Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13 1743, to July 4 1826 to a materially prosperous family. He father Peter Jefferson was a land and slave owner in Virginia.
As a young child Thomas Jefferson was an enthusiastic student, often spending upto 15 hours a day studying. He was to retain a life long interest in reading. He had both a keen intellect and also a wide range of interests. His interests ranged from Philosophy and architecture to the natural sciences. At the age of 16 he entered the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, 2 years later he graduated with the highest honours. After leaving college he became a lawyer and later served in the Virginian state Burgess.
One of his earliest political writings of significance was A Summary View of the Rights of British America. This expressed a thoughtful summary of a way America could make a settlement with Britain. It played an important role in shaping opinions in the lead up to the War of Independence.
Thomas Jefferson and The Declaration of Independence
Thomas Jefferson was the primary author in drafting the American declaration of Independence. The act was adopted on July 4th 1776 and was a symbolic statement of the aims of the American Revolution. Jefferson received suggestions from others such as James Maddison. He was also influenced by the writings of the British Empiricists, in particular, John Lock and Thomas Paine. The importance of the declaration of Independence was summed up in The Gettysburg address of Abraham Lincoln in 1863
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
However Jefferson was disappointed that a reference to the evil of slavery was removed at the request of delegates from the South.
From 1785 to 1789 Jefferson served as minister to France. On his return to America he served under George Washington as first Secretary of State. Here he began debating with the Hamilton factions over the size of government spending. At the end of his term 1783 he retired temporarily to Monticello, where he spent time amongst his gardens and with his family.
Jefferson – President in 1800
In 1796 he stood for President but lost narrowly to John Adams, however under the terms of the constitution, this was sufficient to become Vice President. In the run up to the next election of 1800 Jefferson fought a bitter campaign. In particular the Alien and sedition act of 1798 led to the imprisonment of many newspaper editors who supported Jefferson and were critical of the existing government. However Jefferson was narrowly elected and this allowed him to promote open and representative government. On being elected, he offered a hand of friendship to his former political enemies. He also allowed the Sedition act to expire and promoted the practical existence of free speech.
The Presidency of Jefferson was eventful, but importantly he was able to preside over a period of relative stability and generally kept America out of conflict.
“ I love peace, and am anxious that we should give the world still another useful lesson, by showing to them other modes of punishing injuries than by war, which is as much a punishment to the punisher as to the sufferer.”
At the time American neutrality was imperilled by the British French wars, which raged around Canada.
In 1803 he was able to double the size of the US, through the Louisiana Purchase, which gave America many states to the west. He also commissioned the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which crossed America seeking to explore and create friendships with the Native American populations.
Jefferson Retirement Monticello
In 1808 Jefferson was able to retire from Politics. In retirement he spent much of his time in his beloved Monticello and also working on the foundation of the University of Virginia. Jefferson was a man of great talents and interests. He was fascinated by both the sciences and various arts. He was also interested in architecture and was instrumental in bringing the neo palladian style into America from Britain. At the time this architectural style was associated with republicanism and civic virtue.
Thomas Jefferson Personal Life
Thomas Jefferson married Martha Wayles Skelton in 1772. Together they had six children, including one stillborn son. Martha Jefferson Randolph (1772–1836), Jane Randolph (1774–1775), a stillborn or unnamed son (1777–1777), Mary Wayles (1778–1804), Lucy Elizabeth (1780–1781), and Lucy Elizabeth (1782–1785). Martha died only 10 years later. Thomas Jefferson remained single for the rest of his life.
It was alleged that Jefferson fathered some of Sally Hemmings daughters. Jefferson never denied it in public, but he did deny it private correspondence. There has never been any conclusive proof that this occurred.
Jefferson was over 6 feet 2; this was very tall for his age. He didn’t relish public speaking, he preferred to express his opinions through his writings. His friends and family remarked on Jefferson’s many fine qualities. He was sympathetic and engaging in conversation. Never bored he always found different avenues of interest to explore. Thomas Jefferson left a profound mark on America, through his influential shaping of the American constitution and political practices.
“The essential qualities of Thomas Jefferson were clarity, luminosity and vastness. Clarity, luminosity and vastness – these the Declaration of Independence embodies. Jefferson was the most divinely talented man of his time.”
Light and Liberty – Selected inspirational Quotes of Thomas Jefferson. Highly Recommended
Thomas Jefferson – at Amazon.com
Life of Thomas Jefferson and Selected Writings
Thomas Jefferson links
- Thomas Jefferson – short biography
- Thomas Jefferson – Main Achievements
- Thomas Jefferson – minor accomplishments
- Thomas Jefferson’s views on Religion
- See also: Light and Liberty – Thomas Jefferson
- Thomas Jefferson Biography at White House
- Monticello – The home of Thomas Jefferson