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PHILOSOPHER HERO:
THOMAS JEFFERSON
by Joseph from Laguna Beach

Thomas Jefferson

The third president of the United States of America, Thomas Jefferson, was born in 1743 in Albermarle county, Virgina. In his infant years, he lived on a plantation named Shadwell. Later, when he was 3 years old, the family moved to a much greater plantation, Tuckahoe, where he spent seven years. Tuckahoe had more slaves than Shadwell. When Thomas was a boy, he was tall, freckled, sandy haired and awkward. Thomas did like learning though. At Tuckahoe they had a small schoolhouse. The class was made of his 3 sisters, the two Randolph girls and one Randolph boy whose names was Tom also. Tom hated speaking in front of the class because he wasn't much of a speaker and the Randolph boy would sometimes make fun of him and the girls would giggle.

When Tom was 9, his family moved back to Shadwell, but he didn't go with them. He went to a boarding school where he learned Latin, Greek, and French. When Tom was 14 his father died. Even though he didn't have anyone to tell him what to do, he still stayed in school. In fact, he studied at the College of William and Mary. Eventually, Tom became a lawyer and also developed a keen interest in politics. In that time, Virginia was a colony under the rule of Great Britain. Some colonists wanted to be ruled by themselves and not by a king who lived far away and charged high taxes. One of Tom's close friends, Patrick Henry, spoke out publicly against the king. Thomas was elected to represent his colony in Colonial Government, but he was really on the side of independence.

The colonies were beginning to come together to oppose British rule. Patrick Henry gave a speech where he said, "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!" In the spring of 1775, British soldiers fought battles against the colonists in Massachusetts, at Lexington and Concord. This was the beginning of the Revolutionary War and Thomas Jefferson played a major part in it. Not by fighting, but by writing. Thomas was eloquent as a correspondent but not as a public speaker, therefore he wrote more than he spoke. When Thomas was a full grown man, he was married to Martha Wales Skelton. They went to live at the house that he built on the property that he inherited from his father. It was built on a high hill so he named it Monticello, which means "small mountain" in Italian.

Thomas had another responsibility besides his family and Monticello; he was elected as a representative for Virginia's House of Burgesses. In the spring of 1776, Thomas joined the second meeting of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, where he was invited to draft one of America's most important documents ever written, The Declaration of Independence. It took him exactly 17 days to write and rewrite the Declaration because he wanted it to be perfect. Finally, on July 4th, 1776, The Declaration of Independence was approved and adopted by the Continental Congress. It stated that "all men are created equal," it listed all acts hurting the colonies by the British king, and that the colonists had a right to fight for their independence.

Back in Virginia, Thomas suggested several new laws for the "new" Virginia. One, that religious freedom is allowed, two, he wanted the slave trade to end. Although he knew that he didn't want the slave trade to continue, he still relied on slaves to run Monticello and so did other colonists who had plantations. Meanwhile, in the North, George Washington led many battles against the British. Virginia was peaceful at the time, and Thomas Jefferson was elected Governor of the state in 1779. One year later, Thomas was nearly captured at his home in Monticello and narrowly escaped. Shortly afterward the British lost the Battle of Yorktown, bringing peace to Virginia once more.

After Thomas' term as governor, George Washington asked him to be Secretary of State. In addition, he became Vice President under John Adams and in 1801 he was elected to be the third President of the United States. In 1804, he was re-elected in a landslide victory. As president he accomplished many important things. For example, he purchased the Louisiana Territory for fifteen million dollars from the French leader, Napoleon. (This act was called the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the United States.) Another important accomplishment made by Jefferson was that he made free education systems in Virginia.

Later on, when Jefferson finally left office, he went back to Monticello where he spent the rest of his life. There was one big problem though; Thomas had many expenses to pay. In order to raise money for the expenses, Thomas had to sell one of his most beloved possessions, his library. The U.S. Congress bought it for $25,000. When the public heard about Thomas' troubles, they were shocked. "How could something like this happen to Thomas Jefferson, the writer of The Declaration of Independence!" The people sent thousands of dollars to help Thomas pay his debts and he was overwhelmed by the love and generosity of the people.

By the summer of 1826, Thomas started to write his will because he knew he was nearing his death. In his will, he gave all of his grandchildren a gold watch. Though he always hated the idea of slavery, he needed them to run Monticello so in his will, he only freed five male slaves. On July third, Thomas was very sick, but he made sure to see the 50th anniversary of the signing of The Declaration of Independence. On the 4th of July 1826, just past noon, one of the the most important Americans ever, Thomas Jefferson, died. Before his death he wrote what he would like to have inscribed on his tomb at Monticello. He didn't want it to tell about the Louisiana Purchase or being the third president, instead he wanted it to say, "HERE WAS BURIED THOMAS JEFFERSON, AUTHOR OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, OF THE STATUTE OF VIRGINIA FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, AND FATHER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA."


Written by Joseph from Laguna Beach
Last changed on: 3/16/2013 11:01:29 AM

Thomas Jefferson Biography

Thomas Jefferson Monticello

Thomas Jefferson On Politics and Government

Thomas Jefferson from PBS

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