Thomas Jefferson Biography

Thomas Jefferson was a lawyer and statesman known as the Third President of the United States and one of the country’s Founding Fathers.

Name: Thomas Jefferson

Born: April 13, 1743, Shadwell, Virginia, United States

Death: July 4, 1826, Charlottesville, Virginia, United States

Occupation: Statesman, lawyer, and President of the United States (1801 – 1809)

Thomas Jefferson's Legacy

Thomas Jefferson is one of the most prominent figures in American history, with achievements before, during and after the American Revolutionary War. Jefferson is one of the Founding Fathers of the country thanks to his major contribution: the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson was an avid reader and writer, and a man of multiple contradictions; he was against slavery, yet never freed his own, and he was a fearless republican to the point of never speaking to George Washington again and maintaining a long fight with both John Adams and Alexander Hamilton. However, during his time as president, he managed to reduce the war debt almost in half and double the size of the country thanks to the Louisiana Purchase.

20 Thomas Jefferson's Life Events

1Thomas Jefferson was born in Shadwell, Virginia, on April 13, 1743. He was the third son of Peter Jefferson and Jane Randolph.

2Jefferson started his education in 1752 in Shadwell’s local school, and at age 9 he started studying Latin, Greek, and French, as well as natural sciences.

3At age 16, Thomas Jefferson entered the College of William & Mary in Virginia to study mathematics and philosophy. He was introduced to the ideas and theories of British intellectuals like John Locke, Francis Bacon, and Isaac Newton. He graduated in 1762.

4In 1767 he was accepted in the Virginia bar and started representing the Albemarle County in the Virginia House of Burgesses from 1769 to 1775. Here he tried to implement reforms to slavery, giving control of their emancipation to the owners instead of the Royal Governor, but he encountered strong opposition.

5In 1772 Thomas Jefferson married Martha Wayles and during their 10-year marriage, they had 6 children. When Martha’s father died, the couple inherited around 11,000 acres of land and 135 slaves. Martha died in 1782.

6During the initial stages of the American Revolutionary War, Thomas Jefferson attended the Second Continental Congress in 1775 where he was in charge of writing the Declaration of Independence presented on June 28, 1776.

7Jefferson was named Commander of the Albemarle County militia in 1775 and a year later he was elected representative at the House of Delegates of the same county. During this time, he assisted with the creation of a couple of bills to establish religious freedom, but they didn’t pass. However, President James Madison would later re-introduce the bills to Congress.

8Jefferson was in charge of the revision of 126 bills in the period of 3 years, from 1778 to 1781. The bills included general education, judicial reforms, the abolition of feudal laws such as “entail” and “primogeniture”.

9When the United States won the revolutionary war, a Confederation Congress was formed and Jefferson served as a Virginia delegate. He was in charge of regulating foreign exchange and he suggested the creation of a new currency for the country.


0Jefferson wrote the Land Ordinance of 1784 which organized the Northwest Territory, a large territory north of the Ohio River that, according to the ordinance, could be divided into several states with the same rights and obligations as the original states.


1Thomas Jefferson was sent to France with Benjamin Franklin and John Adams to negotiate a peace agreement with England and serve as a diplomat. He traveled with his daughter Patsy and a couple servants in 1784.


2On his return to the United States, Jefferson was urged by George Washington to serve as his Secretary of State in 1790. He encountered strong opposition from his most famous rival, Alexander Hamilton and Washington himself. The motives of this differences were the establishment of the permanent Capital and the role of the individual states regarding the payment of war debts.


3Along with James Madison, Thomas Jefferson founded the Democratic-Republican Party, the counterpart of the Federalist Party founded by Alexander Hamilton. The Democratic-Republican party opposed a centralized government, giving autonomy to each state in its affairs.


4In 1796 he ran for president but John Adams was elected; since Jefferson was the second most voted, he became John Adams’ vice president. This position also made him the President of the Senate.


5In 1800 he ran for president but ended up in a tie with Aaron Burr. The Senate, led by Hamilton, decided to vote for Jefferson since he was considered less troublesome than Burr (who would end up killing Hamilton in a duel). Thomas Jefferson became the third President of the United States with Burr as his Vice President.


6The most important event during Jefferson’s presidency was without a doubt the Louisiana Purchase, a territory owned by France. Napoleon Bonaparte was offered 10 Million for New Orleans and its coastal areas only (40,000 square miles), but, since Napoleon was in need of money due to his wars and saw the territory as a burden, he offered to sell all of the Louisiana territories for 15 Million (827,987 square miles). This doubled the size of the country.


7Thomas Jefferson also funded the Corps of Discovery and the expeditions of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in order to find a way to the Pacific Ocean, explore possible threats and map the territory. The Expedition started in 1804 and ended in 1806.


8His second term as President (1805 – 1809) wasn’t as good as the first one. It was marked by disputes and disagreements with both England and France regarding trade. Future president James Monroe was sent to negotiate with England with no success. Jefferson presented the Embargo Act of 1807 to Congress, which had negative effects on the economy of the country and was repealed a year later.


9After his retirement, Thomas Jefferson sold his collection of books to the Library of Congress and founded the University of Virginia in 1819. He dedicated most of his time to writing and taking care of his plantation in Monticello.


0Thomas Jefferson’s health started to deteriorate almost a year before the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Due to intestinal problems and rheumatism, Thomas Jefferson died the 4th of July, 1926, in Charlottesville, a few hours before his friend John Adams died as well.

14 Thomas Jefferson's Interesting Facts

1His father, who was a surveyor and landowner, died when he was 14. Thomas Jefferson inherited 5,000 acres of land and dozens of slaves. In this place, he built his main house now known as Monticello.

2Jefferson red and practiced law under the supervision of George Wythe, obtaining his license and working as a law clerk.

3Thomas Jefferson was an avid reader, owning several collections of books throughout his entire life. His first collection of 200 books was destroyed in a fire, but he manages to acquire around 6,500 books by 1814.

4Jefferson defended 7 slaves and took more than 60 cases during his life and helped one escape when he was denied his liberty by the court.

5A quarter of the original draft of the Declaration of Independence was rejected and corrected by the Continental Congress because it tended to criticize King George III in an incisive manner and because it was overtly against slavery.

6During his period as Governor of Virginia, he transferred the capital to Richmond and introduced changes in education, freedom of religion and land inheritance. Jefferson had to escape the city during the invasion of General Benedict Arnold in 1781, which was burned to the ground.

7In 1786, he met Maria Cosway in France, a popular Italian-English artist who was married. They had several encounters during a period of 6 weeks. He also maintained sexual relations with one of his slaves, called Sally Hemings; she got pregnant and returned to the United States where their son was born.

8In France, Jefferson became friends with Gilbert du Motier, known as Marquis de Lafayette, an important figure in the American Revolutionary War, the French Revolution and the July Revolution. Lafayette was also a friend of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton.

9Jefferson was in Paris when the French Revolution started. He supported the revolution and served as a host for several meetings, using the place he was living as the main reunion site. He also maintained encrypted communications with rebels since his mail was regularly opened by postmen.


0Jefferson opposed the Jay Treaty, an agreement between England and the U.S. arguing it undermined the republican nature of the United States. It brought tensions with England later when he revoked it during his presidency.


1In 1796 he opposed several laws President John Adams presented, like the establishment of a regular army, various tax laws and the Alien and Sedition Acts; these led to the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, written by Jefferson and James Madison, which will have an enormous influence in the development of the American Civil War.


2Jefferson received a deficit of 83 million in debt that he managed to reduce to 57 million by closing unnecessary offices across the States, removing taxes and reducing the size of the Navy. He also founded the United States Military Academy.


3The first war fought by the United States as an independent nation was the First Barbary War, a conflict originated due to the constant merchant ships’ harassment and capture in the coasts of northern Africa by Barbary pirates. Jefferson sent a fleet and the USS Philadelphia was captured in Tripoli; the U.S. responded, attacking the city and forcing the leader to sign a peace treaty.


4Jefferson didn’t know about the extension of the territory the U.S. acquired with the Louisiana purchase until the negotiators came back a couple of weeks later. The purchase also removed any remaining interest of both England and France in America, giving the United States a free pass to expand to the west and leaving only Spain as a possible threat in the continent.

thomas jefferson

Related Historical Figures

Francis Bacon
John Locke
Isaac Newton
Benjamin Franklin
Peter Jefferson
Jane Randolph
George Wythe
George Washington
John Adams
King George III
Benedict Arnold
Martha Wayles
James Madison
Aaron Burr
Alexander Hamilton
Marquis de Lafayette
James Monroe
Maria Cosway
Napoleón Bonaparte
William Clark
Sally Hemings
Meriwether Lewis

Thomas Jefferson's Images

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