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Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale, 1800.jpg
3rd President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1801 – March 4, 1809
Vice President Aaron Burr; George Clinton
Preceded by John Adams
Succeeded by James Madison
2nd Vice President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1797 – March 4, 1801
President John Adams
Preceded by John Adams
Succeeded by Aaron Burr
1st United States Secretary of State
In office
September 26, 1789 – December 31, 1793
President George Washington
Preceded by New Office
Succeeded by Edmund Randolph
Personal details
Born (1743-04-13)April 13, 1743
Shadwell, Virginia, U.S.
Died July 4, 1826(1826-07-04) (aged 83)
Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S.
Nationality American
Political party Democratic-Republican
Height 6 ft 2½ in (189 cm)
Spouse Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson
Signature Th: Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was the third President of the United States. He wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Religious Freedom.

He was also a plantation owner with many slaves, though he often fought for their freedom.

Jefferson can also be credited as the creator of the swivel chair, the first of which he created and used to write much of the Declaration of Independence.

Early life

Jefferson, the third of ten children, was born on April 13, 1743 in Shadwell, Virginia, into a planter family (a family that owned a plantation and had many slaves). His parents were Peter and Jane Jefferson. He had six sisters and three brothers. At 9 years old, Thomas Jefferson began studying Latin, Greek, and French; he also learned to ride horses, with highest honors. He went on to become a lawyer.

In January 1772, Jefferson married Martha Wayles Skelton. They had 6 children.

Political life

Jefferson wanted the Thirteen Colonies to be free from Great Britain. Jefferson quickly assumed a leadership role among like-minded men of his generation.

At age 33, he was one of the youngest delegates to the Second Continental Congress beginning in 1775 at the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. It was made up of representatives from all 13 colonies. On July 4, 1776, Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, which was written by Thomas Jefferson.

He was minister to France from 1785 to 1789.

He was selected by George Washington as the first Secretary of State. Jefferson thought that the federal government should be small. He had the opposite view of Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton about the federal government. Together with James Madison in 1792, he founded a party to oppose Hamilton and the Federalist Party. This party was the Democratic-Republican Party. One fraction of the party became the modern-day Democratic Party.

Jefferson ran for President against John Adams. He came second in the vote and, as was the law at the time, became vice-president.


Jefferson ran again as the Democratic-Republican candidate in 1800 and was victorious. He was elected again in 1804.

Jefferson made the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the United States. He sent the Lewis and Clark Expedition to explore the land the United States got by the Louisiana Purchase.

Jefferson had to deal with the threat of war during his second term. Great Britain and France were at war for almost all of his time as President. Each side did things that could have made the United States enter the war. Jefferson worked hard to keep the United States out of the war.

Jefferson passed the Embargo Act of 1807, which made it illegal for the United States to trade with other countries. This upheld his isolationist policy, or separation from the rest of the world.

Later years

Jefferson started the University of Virginia.

The British burned Washington D.C. (or the Capitol building, as it was known,) during the War of 1812. When they did, many books in the Library of Congress were burned. Jefferson sold his own personal library to replace the lost books.

He died on July 4, 1826, from pneumonia complicated by uremia, on the 50th anniversary of the day the Declaration of Independence became valid. John Adams died on the same day.

Monuments and museums

Jefferson Memorial At Dusk 1
The Jefferson Memorial at dusk

There is a Thomas Jefferson Memorial near the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Jefferson is one of the four presidents on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. Also, visitors can visit his home at the Monticello near Charlottesville, Virginia.


Old revolving office chair (2)
An old swivel chair

Jefferson invented many small practical devices. He also improved some contemporary inventions such as the pedometer, the polygraph (a device for duplicating writing), and the moldboard plow, an idea he never patented and gave to posterity.

Jefferson can also be credited as the creator of the swivel chair, the first of which he created and used to write much of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson heavily modified the Windsor chair and incorporated top and bottom parts connected by a central iron spindle, enabling the top half known as the seat, to swivel on casters of the type used in rope-hung windows. It had no wheels. Since 1836, the chair has been in the possession of the American Philosophical Society located in Philadelphia.

He first opposed patents and later supported them. In 1790–1793, as Secretary of State, he was the ex officio head of the three-person patent review board (the Secretary of War and the Attorney General being the other two patent reviewers). He drafted reforms of US patent law which lead to him being relieved of this duty in 1793, and also drastically changed the patent system.

For his inventiveness and ingenuity, he received several honorary Doctor of Law degrees.

Thomas Jefferson quotes

  • "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
  • "When angry, count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred."
  • "In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock."
  • "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever."
  • "The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers."
  • "Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty."
  • "Do not bite at the bait of pleasure, till you know there is no hook beneath it."

Interesting facts about Thomas Jefferson

Images for kids

See also

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