Thomas JeffersonThomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743 in Albemarle County, Va. Jefferson
attended the College of William and Mary and then studied law with George Wythe. In 1769 he
began six years as a representative in the Virginia House of Burgesses. In 1770 he began building
Monticello on land inherited by his father. Jefferson married Martha Wayles Skelton. They had
six children. Only two of them survived into their adulthood. His wife died on September 6,
Jefferson was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence. When Jefferson
returned to Virginia, he served in the House of Delegates until 1779. While the American
Revolution continued, Jefferson wanted to liberalize Virginia’s laws. Jefferson introduced
different bills that were resisted. His bill to create a free system of tax supported elementary
education for all except slaves was defeated. Jefferson’s bill on religious liberty wasn’t passed
In June 1779, Jefferson was elected governor of Virginia. His political enemies criticized
his performance as governor. From 1784 to 1789, Jefferson lived outside the United States. He
was sent to Paris as a commissioner to help negotiate commercial treaties. When Jefferson left
Paris on September 26, 1789, he expected to return to his post. When he came back Congress
appointed him to secretary of state. In 1796, Jefferson became the presidential candidate of the
Democratic-Republican part. Jefferson lost to John Adams and became vice-president.
Jefferson’s triumph of president was delayed as a result of a tie with Aaron Burr.
Federalist leaders opposed Jefferson, but the people approved his policies. Internal taxes were
reduced, the military budget was cut and plans were made to eliminate the public debt.
Jefferson’s main concern for his second term of presidency was foreign affairs. He was the first
president to be inaugurated in Washington. The purchase of Louisiana from France in 1803 was
the most notable act of his administration.
In the final 17 years of his life, Jefferson’s major accomplishment was the founding of the
University of Virginia at Charlottesville. He planned it, designed it, and supervised it. On July 4,
1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson died at Monticello.
Jefferson had and enormous variety of interests and skills, ranging from education and science to
architecture and music.