Born: April 13, [O.S. April 2] 1743 Shadwell, Virginia
July 4, 1826 (age 83), Charlottesville, Virginia
Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia
Thomas Jefferson was an
American Founding Father, the principal author of the
Declaration of Independence (1776) and the third President of
the United States (1801–1809). He was a spokesman for democracy,
embraced the principles of republicanism and the rights of man
with worldwide influence. At the beginning of the American
Revolution, he served in the Continental Congress, representing
Virginia and then served as a wartime Governor of Virginia
(1779–1781). Just after the war ended, from mid-1784 Jefferson
served as a diplomat, stationed in Paris. In May 1785, he became
the United States Minister to France.
Jefferson was the
first United States Secretary of State (1790–1793) serving under
President George Washington. In opposition to Alexander
Hamilton's Federalism, Jefferson and his close friend, James
Madison, organized the Democratic-Republican Party, and
subsequently resigned from Washington's cabinet. Elected Vice
President in 1796, when he came in second to President John
Adams of the Federalists, Jefferson opposed Adams and with
Madison secretly wrote the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions,
which attempted to nullify the Alien and Sedition Acts.
Elected president in what Jefferson called the Revolution of
1800, he oversaw the purchase of the vast Louisiana Territory
from France (1803), and sent the Lewis and Clark Expedition
(1804–1806) to explore the new west. Jefferson is considered a
primary architect of American expansionism; the United States
having doubled in size during his presidency. His second term
was beset with troubles at home, such as the failed treason
trial of his former Vice President Aaron Burr. With escalating
trouble with Britain who was challenging American neutrality and
threatening shipping at sea, he tried economic warfare with his
embargo laws which only damaged American trade. In 1803,
President Jefferson initiated a process of Indian tribal removal
and relocation to the Louisiana Territory west of the
Mississippi River, in order to open lands for eventual American
settlers. In 1807 he drafted and signed into law a bill banning
the importation of slaves into the United States.
leader in the Enlightenment, Jefferson was a polymath who spoke
five languages and was deeply interested in science, invention,
architecture, religion and philosophy and was an active member
and eventual president of the American Philosophical Society.
These interests led him to the founding of the University of
Virginia after his presidency. He designed his own large mansion
on a 5,000 acre plantation near Charlottesville, Virginia, which
he named Monticello and the University of Virginia building.
While not a notable orator, Jefferson was a skilled writer and
corresponded with many influential people in America and Europe
throughout his adult life.
After Martha Jefferson, his
wife of eleven years, died in 1782, Jefferson kept his promise
to her that he would never remarry. Their marriage had produced
six children, of whom two survived to adulthood.
as he lived, Jefferson expressed opposition to slavery, yet, he
owned hundreds of slaves and freed only a few of them. Since his
own day, controversy has ensued over allegations that he
fathered children by his slave, Sally Hemings; DNA tests in
1998, together with historical research, suggest he fathered at
least one. Although he has been criticized by many present-day
scholars over the issues of racism and slavery, Jefferson
remains rated as one of the greatest U.S. presidents.
July 4, at ten minutes before one o'clock in the afternoon,
Jefferson died at the age of 83, the fiftieth anniversary of the
Declaration of Independence and a few hours before John Adams,
whose own last words were, "Independence forever" and "Thomas
Jefferson's funeral was held July 5,
performed by Reverend Charles Clay. The funeral was a simple and
quiet affair, by his own request. No invitations were sent, but
some friends and visitors came to the ceremony and burial to pay
their respects. Jefferson's remains were carried by "servants,
family and friends" to the family grave site at Monticello.