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Thomas Jefferson
(1743 - 1826)


Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence, a member of the Continental Congress, the Governor of Virginia, a trade emissary to France, the Secretary of State, the Vice-President of the United States and the third President of the United States.

            Thomas Jefferson was born into a wealthy family in Virginia; at the age of sixteen, he entered the College of William & Mary, graduating in two years.  After graduation, Jefferson “read” law in the office of Professor George Wythe and was admitted to the Virginia Bar in 1767, handling many cases for freedom-seeking slaves.

                        In 1775, Jefferson was elected to the Continental Congress which created a committee to draft the Declaration of Independence; the committee then delegated that task to Jefferson.  The preamble to the Declaration of Independence sets forth one of the most famous statements of human rights, “ [We] hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”  After the Declaration of Independence was ratified by the delegates on July 4, 1776  , it was signed by on August 2, 1776.   Jefferson also served as a Virginia State Legislator and ultimately became the Governor of that state. 

            After the Revolutionary War, Jefferson was a member of the Congress of Confederation which  set forth plans for the new government and boundaries for the states.  Jefferson included in the land ordinance a phrase banning slavery in all the nation's territories, but Congress rejected that provision.

            Jefferson was also sent to France by the Congress of the Confederation to join Benjamin Franklin and John Adams on a trade mission.  After his return to the United States, Jefferson was named Secretary of State by  President George Washington.  Although Jefferson was in France during the drafting of the United States Constitution and not present to participate in the creation of the document,  he contributed many ideas which were ultimately included.

             Jefferson resigned as Secretary of State in 1793.  He was ultimately elected Vice-President in 1796 (having received the second largest number of votes for President), serving under John Adams.  In 1800, Jefferson was elected President of the United States.  Historians

 

recount that Jefferson, dressed in simple clothes,  rode alone on his own horse to his inauguration and that upon arrival he stabled the horse himself.  Jefferson’s inaugural address implored the Federalists and the Republicans to support the same democratic principles.

            During his presidency, Jefferson engineered the Louisiana Purchase, which expanded the United States all the way to the Pacific Coast.  In 1804 he sent Merriwether Lewis and William Clark on their famous trip to map the newly acquired territory.  He also proposed the legislation which ultimately created the United States Military Academy at West Point.

            In 1804 Jefferson was re-elected President; he retired from elected office in 1809 and returned to his beloved farm in Monticello, Virginia.  Subsequent to his retirement, Jefferson founded the University of Virginia and designed most of the campus buildings.

            Jefferson died at Monticello on July 4, 1826-- the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence; ironically, President John Adams passed away on the same day, just eight hours later.

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson.
Jefferson, Thomas. 20" x 24". 2015. Collection of Dan Stewart. Pace, FL.

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