Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, philosopher, and Founding Father who served as the third president of the United States from 1801 to 1809. Among the Committee of Five charged by the Second Continental Congress with authoring the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was the Declaration's primary author, writing it between June 11 and June 28, 1776 at a three-story residence at 700 Market Street in Philadelphia. Following t...
Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, philosopher, and Founding Father who served as the third president of the United States from 1801 to 1809. Among the Committee of Five charged by the Second Continental Congress with authoring the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was the Declaration's primary author, writing it between June 11 and June 28, 1776 at a three-story residence at 700 Market Street in Philadelphia. Following the American Revolutionary War and prior to becoming the nation's third president in 1801, Jefferson was the first United States secretary of state under George Washington and then the nation's second vice president under John Adams.
Among the nation's Founding Fathers, Jefferson is considered unmatched in his intellectual depth and breadth. His passionate writings and advocacy for human rights, including freedom of thought, speech, and religion, were a leading inspiration behind the American Revolution, which ultimately gave rise to the American Revolutionary War, American independence, and the United States Constitution. Globally, Jefferson's ideas were influential in shaping and inspiring the Age of Enlightenment, which proved transformational globally in the late 17th and 18th centuries. He was a leading proponent of democracy, republicanism, and individual rights, and produced formative documents and decisions at state, national, and international levels.
During the American Revolution, Jefferson represented Virginia in the Second Continental Congress, which adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. As a Virginia legislator, he drafted a state law for religious freedom. He served as the second Governor of Virginia from 1779 to 1781, during the Revolutionary War. In 1785, Jefferson was appointed the United States Minister to France, and subsequently, the nation's first secretary of state under President George Washington from 1790 to 1793. Jefferson and James Madison organized the Democratic-Republican Party to oppose the Federalist Party during the formation of the First Party System. With Madison, he anonymously wrote the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions in 1798 and 1799, which sought to strengthen states' rights by nullifying the federal Alien and Sedition Acts.
Jefferson and Federalist John Adams became friends as well as political rivals, serving in the Continental Congress and drafting the Declaration of Independence together. In the 1796 presidential election between the two, Jefferson came in second, which according to electoral procedure at the time, made him vice president to Adams. Jefferson challenged Adams again in 1800 and won the presidency. After his term in office, Jefferson eventually reconciled with Adams and they shared a correspondence that lasted fourteen years.
As president, Jefferson pursued the nation's shipping and trade interests against Barbary pirates and aggressive British trade policies. Starting in 1803, he promoted a western expansionist policy with the Louisiana Purchase which doubled the nation's claimed land area. To make room for settlement, Jefferson began the process of Indian tribal removal from the newly acquired territory. As a result of peace negotiations with France, his administration reduced military forces. He was re-elected in 1804, but his second term was beset with difficulties at home, including the trial of former vice president Aaron Burr. In 1807, American foreign trade was diminished when Jefferson implemented the Embargo Act in response to British threats to U.S. shipping. The same year, Jefferson signed the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves.
Jefferson was a plantation owner, lawyer, and politician, and mastered many disciplines including surveying, mathematics, horticulture, and mechanics. He was also an architect in the Palladian tradition. Jefferson's keen interest in religion and philosophy led to his appointment as president of the American Philosophical Society. He largely shunned organized religion but was influenced by Christianity, Epicureanism, and deism. Jefferson rejected fundamental Christianity, denying Christ's divinity. A philologist, Jefferson knew several languages. He was a prolific letter writer and corresponded with many prominent people, including Edward Carrington, John Taylor of Caroline, and James Madison. In 1785, Jefferson authored Notes on the State of Virginia, considered perhaps the most important American book published before 1800. Jefferson championed the ideals, values, and teachings of the Enlightenment.
Since the 1790s, Jefferson was rumored to have had children by his sister-in-law and slave Sally Hemings, known as the Jefferson-Hemings controversy. A 1998 DNA test concluded that one of Sally Hemings's children, Eston Hemings, was of the Jefferson male line. According to scholarly consensus, based on documentary and statistical evaluation, as well as oral history, Jefferson probably fathered at least six children with Hemings, including four that survived to adulthood.After retiring from public office, Jefferson founded the University of Virginia. He and John Adams both died on the same day, July 4, 1826, which was also the 50th anniversary of U.S. independence. Presidential scholars and historians generally praise Jefferson's public achievements, including his advocacy of religious freedom and tolerance in Virginia, his peaceful acquisition of the Louisiana Territory from France without war or controversy, and his ambitious and successful Lewis and Clark Expedition. Some modern historians are critical of Jefferson's personal involvement with slavery. Jefferson is consistently ranked among the top ten presidents of American history.