Born on April 13, 1743, died July 4, 1826, Thomas Jefferson became one of the founding fathers of the new United States of America and later, the third President of the United States. He was Secretary of State under George Washington, from 1783 to 1793, and Vice President under John Adams, from 1797 to 1801. Thomas Jefferson took office in 1801. His Presidency lasted 2 terms until 1809 when the election of 1808 saw James Madison become the next United States President.
Jefferson was born into a wealthy Virginia family. He was the third child of eight. His mother was Jane Rudolph. His father was Peter Jefferson. By 9 years old, Thomas started studying Latin, Greek, and French. When his father died, Thomas inherited approximately 5,000 acres of land, and dozens of “slaves.” He went on to the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg at 16, and graduated two years later with the highest honors.
Among many of Thomas Jefferson’s finest accomplishments, he wrote “A Summary View of the Rights of British America” in 1774. This document strongly states Jefferson’s views on the changes of rights for American colonies versus those right for British citizens. It was a pamphlet intended for Virginia delegates as instructions to a national congress. The document helped speed American Colonies toward independence, making Thomas Jefferson one of the most thoughtful patriot spokesmen.
Given his background and education, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that Thomas Jefferson was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence went to a Committee of Five people to write and revise the document. But after several drafts and alterations, much of Jefferson’s work remained the same. Jefferson remains one of the truly great contributors to American political and civil culture.
When he returned to Virginia, Thomas Jefferson was elected to the new Virginia House of Delegates in 1776. Due to the changes of democracy, Thomas Jefferson had to reform and update Virginia’s system of laws. Before there was a Bill of Rights, Thomas Jefferson was already fighting to promote such great rights as a freedom of religion in Virginia. Jefferson went on to become the governor of Virginia, from 1779 to 1781, moving the state capitol from Williamsburg to Richmond.
Contrary to belief, Thomas Jefferson may have owned slaves, but he strongly opposed the idea of owning people. He condemned the British crown for sponsoring the importation of slavery to the colonies. Jefferson charged the crown as having “waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere.” Finally by 1778, the legislature passed Jefferson’s own bill, proposing to stop all importation of slaves into Virginia. At the very least, the worst you can say about Thomas Jefferson and his actions is that he might have been hypocritical.