Portrait of President Thomas Jefferson by Henry R. Robinson.


3rd President, 1801–1809

Party Affiliation: Democratic-Republican Chief 1800 Opponent: John Adams (Federalist)

Chief 1804 Opponent: Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (Federalist)


Where and when was Thomas Jefferson born?

Thomas Jefferson was born in Shadwell, Virginia, to Peter and Jane Randolph Jeffer- son on April 13, 1743.

What did Jefferson’s father do for a living?

Peter Jefferson worked as a farmer and surveyor. He also became a judge and militia leader in Albemarle County, Virginia.

How many siblings did Thomas Jefferson have?

Thomas Jefferson had nine siblings. He was the third oldest of ten and the eldest son.

What was his education?

Jefferson began his schooling at Shadwell, but his parents sent him away to a school run by a Scottish minister named William Douglas. He then studied at another school run by a minister named James Maury. At the age of sixteen, Jefferson entered The College of William & Mary, where he graduated with high honors in 1762.

Did he marry?

Jefferson married widowed Martha Jeffer- son on January 1, 1772.

Did he have any children?

Jefferson had six children: Martha, Jane Randolph, an infant son who died at birth, Mary, Lucy Elizabeth, and another daughter named Lucy Elizabeth. Only one of his children lived past seven years old: Martha “Patsy” Jefferson.



What was Jefferson’s first profession after graduating college?

Jefferson read law under attorney George Wythe for five years. In 1767, he passed the bar and began handling cases on his own. He handled many property law disputes during his legal career.

Who was George Wythe?

George Wythe was a prominent attorney from Virginia who also served as mayor of the city of Williamsburg, signed the Declaration of Independence, and served as a member of the Continental Congress. Wythe was an older attorney who served as a mentor of sorts for Thomas Jefferson, who read law under him for several years. Wythe later became the country’s first law professor at William & Mary.

What famous document did Jefferson draft in 1776?

Jefferson was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. He drafted the document in several days. He showed it to John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, who made some minor revisions. Later the Continental Congress examined the wording of the document and made more substantial changes. But, the bulk of the document remained as Jefferson wrote it. Congress approved the Declaration on July 4, though members of Congress signed the copy from the printers in early August.

From which philosopher and political theorist did Jefferson draw heavily in writing the Declaration of Independence?

Jefferson drew from the works of John Locke, an English writer of the seventeenth century who wrote such classics as Two Treatises of Government (1689) and Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Locke argued against the divine right of kings and believed in natural law—that power should reside ultimately in the people.

What other famous document about religious freedom did Jefferson draft?

In 1777 Jefferson drafted the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which the Virginia legislature enacted into law in 1786. The document called for the government to respect the religious preferences of individuals and forbade the government from establishing a particular religion. For example, a passage in the law provided: “Be it enacted by General Assembly that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief.”

Which book of Jefferson achieved international attention?

In 1781, Jefferson published Notes on the State of Virginia, which included data on his home state of Virginia and his philosophies on good government. He also discussed the subject of slavery in two chapters of the book. He originally conceived of the book while drafting questions about his home state of Virginia from François Barbe-Marbois, the leader of a French delegation in Philadelphia. Jefferson realized that his answers to the French leader would make a fine book.

What was the name of Jefferson’s famous estate?

In 1769, Jefferson began work on his estate, which he called Monticello, “small mountain” in Italian. Monticello remains a historical treasure and top tourist site in the United States. It is known for its fabulous architecture and its incredible landscape, featuring many different types of trees.

What were some of Jefferson’s inventions?

Jefferson invented the plow that could delve deeper into the soil than standard plows of the time and could be used on hillsides. The French Agricultural Society bestowed an award to Jefferson for his plow invention. He developed a macaroni machine, after acquiring a taste for many fine foods during his long stay in Europe. He also developed a swivel chair, a dumbwaiter, and a wheel cipher.


What were the various political positions that Jefferson held before the presidency?

Jefferson served as a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, a delegate to the Continental Congress, governor of Virginia, minister to France, secretary of state, and vice president.

When did Jefferson enter the political arena?

Jefferson became elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses at age twenty-five in 1768. He often voted in favor of the interests of the middle class rather than the wealthiest landowners.

How long did Jefferson serve as governor?

Jefferson became Virginia’s governor in 1779 when the colonies were battling the British in the Revolutionary War. He was reelected in 1780, but during his second term, Virginia fell victim to the British invasion. Jefferson narrowly escaped when his estate, Monticello, was besieged by enemy troops. He did not seek a third term in 1781. He was succeeded by William Fleming, a physician, and soldier who served as governor little more than a week, and then Thomas Nelson, Jr., a fellow signer of the Declaration of Independence.

With whom did Jefferson clash as secretary of state?

Jefferson served as President George Washington’s secretary of state. During that time, he often clashed with the secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton favored a strong central government, a national bank, and federal taxes. Jefferson favored a limited federal government, opposed the national bank, and generally opposed the expansion of federal power. More often than not, Washington took Hamil- ton’s advice on such matters.

Did Jefferson have an active role in government as vice president?

No, he and President Adams parted company on many political issues of the day. Jefferson did not take an active part in the administration. He actively opposed the administration on many matters. For example, he campaigned and wrote against the Sedition Act of 1798 that President Adams had signed into law. Jefferson did preside over the Senate—the main constitutional duty of vice presidents. He wrote The Manual of Parliamentary Practice, which became the leading rulebook for members of both houses of Congress.


Whom did Jefferson defeat to win the presidency?

Jefferson defeated incumbent John Adams to win the presidency in the election of 1800. That reversed the result four years earlier when Adams had narrowly defeated Jefferson to capture the presidency.

What complication resulted from the election of 1800?

The problem is the election of 1800 was that Jefferson received the same number of votes as his presumed vice-presidential candidate, Aaron Burr. Both Jefferson and Burr received seventy-three votes. Because the two received the same number of votes, the House of Representatives voted to determine who would serve as President. This problem led to the relatively quick passage of the Twelfth Amendment a few years later in 1804.

Who resolved the tie between Jefferson and Burr?

The U.S. House of Representatives eventually broke the electoral vote tie between Jefferson and Burr. However, it took thirty-six ballots to resolve the controversy. The rules required that the winner receive an electoral margin in nine of the then-existing sixteen states. In the first thirty-five ballots, Jefferson was the winner in eight states— one short of the necessary nine. Finally, on the thirty-sixth ballot, the states of Mary- land, and Vermont shifted support to Jefferson, which gave him victory in ten states.

Which former political foe actively lobbied for Jefferson and against Burr?

Alexander Hamilton—Jefferson’s rival in President Washington’s administration—was not a supporter of Thomas Jefferson. But Hamilton absolutely despised Burr. Hamil- ton used his considerable influence among the Federalist members of the House of Representatives to swing the election in the House to Jefferson.

Who served as Jefferson’s secretary of state?

Jefferson selected his friend and fellow Virginian James Madison to serve as his secretary of state. Madison served in this capacity for Jefferson’s full two terms. He later became Jefferson’s successor and the country’s fourth president.

Who served as Jefferson’s secretary of the treasury?

Albert Gallatin served as Jefferson’s secretary of the treasury. Born in Switzerland, Gallatin served in the Pennsylvania legislature beginning in 1790. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1793, but many members of the Federalist Party objected to him and alleged that he had not been a citizen of the United States long enough to serve as a senator. He later served several terms in the U.S. House of Representatives before becoming secretary of the treasury. In the House of Representatives, he opposed the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. He later served in the same position for James Madison. No individual has ever served as secretary of treasury longer than Gallatin.

Who served as Jefferson’s secretary of war?

Henry Dearborn, a physician and a veteran of the Revolutionary War, served as Jeffer- son’s secretary of war for both terms. British forces captured Dearborn at the Battle of Quebec and he was imprisoned for a year. He later served his country in the War of 1812.

What famous jurist did not get along with Jefferson?

John Marshall, a fellow Virginian, did not get along well with Jefferson, even though the two were distant cousins. Marshall was a Federalist and a supporter of President Adams. Adams later nominated Marshall as the fourth Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. During one of his last acts as president, Adams created more than two hundred new judicial posts and attempted to fill them with Federalists. Upon taking office, Jefferson ordered his secretary of state, James Madison, to withhold the commissions. William Marbury, one of those would-be federal judges, sued to have Madison deliver his commission. The celebrated case of Marbury v. Madison (1803) came before the U.S. Supreme Court. Marshall technically ruled for Jeffer- son, disallowing Marbury’s commission, but criticized the actions of Jefferson and Madison and exclaimed that the judicial branch had the power to review actions of the executive and legislative branches—a power known as judicial review.

Whom did Jefferson defeat to win reelection in 1804?

Jefferson routed Federalist candidate Charles Cotesworth Pinckney of South Carolina to win the election of 1804. Jefferson garnered 162 electoral votes to only 14 for Pinckney.   

Who was Jefferson’s vice president for his second term as president?

George Clinton served as Jefferson’s vice president during his second term. Clinton was the former Governor of New York. He later served as James Madison’s first vice-president. He became the first individual—of only two men in American history—to serve as vice president under two different presidents.

What famous land deal greatly expanded the United States during Jefferson’s presidency?

Jefferson approved and ordered the Louisiana Purchase with Napoleon Bonaparte, the Emperor of France. Jefferson desired to acquire the French colony of Louisiana mainly to acquire the port city of New Orleans for commerce and defense purposes. James Monroe and Robert R. Livingston negotiated the purchase with French authorities. The $15 million purchase included more than 800,000 square miles, and roughly doubled the size of the United States. Congress approved the purchase—completed in the form of a treaty—by a vote of twenty-four to seven. Upon the agreement, Livingston said: “From this day the United States take their place among the powers of the first rank.”

What unpopular legislation did Jefferson sign to avoid entering the English–French conflict?

Jefferson signed an embargo act—known as the Embargo Act of 1807—to keep Ameri- ca completely out of the conflict between Great Britain and France. Each side prohibited any of its allies from trading with its enemy. Jefferson refused to become involved in the war and responded with the Embargo Act, which was an attempt to show the United States neutrality in the English-French conflict. The measure prohibited foreign trade with either nation. The banning of trade with either nation was unpopular, but it did lead to the creation of more textile mills and other industries in the United States. Jefferson lifted the embargo shortly before leaving office.

Who were Jefferson’s U.S. Supreme Court appointees?

Jefferson appointed William Johnson, Brockholst Livingston, and Thomas Todd to the Supreme Court. Johnson served thirty years on the Court and helped develop the tradition of dissents. Johnson sometimes openly disagreed with Chief Justice John Mar- shall’s rulings. Livingston served nearly sixteen years on the Court, while Todd served nearly nineteen years on the high court.


What great achievement did Jefferson accomplish in his retirement that was significant enough that he wanted it on his epitaph?

Jefferson founded the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in 1819. He designed the architectural layout of the campus, recruited faculty to the university, and helped

design the curriculum.  

What message did Jefferson ask to be inscribed on his tombstone?

Here was buried, Thomas Jefferson Author of the Declaration of American Independence Of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom And Father of the University of Virginia.

What famous quote by a future president showed great regard for the incredible intellect of Jefferson?

President John F. Kennedy told a group of forty-nine Nobel Peace Prize winners at the White House in 1962: “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House—with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

Where does Jefferson’s visage commonly appear in the United States?

Jefferson is one of four presidents to have their images displayed at Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The other three are George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. Jefferson also appears on the nickel coin and the two-dollar bill.

When did Jefferson die?

Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, the same day as his sometimes friend and rival John Adams. He was eighty-three years old.

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