Thomas Jefferson

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Thomas Jefferson 1800 by Rembrandt Peale

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) - Born 13 Apr 1743 in present day Virginia. A founding Father of the United States and primary author of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. First U.S. Secretary of State and second U.S. Vice President. Third President of the United States from 4 Mar 1797 to 4 Mar 1809. Died 4 Jul 1826 and is buried in the family cemetery at Monticello near Charlottesville, Virginia.

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Early Years

Jefferson entered the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg at age 16 where he studied law and other classic studies. Graduating in 1762 after two years he worked as a law clerk and was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1767.

Thomas Jefferson married widow Martha Wayles Skelton on 1 Jan 1772. Thomas and Martha had a happy marriage that produced six children, only two of which survived to adulthood. Martha died soon after the birth of the last child. Thomas had promised Martha that he would not remarry and he kept that promise.

Jefferson began work on his home, known as Monticello, in 1768 and continued working on it throughout his active life. Monticello was based on neoclassical principles and included design elements then popular in Europe as well as technological advances. The house is located on the top of an 850-foot hill near Charlottesville, Virginia. The central feature of the home is an octagonal second story dome.


The Revolution

Thomas Jefferson was a delegate to the Second Continental Congress in 1775 and in the process of drafting a resolution of independence in June 1776 Jefferson was chosen to write the first draft. His draft was revised and brought forward as the Declaration of Independence and was ratified by the Congress on the 4th of July, 1776.

Jefferson returned to Virginia and served in the Virginia House of Delegates until he was elected Governor of Virginia in 1779. He was reelected in 1780 but a British plan to capture him and the government at Richmond drove them from the capitol. His actions were heavily criticized and he was not reelected.

After the end of the war in 1783 Jefferson served as Minister to France succeeding Benjamin Franklin. Jefferson's wife had died in 1782 and he was still in mourning for her and it was thought that the post in France would bring him out of his depression. While in France Jefferson became fast friends with the Marquis de Lafayette who had played such an important role in winning the American Revolutionary War. Jefferson returned to the USA just as the French Revolution began in 1789.

President Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson was elected President in the election of 1800 and took office on 4 Mar 1801. Prior to becoming President he had served as the first U.S. Secretary of State under President George Washington and as the second U.S. Vice President under President John Adams.

During his first Presidential term in 1802 he completed the Louisiana Purchase from the French for 15 million dollars and sent the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery on a two year expedition to explore the new lands and reach the Pacific. The Louisiana purchase doubled the size of the united states. On 16 Mar 1802, Jefferson signed the Military Peace Establishment Act which established the United States Military Academy at West Point and directed that a corps of engineers be established that is now the U.S. Corps of Engineers.

Jefferson was reelected to a second term in 1804 but that term was plagued with tariff difficulties, barbary pirates and emerging Indian removal problems. Jefferson left office in 1809.

Later Years

Jefferson loved books and over the years he had amassed a large collection at Monticello. During the War of 1812 the British burned Washington DC and with it, the Library of Congress. Jefferson had one of the largest private book collections in the country which he estimated to be between "9 and 10,000 volumes". He offered to sell his collection to the Library of Congress at any price set by Congress. The library purchased his collection in 1815 for $23,950 acquiring 6,487 books and he immediately began a second collection.

In 1819 Jefferson Established the University of Virginia. He planned the site and designed most of the buildings. He was the first rector of the university and oversaw the creation of the curriculum and the hiring of faculty.

In 1824 then President James Monroe had invited the aging Marquis de Lafayette to the United States for a state visit. As a part of his triumphal tour Lafayette spent 11 days with his old friend Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. Jefferson hosted a dinner for ex President James Madison and Lafayette at the rotunda of the new University of Virginia, the very first public event at the University which was not yet open for classes.

Thomas Jefferson died at Monticello on the 4th of July, 1826. Jefferson wrote his own epitaph on the monument at his gravesite which include the three things he was most proud of, Author of the Declaration of Independence, Author of the statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.


Father: Peter Jefferson (1708-1757)

Mother: Jane Randolph (1721-1776)

Marriage:

  • Martha Wayles Skelton (1748-1782) married 1 Jan 1772, born 30 Oct 1748, died 6 Sep 1782.

Children:

  • Martha (1772-1836)
  • Jane (1774-1775)
  • Unnamed Male (1777)
  • Mary Wayles (1778-1804)
  • Lucy Elizabeth (1780–1781)
  • Lucy Elizabeth (1782–1785)

Personal Description:

  • Height: 6' 2-1/2"
  • Build: Tall, thin and erect
  • Hair Color: Red or Sandy Red
  • Eye Color: Blue or light gray or hazel-blue

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