A Brief Biography of Thomas Jefferson

By Tim Lambert

His Early Life

Thomas Jefferson was the third president of the USA. He was born on 13 April 1743 in Albemarle County, Virginia. His father Peter was a wealthy landowner. His mother was called Jane. However, his father died when he was 14 leaving him a substantial amount of land. In 1760 Thomas Jefferson went to the College of William and Mary.

Then in 1762, he began studying law. He was admitted to the bar in 1767. From 1769 to 1775 Jefferson was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses. In 1774 he wrote A Summary View of the Rights of British America. He argued that the British parliament had no authority over the American colonies who were bound to Britain only by loyalty to the king.

Meanwhile, in 1772 he married a woman named Martha Wayles Skelton. The couple had 6 children but only two (a daughter named Martha and another named Maria) survived childhood. Sadly Martha Senior died in 1782 aged only 33. Jefferson also had children by his slave, Sally Hemings.

The Statesman

In 1775 Jefferson became a member of the Second Continental Congress. He became one of 5 men appointed to write a declaration of independence and he was asked to write the first draft. It was edited by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin and also by the Continental Congress but the final version was adopted on 4 July 1776.

In 1776 Jefferson entered the Virginia House of Delegates where he worked to reform the laws. He drafted the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which was not passed till 1786. In 1779 he was elected governor of Virginia for a one-year term. He was elected again in 1780. However, in 1781, the British invaded Virginia. Jefferson was nearly captured but he fled to his estate at Poplar Forest. In 1783 Jefferson became a member of the Confederation Congress. He drafted the ordinance of 1784 which organized the western territories.

In 1784 he was sent to France to help negotiate trade treaties. In 1785 he became US minister to France. The same year, 1785 he published a book in Paris called Notes on the State of Virginia. The first English version was published in London in 1787. Jefferson returned to the USA in 1789.

The same year, 1789 Jefferson became US Secretary of State. However, he resigned in 1793. In 1796 he ran for the presidency but lost against John Adams. He did however become vice president. Jefferson ran for the presidency again in 1800. This time he was elected.

Jefferson is best remembered for the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. He was reelected in 1804. He retired in 1809. Jefferson helped to found the University of Virginia in 1819. Thomas Jefferson died on 4 July 1826. He was 83 years old.