The Life of Thomas Jefferson

One of the Founding Fathers

"It is neither wealth nor splendor; but tranquility and occupation which give you happiness."

                The Life of Thomas Jefferson Timeline


Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, at Shadwell, Goochland (now called Albemarle) County, Virginia.



Was educated at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. He later studied law privately.



Began practicing law.



Construction on Monticello began; Monticello was the house that Jefferson designed and lived in most of his life.



Married Martha Wayles Skelton (she died in 1782, after giving birth to their sixth child, Lucy Elizabeth).



While a delegate to the Continental Congress, Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence (it was amended by Benjamin Franklin and other committee members).



Entered the Virginia House of Delegates, where he fought for the separation of church and state.



Jefferson became the Governor of Virginia, but abdicated his second term in 1781 after the British (led by the turncoat Benedict Arnold) invaded Virginia.



Elected to congress.



Appointed Minister to France (replacing Benjamin Franklin).



Appointed Secretary of State by President George Washington, but he resigned on Dec. 31, 1793.



Jefferson elected Vice-President of the USA (John Adams was the President and his opponent in the election).



Jefferson elected President of the USA.



Louisiana Purchase - large western territory bought from France (Napoleon).



Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark to map the newly-acquired western US territory (they returned in 1806).



Jefferson re-elected President of the USA.



Jefferson retired from elected office and returned to Monticello (in Virginia).



Founded the University of Virginia.



Jefferson died at Monticello on July 4, 1826.


          Detailed Biography of Thomas Jefferson

          Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743 in Shadwell (Albemarle Country) Virginia to Peter and Jane Randolph Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson’s mother’s family was prominent and wealthy during that time, claiming to have descent from the royal lines of Scotland and England. Peter Jefferson on the other hand came from a meagre family and grew up as a farmer and surveyor, later on making a fortune. Though having ten siblings, only five passed the age of thirty. When his father passed away in 1757 Thomas was but fourteen years old, leaving him the head of the house. Fortunately for him, a family friend stepped in to run the household until Thomas came to age. This was the time he fell in love with reading.

           Being a part of a rich family, Thomas Jefferson was able to study Latin, Greek, and philosophy later on studying political theory to become a politician. He was known to be serious, an outdoor person, had a love for natural history, and liked to study and read. He left his home tutor at the age of 17 and went to study at the College of William & Mary, finishing his degree in two years. He became fast friends with many of the most powerful men of the Williamsburg society, including the royal lieutenant governor Francis Farquier, philosopher William Small, and lawyer George Wythe. At the age of 23, Thomas set out to see beyond his home of Virginia and was supposed to set sail to Europe so that he would expand his view of the world outside his home. Such settlements are Annapolis, New York, and Philadelphia. 

            Although he broadened his studies long after he graduated, he eventually had to return to Virginia in 1767 to keep the family running and work as one of the leaders of his community. Later that year he was elected by the House of Burgesses to act as a leader. Succeeding this he set up a law practice, tended to his family’s affairs, and began his search for a wife.

            During his early years as a lawyer he split his time between Williamsburg and Shadwell, working and overseeing the construction of his estate, the Monticello. For many years the tension between the Virginia Commonwealth and the House of Burgesses, the English trying to get a tighter grip around the British colonies in the continent of America. Though the British gained victory over France and won the Seven Years war, they were left almost bankrupt. Due to the victory of Brittan, the colonies in America prospered. The parliament decided that the colonies would help raise the economy by enforcing the Stamp Act in 1765.

            The Stamp Act decreed that colonist had to pay tax to have an official stamp placed on newspapers, wills, deeds, and other printed materials. This caused complaints from the colonials who had suffered from many other taxes from imports, but never from anything within the colonies. At the time Jefferson didn’t have enough power to oppose the stamp act.

            Thomas Jefferson was chosen to draft the Declaration of Independence in 1776 due to being a member of the Continental Congress. The Declaration of Independence says that all men have equal rights regardless of social status, birth, or wealth and the government is not the ruler of the people but instead the servant of the people. This also meant that if the government doesn’t protect the rights of the people, then the people can overthrow the government.

            Thomas Jefferson left the congress in 1776 and worked as a governor from 1779 to 1781. In 1784 Jefferson re-entered public service starting off as a trade commissioner and later on Benjamin Franklin’s successor as a minister. In 1790 he became the secretary of state under his friend George Washington.  In 1796 he competed against John Adams for the position of president, where Jefferson only lost to Adams by three electoral votes, thus becoming vice president of the Democratic Republicans. Thomas defeats Adams four years later and takes the title of president.

             Thomas was succeeded by his friend James Madison in 1809 and spent the rest of his life within the Monticello. During this time he donated all his books to the government which later on formed the centre of the Library of Congress. His final act was establishing the University of Virginia before dying in 1826.

This work by Nathan B. and Angela C. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.