1801 - 1809
Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, in Virginia. He was born before the United states before the United States became a country. He was the eldest son of a wealthy and "cultured" family.
Thomas started studying the classics and French when he was nine.
His father, Peter Jefferson, died when Thomas was 14 years old.
Jefferson enjoyed fishing.
Thomas attended William and Mary College. He studied the classics and law.
He was the country's first-known spelunkers (cave explorers) in the colonies.
Thomas Jefferson didn't serve in the military.
Jefferson was 6' 2" tall.
He was a lawyer and plantation owner.
Jefferson joined the House of Burgesses (The government of Virginia) for the first time on May 8, 1769. He only served for 10 days. The British head of Virginia thought the protest of the Townsend Acts by the colonist was too much and he dissolved the Burgesses.
At that time the Virginia Colony owed 2.3 million pounds to British Merchants. That was half of the money that all the colonies owed.
On New Years day of 1772 Thomas and Martha Wayles Skelton married. Her nickname was Patty.
Thomas designed his famous home, Monticello. He had several unique features including a two-faced clock that could be seen from the inside of the house and from outside.
Thomas was elected to the Second Continental Congress on March 27, 1775.
He was one of the first people in the U.S. to eat and grow tomatoes. He ate some while he was in Paris, France and brought back some seeds. He also picked up a recipe for vanilla ice cream. When he returned to the States, Jefferson would often serve the cold treat to guests at Monticello.
Thomas Jefferson could read Greek, Latin, French and English.
Thomas Jefferson had two daughters who lived to adulthood (Martha-"Patsy" and May-"Polly.") There are books written about him also fathering illegitimate children with his slave Sally Hemings.
In the morning, Jefferson would soak his feet in cold water. He thought this was good for his health. He also exercised every day with little regard for the weather. He once said the "rainier and colder the better."
Jefferson served in the Virginia House of Burgess.
He also served as a minister to France and as Secretary of State.
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were friends during the time of the revolution. They later had a falling out and disliked each other.
Jefferson thought his biggest achievement in life was writing the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson and John Adams were appointed to write the Declaration. Adams wanted Jefferson to write the first draft and he did. His reasoning was that Thomas was from Virginia (a large and powerful colony), Jefferson was more popular than Adams, and he could write 10 times better than Adams.
In 1778, Jefferson negotiated the first treaty to be ratified under the new Constitution.
List of offices Jefferson held besides being President:
- Member of Virginia House of Burgesses, 1769-74
- Member of Continental Congress, 1775-76
- Governor of Virginia, 1779-81
- Member of Continental Congress, 1783-85
- Minister to France, 1785-89
- Secretary of State, 1790-93 (under Washington)
- Vice President, 1797-1801 (He was sworn in on March 4, 1797)
In 1790, Jefferson as Secretary of State had his first official visit with President Washington. (They had known each other for 25 years.)
Thomas Jefferson was Vice President under John Adams.
He ran against John Adams for president. Aaron Burr was running for vice president.
His first election to President came by a vote of the House of Representatives because no one had won a majority of the votes. Jefferson had 73 electoral votes, Burr had 73 electoral votes, and Adams had 65 electoral votes. Burr had run for vice president, but did not withdraw from the presidential vote in the House of Representatives. At that time there wasn't an election for vice president. The top vote getter became president and the second person became vice president. Jefferson feared that the House, who had to vote to break the tie, would elect someone else or Aaron Burr. It took 36 ballots in the House before Jefferson won the election. The date was February 17, 1801.
Inauguration: Thomas Jefferson was the first president to be inaugurated in Washington, D.C. Some people give him credit for starting the inaugural parade. People followed him when he was walking back to the White House after being sworn in as president.
- Jefferson declined wearing a ceremonial sword. (He didn't want the appearance of Royalty.)
- He dined that evening at a local restaurant.
- In his inaugural address he stated that Americans and America were "the world's best hope."
- During his second inauguration he spoke so softly that no one could hear him.
- He open his house to all callers and the White House was full. (People drank his wine and sat on the couches.)
He was the second of seven Presidents who came from Virginia.
Jefferson originated the custom of shaking hands with the President of the U.S. Before his term people bowed to the President rather than shake hands.
When Thomas Jefferson became president he removed 46% of the government office holders. Most of these were Federalist. (It was the beginning of the spoils system where the winning president would appoint people from his party to government jobs).
He founded the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
In January of 1807, Jefferson declared that former vice president Aaron Burr was guilty of treason. He thought Burr was raising troops to set up his own government in the west or perhaps in Mexico. Burr was arrested in March. The case did not go well in court. Jefferson received a subpoena to appear at the trial. He set a precedent by refusing to appear and put the executive branch in control of the courts. Burr was later acquitted.
Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. At various times he owned between 165 and 225 slaves. He proposed a bill that would have allowed a slave owner to free a slave.
The first baby to be born in the White House took place during Jefferson's administration. His grandson, James Madison Randolph was born there.
He also wrote the often quoted words "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal".
The state of Ohio was added to the United States while he was president (1803).
Jefferson always carried a notebook and a pencil so he could write down ideas.
In the presidential election of 1804 Jefferson defeated Charles Pinckney. Jefferson won 162 electoral votes. Pinckey had 14.
Jefferson was responsible for the Louisiana Purchase. The purchase of this land for 15 million dollars expanded the United States from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean and doubled the area of the U.S. James Monroe was one of the people who negotiated the agreement.
In 1805, the first artifacts from the Louis and Clark expedition reached the White House. They sent animal skins, skeletons, elk horns, plants and four living Magpie birds back to Jefferson. He later set aside a room in the White House for fossils.
Zebulon Pike sent Jefferson two bear cubs in 1808. He kept them on the White House lawn. Later he sent them to the zoo in Philadelphia.
Thomas Jefferson had two vice presidents during his terms, Aaron Burr (1801-1805) and George Clinton (1805-1809).
He founded the University of Virginia in 1819. He is the only president who started a college/university.
Under President Jefferson the United States fought a war with the Barbary Pirates. If was the first US war fought on foreign soil. The US Marines took part in the fighting in Tripoli as noted in the Marine Hymn "from the shores of Tripoli."
Thomas Jefferson's right hand was crippled in 1786 from rheumatism.
The Library of Congress purchased his 6,500 volume book collection in 1815 to replace the collection that had been burned by the British. He received $23,950 for his books.
One of the three Smithsonian libraries is named after Jefferson..
During his presidency, Ohio became a state in 1803.
Jefferson thought he might have to have a Constitution Amendment to purchase Louisiana because there was anything in the Constitution that allowed him to buy land.
Thomas Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore this uncharted area.
Clark and Lewis sent two grizzly bear cubs to the White House. It is said that Jefferson could be seen walking on the White House grounds with the cubs. He kept the bears in a cage on the White House lawn.
Jefferson also had a pet mocking bird named Dick. He trained it to sing while he played the violin. His pets also included shepard dogs Bergere and Grizzle.
Late in his life a bizarre event took place. An artist tried to make a plaster cast of Jefferson's face. Something went wrong and the ex-president almost suffocated. He alerted his butler by banging on a chair and his life was saved by the act of a slave.
President Thomas Jefferson died on July 4th 1826. He died on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. He died a few hours after John Adams.
By the time Adams and Jefferson died they had exchanged 329 letters with 158 of those coming after 1812.
Thomas Jefferson designed his own tombstone and wrote the epitaph which didn't mention him being president. His epitaph read, "Author of the Declaration of American Independence, Author of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and the Father of the University of Virginia.
Quotes from Thomas Jefferson and about Jefferson:
After the fighting at Lexington and Concord, Jefferson wrote: "Any last hopes for reconciliation were now gone."
"As our enemies have found we can reason like men, so now let us show them we can fight like men also." Thomas Jefferson, July 5, 1775.
"Agriculture is the most useful occupations of man."
Thomas Jefferson, May 29, 1807
"When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry, an hundred." February 21, 1825.
"It is more honorable to repair a wrong than to persist in it."
To the Cherokee Chiefs, Jan. 10, 1806
"The Constitution of the United States is the result of the collected wisdom of our country." Nov. 20, 1801
"I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it."
About exercising two hours a day regardless of weather Jefferson said: "A person not sick will not be injured by getting wet. It is but taking a cold bath, which never gives a cold to anyone Brute animals are the most healthy and they are exposed to all weather, and of men, those are the healthiest who are exposed." (Doctors and others believed if you got cold or wet you would get sick. Many people did not bathed during the winter for fear of becoming ill.
President Kennedy at a dinner for all living Nobel Prize winners honored Jefferson by saying: "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever gathered at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."
Explore Monticello - Learn about Thomas Jefferson's home and the grounds surrounding it.