Biography of Thomas Jefferson
Celebrated Americans





THOMAS JEFFERSON, the third president of the United States, was born near Charlottesville, Albermarle county, Virginia, April 13, 1743, and was the son of Peter and Jane (Randolph) Jefferson. He received the elements of a good education, and in 1760 entered William and Mary College. After remaining in that institution for two years he took up the study of law with George Wythe, of Williamsburg, Virginia, one of the foremost lawyers of his day, and was admitted to practice in 1767. He obtained a large and profitable practice, which he held for eight years. The conflict between Great Britain and the Colonies then drew him into public life, he having for some time given his attention to the study of the sources of law, the origin of liberty and equal rights.

Mr. Jefferson was elected to the Virginia house of burgesses in 1769, and served in that body several years, a firm supporter of liberal measures, and, although a slaveholder himself, an opponent of slavery. With others, he was a leader among the opposition to the king. He took his place as a member of the Continental congress June 21, 1775, and after serving on several committees was appointed to draught a Declaration of Independence, which he did, some corrections being suggested by Dr. Franklin and John Adams. This document was presented to congress June 28, 1776, and after six days' debate was passed and was signed. In the following September Mr. Jefferson resumed his seat in the Virginia legislature, and gave much time to the adapting of laws of that state to the new condition of things. He drew up the law, the first ever passed by a legislature or adopted by a government, which secured perfect religious freedom. June 1, 1779, he succeeded Patrick Henry as governor of Virginia, an office which, after co-operating with Washington in defending the country, he resigned two years later. One of his own estates was ravaged by the British, and his house at Monticello was held by Tarieton for several days, and Jefferson narrowly escaped capture. After the death of his wife, in 1782, he accepted the position of plenipotentiary to France, which he had declined in 1776. Before leaving he served a short time in congress at Annapolis, and succeeded in carrying a bill for establishing our jresent decimal system of currency, one of his most useful public services. He remained in an official capacity until October, 1789, and was a most active and vigilant minister, Besides the onerous duties of his office, during this time, he published "Notes on Virginia," sent to the United States seeds, shrubs and plants, forwarded literary and scientific news and gave useful advice to some of the leaders of the French Revolution.

Mr. Jefferson landed in Virginia November 18, 1789, having obtained a leave of absence from his post, and shortly after accepted Washington's offer of the portfolio of the department of state in his cabinet. He entered upon the duties of his office in March, 1791, and held it until January 1, 1794, when he tendered his resignation. About this time he and Alexander Hamilton became decided and aggressive political opponents, Jefferson being in warm sympathy with the people in the French revolution and strongly democratic in his feelings, while Hamilton took the opposite side. In 1796 Jefferson was elected vice president of the United States. In 1800 he was elected to the presidency and was inaugurated March 4, 1801. During his administration, which lasted for eight years, he having been re-elected in 1804, he waged a successful war against the Tripolitan pirates; purchased Louisiana of Napoleon; reduced the public debt, and was the originator of many wise measures. Declining a nomination for a third term he returned to Monticello, where he died July 4, 1826, but a few hours before the death of his friend, John Adams.

Mr. Jefferson was married January 1, 1772, to Mrs. Martha Skelton, a young, heautiful, and wealthy widow, who died September 6, 1782, leaving three children, three more having died previous to her demise.


FROM:
A Biographical Record
Of Schuyler County, New York
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
New York and Chicago 1903.


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