 200 volumes which he’d inherited from his father.

In 1767, Thomas Jefferson joined the Virginia bar. He worked on numerous cases and his call for equality for all began at this time.

The next year {1768} Jefferson began construction on his future home, Monticello. The word Monticello is Italian for Little Mountain.

On January 1, 1772 he married a young widow named Martha Wayles Skelton. She was widely read, ran the household and also played piano, which Jefferson would accompany her by playing the violin or cello. The couple had six children together, although only two lived past young childhood. The years he was married to Martha are said to be the happiest of Jefferson’s life.

At the start of the Revolution, Jefferson was a commander of the Albermarle County Militia and earned a rank of Colonel.

In 1775, Thomas Jefferson was one of the youngest delegates to the Second Continental Congress.

Jefferson was appointed to the Committee of Five to work on a Declaration of Freedom. He drew on numerous resources to draw up the document and after a few changes, the final draft was presented to Congress on June 28, 1776.

After a great debate and more changes, Congress ratified the Declaration on July 4, 1776.

Jefferson working on the Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence was not the only document Thomas Jefferson worked on. He also spent years working on the Constitution and other laws and bills seeking equality for all.

In 1779 and 1780 he was elected governor of Virginia for one year terms.

Martha had always been in ill health and died on September 6, 1782 at the age of 33. Shortly before her death, Martha made Jefferson promise to never remarry. Two daughters outlived their mother, Patsy and Polly. Jefferson is reported to be inconsolable at the loss of his wife and entered into a deep period of mourning. The Unknown Presidential Wife says, “ Jefferson was inconsolable and “was led from the room almost in a state of insensibility by his sister Mrs. Carr, who, with great difficulty, got him into his library where he fainted, and remained so long insensible that they feared he would never revive.” After the funeral, he withdrew to his room for three weeks. Afterward, he spent hours riding horseback alone around Monticello. His daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph wrote, “In those melancholy rambles I was his constant companion, a solitary witness to many a violent burst of grief.” Not until mid-October did Jefferson begin to resume a normal life when he wrote, “emerging from that stupor of mind which had rendered me as dead to the world as was she whose loss occasioned it.”

Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin discussing the Declaration of Independence

Edmund Randolph reported to James Madison in September 1782 that “Mrs. Jefferson has at last shaken off her tormenting pains by yielding to them, and has left our friend inconsolable. I ever thought him to rank domestic happiness in the first class of the chief good; but I scarcely supposed, that his grief would be so violent, as to justify the circulating report, of his swooning away, whenever he sees his children.”

His youngest daughter, Lucy Elizabeth Jefferson, died in 1784.

When the United States formed a Congress of the Confederation in 1783, Jefferson was named a delegate. He worked on the Land Ordinance of 1784, plotting the borders for nine new states northwest of the Ohio River and arguing to abolish slavery.

In July 1784, he became the Minister to France. He spent the next five years in Paris. He was a firm supported of the French Revolution.

Jefferson quote

Upon returning from France, in September 1789, President George Washington appointed him as Secretary of State. He held this position until his resignation, to return to private life, in December 1793.

In 1796, President George Washington stepped down and Jefferson ran against John Adams for the Presidency. John Adams won the electoral college vote and Jefferson was elected Vice President.

In 1800, Jefferson won the Presidency and was sworn in on March 4, 1801. One of the first issue he had to deal with was $83 million national debt.

After pirates captured U.S. merchant ships on the Barbary Coast in North Africa, President Jefferson asked Congress to declare war. This was the first foreign war fought by the United States.

In 1800, Spain ceded ownership of the Louisiana territory to France, In 1803, Jefferson bought the land from Napoleon, Emperor of France. The Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the United States.

In 1804, Jefferson appointed Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore the land acquired in the Louisiana Purchase.

Thomas Jefferson

In 1804, Jefferson won re-election and his daughter Polly, died. Following Polly’s death and a letter of condolence from Abigail Adams, Jefferson resumed correspondence with John Adams. The well known feud erupted between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. In a duel between the two, Hamilton was mortally wounded on July 11, 1804.

In March 1809, Jefferson left office and returned to his beloved Monticello.

During the War of 1812, the British burned the Library of Congress. Jefferson sold more than 6,000 books to the library for $23,950. He resumed collecting for his personal library. Jefferson wrote to John Adams, “I cannot live without books”.

In 1819, he founded the University of Virginia. Jefferson would bequeath most of his library to the university. Two years later he would begin writing his autobiography.

On July 4, 1826, the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson died. President John Adams died just a few hours after Jefferson.

The sitting president was Adams’ son John Quincy, and he called the coincidence of their deaths on the nation’s anniversary “visible and palpable remarks of Divine Favor”.

Jefferson was buried at his beloved Monticello.

Thomas Jefferson was survived by his daughter Martha.

Thanks to Thomas Jefferson we have the Declaration of Independence and live in a free country.


Nicknames: “Man of the People”; “Sage of Monticello”
Born: April 13, 1743, in Shadwell, Virginia
Died: July 4, 1826, at Monticello (near Charlottesville, Virginia)

Father: Peter Jefferson
Mother: Jane Randolph Jefferson
Married: Martha Wayles Skelton (1748-1782), on January 1, 1772
Children: Martha Washington Jefferson (1772-1836)
Jane Randolph Jefferson (1774-75)
infant son (1777)
Mary Jefferson (1778-1804)
Lucy Elizabeth Jefferson (1780-81)
Lucy Elizabeth Jefferson (1782-85)
Religion: No formal affiliation
Education: Graduated from College of William and Mary (1762)
Occupation: Lawyer, planter
Political Party: Democratic-Republican

  • Member of Virginia House of Burgesses, 1769-74
  • Member of Continental Congress, 1775-76
  • Governor of Virginia, 1779-81
  • Member of Continental Congress, 1783-85
  • Minister to France, 1785-89
  • Secretary of State, 1790-93
  • Vice President, 1797-1801

  • 1803
    • Supreme Court ruled in Marbury v. Madison . Any law passed by Congress can be declared unconstitutional by the courts.
      The Louisiana Territory was purchased from France for $15 million dollars. The price works out to three cents per acre for the 512 million acres.
  • 1804
    • 12th Amendment changed Presidential election rules.
      Jefferson reelected.
      Meriwether Lewis and William Clark began exploration of the Northwest.
      Vice President Aaron Burr kills Alexander Hamilton in a duel July 11.
  • 1807
    • Congress outlaws importing slaves from Africa, March 2.
      Embargo Act, December 22, forbids American ships to leave American waters.
  • 1808
    • Slave importation outlawed. Yet, another 1/4 million brought in by 1860.
  • 1809
    • Non-Intercourse Act, March 1, repeals the Embargo Act, which didn’t work.

1743 Born on April 13, 1743 in Albermarle County, Virginia.

Educated at the William and Mary College and his career included the roles of Lawyer, Politician and Statesman

1769-74 Member of Virginia House of Burgesses

1775–83 The American Revolution, the American War of Independence, led by George Washington was fought between Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.

1775-76 Member of Continental Congress

1776 Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence

1779-81 Governor of Virginia

1783-85 Member of Continental Congress

1785-89 Minister to France

1791 Bill of Rights ratified

1793 Fugitive Slave Act passed

1790-93 Secretary of State (under Washington)

1797-1801 Vice President under J. Adams

1801 to 1809 Served as US President

1801-1805 The Barbary Wars

1803 The purchase of Louisiana from France

1811 Battle of Tippecanoe

1812 The War of 1812 which has also been called the second War for Independence, between the United States and Great Britain

1817 – 1818 The First Seminole War when American slave owners travelled to Spanish Florida in search of runaway African slaves and Seminole Indians who had been trading weapons with the British in the War of 1812.

1826 Thomas Jefferson died of natural causes, most likely dehydration resulting from dysentery, at the age of 84. His death occurred on July 4, 1826 in Monticello in Virginia and was buried at the family estate in Charlottesville.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.