Thomas Jefferson is best known as the third president of the United States and one of the principal authors of the Declaration of Independence. He will be remembered for a great many things, but he was not always loved by everyone.
Jefferson was born April 13, 1743. He was the 3rd child out of 10 children to a prestigious family of farmers. He studies law at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1767.
In 1772 Jefferson married Martha Wayles Skelton, a 23 year old widow. They had six children together; only two that survived to become adults.
In 1776 Jefferson was appointed to a five man team to write a declaration to accompany the resolution of independence. He had a reputation as a strong writer, but the assignment was considered routine. After this assignment, he went on to draft the Declaration of Independence. It was ratified on July 4, 1776 and considered Jefferson’s greatest accomplishment.
Jefferson served as governor of Virginia from 1779 – 1781. His term in office was not considered successful and he was not elected for a repeat term in office. In 1784 through 1789 he lived outside of the United States. Martha Jefferson died in 1782. Jefferson deeply mourned her death and never remarried.
When he came back to the US he became the first United States Secretary of State, and then the vice president of the United States under John Adams. He became the president in 1801 and was reelected to a second term.
As president, he was responsible for the Louisiana Purchase (a land purchase from France that doubled the size of the United States), the Lewis and Clark Expedition (land exploration of the west opening it up for settlement), and abolition of the slave trade. He distrusted cities and financiers and believed in a limited federal government. He was a strong supporter of separation between church and state, and had a revolutionary view on individual religious freedom.
Jefferson’s personal and political beliefs regarding slavery seemed to be in conflict. He publicly opposed slavery and wanted it abolished and yet he owned hundreds of slaves throughout his life. During the two decades of his life when slaveholders were beginning to free their slaves Jefferson only freed two of his slaves. He believed that Africans were racially inferior, and yet it is widely believed that Jefferson had an intimate ongoing relationship with Sally Hemings, one of his slaves.
In 1793 Jefferson retired to Monticello. There, he and Sally had six children together.