Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826) was America’s third president and the author of our Declaration of Independence.
The third president was born on April 13, 1743. Jefferson graduated from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA in 1762 and then began to study law from a respected attorney. Back then, there were not any official law schools and lawyers learned from others the tools of the trade. He began practicing as a lawyer in 1767 at just 24 years of age.
Jefferson’s ability to write was important as he served as a member of Virginia’s House of Burgesses from 1769 to 1775. In 1774, he wrote A Summary View of the Rights of British America, which said British Parliament had no right to exercise authority over the American colonies.
In 1775, during the American Revolutionary War, Jefferson became a delegate to the Second Continental Congress and at the age of 33 was asked to draft the Declaration of Independence, which was adopted on July 4, 1776.
Jefferson later returned to the Virginia House of Delegates (formerly the House of Burgesses) and wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which was a precursor to today’s First Amendment, granting freedom of religion.
Jefferson served as governor of Virginia from 1779 to 1781. In 1785, he took Benjamin Franklin’s place as US minister to France.
The presidential election of 1796 ran Jefferson against his good friend John Adams. Although he didn’t win the presidency, he had the second highest number of votes, which made him Adams’ vice president, according to the laws at the time. In 1800, Jefferson and Adams ran against each other again, only this time Jefferson won.
Jefferson was sworn into office on March 4, 1801. He was the first president to have the presidential inauguration held in Washington, D.C. One of his greatest accomplishments as president was the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France for $15 million in 1803. The land stretched between the Mississippi River and Rocky Mountains and from the Gulf of Mexico to present-day Canada, doubling the size of the United States. He commissioned Lewis and Clark to explore the land: The expedition is known as the Corps of Discovery and took two years (1804-1806) to complete.
He served two terms as president before retiring to Monticello. At the age of 83, Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Also, he passed away just a few hours before his friend, John Adams.
Jefferson’s face is on the US nickel and is carved into stone at Mount Rushmore. The Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC was dedicated on the 200th anniversary of his birthday.