Thomas Jefferson, one of the most important figures in American history, was born in Virginia in 1743 and grew up a brilliant, athletic and hardworking young man.
After leaving the College of William and Mary, Jefferson became a lawyer. His willingness to teach himself and his fascination with law made him the perfect delegate from Virginia to the Second Continental Congress in 1775. It was in Philadelphia, that Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration in Independence. He returned to Virginia to serve at its governor in 1779.
Once the Revolutionary War was over, Thomas Jefferson was appointed as an ambassador to France. He nurtured the relationship the new nation had with the French.
Upon his return from France in 1789, Jefferson accepted the role as President George Washington’s Secretary of State and spent the next four years formulating philosophies and politics such as states’ rights and the decimal based money system that would be the forerunners of modern structures we have today.
In 1796, Thomas Jefferson ran for president against his friend, John Adams, and lost, taking instead, the role of Vice President. His time spent in that office was full of intrigue and controversy and his relationship with Adams was often antagonistic.
Thomas Jefferson was elected President of the United States in 1800. It was during his administration that the U.S. acquired the Louisiana Purchase which vastly expanded its territory. Jefferson appointed explorers William Clark and Meriweather Lewis to explore this new wilderness and document its geography, biology and topography. Arguably, Jefferson’s obsession with knowledge changed the United States forever. Jefferson was reelected to a second term and faced challenges as he decided the U.S.’s role in trade and foreign affairs, specifically the relationship with France. Some historians argue that Thomas Jefferson’s decisions during his second term forced America to the war of 1812.
After the presidency, Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia and personally designed its architecture. Jefferson died, fittingly, on July 4, 1826, the same day as his friend and rival, John Adams, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson’s legacy, one of education and knowledge, lives to this day.