Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743 at Shadwell in Albemarle county, Virginia. He had inherited a considerable landed estate from his father, and doubled it by a happy marriage on Jan. 1, 1772, to Martha Wayles Skelton. He was elected to the House of Burgesses when he was 25.
As a member of the Continental Congress in 1776, Jefferson was chosen together with John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingstone and Roger Sherman to draft the Declaration of Independence. He wrote the declaration himself and was amended by Adams and Franklin.
In 1784 Jefferson became, first, a commissioner to negotiate commercial treaties, and then, Benjamin Franklin's successor as minister to France. Toward the end of his mission he reported the unfolding revolution. Eventually he was repelled by the excesses of the French Revolution. He thoroughly disapproved France's imperialistic phase under Napoleon Bonaparte. Because of his absence in Europe, Jefferson had no direct part in the framing or ratification of the Constitution of the United States.
The most notable achievement of Jefferson's first term as President (1800) was the purchase in 1803 of Louisiana from France for 15 million dollars. (see Lewis and Clark). During his second term Jefferson encountered greater difficulties. One of the domestic problems was the Burr Conspiracy, with the former vice president Aaron Burr on trial for treason.
Jefferson was succeeded as president in 1809 by James Madison. During the last 17 years of his life, Jefferson remained in Virginia. As the 'Sage of Monticello' he engaged in a rich correspondence with John Adams and others. Jefferson's last great public service was the founding of the University of Virginia in 1819. He died at Monticello on July 4, 1826 on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
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