Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826).
Political leader of American origin, recognized for being the editor of his country’s Independence Act, the third President of the United States and the author of the Louisiana purchase. He also held other positions such as vice president, governor and diplomat.
He is considered one of the Fathers of the Fatherland in the United States, along with other prossuchas George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.
Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, in Shadwell, Virginia, to one of the wealthiest landowners’ families in the South, the third of ten children of Jane Randolph Jefferson and Peter Jefferson. He began his formal education at the age of nine, in a private school, under the direction of the Reverend William Douglas.
In 1760 he entered the University of William and Mary, where he joined a group of scholars, much older than him, including William Small, Lieutenant Francis Fauquier and the renowned lawyer George Wythe, under whose mentorship he managed, in 1767, his admission to the Virginia bar, becoming one of the best lawyers in British America.
On 1 January 1772 he married Martha Wayles Skelton, an immensely wealthy young widow, with whom he had six children, of whom only two survived.
Drafting of the Declaration of Independence
Thomas Jefferson was a fervent supporter of The Independence of the United States. In 1768 he was elected to the House of Burgesses by Virginia.
In 1774, he published his first political work, entitled A Summary of the Rights of British America. In 1775 he attended the Second Continental Congress, which formed the Continental Army, appointing George Washington as commander-in-chief.
In June 1776, he was elected by Congress as part of the Committee appointed to draft the Declaration of Independence. His colleagues, Roger Sherman, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Robert Livingston, chose him to produce the first draft of the document, which he drafted in seventeen days, being considered by some the text, on freedom and equality, more beautiful of the world.
Governor of Virginia
From 1776 to 1779 he served as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, dedicating himself to a thorough review of Virginia’s laws, in order to bring them into line with the spirit of the Declaration of Independence, and perhaps its major amendments being promulgation, in 1777, of Religious Freedom, which marked the separation between Church and State.
On June 1, 1779, he was elected by the legislature as Governor of the State of Virginia, during which time he had to deal with requests for recourse by the Continental Army and the need to provide his state with supplies that would allow him to own defense.
The day before he finished his second term as Governor he was forced to flee his home in Monticello, in the face of an attack by the British Cavalry. He refused to exercise a third term, and on 4 June 1781 resigned, declaring that he was leaving his political life. From that moment he took refuge in his home in Monticello.
Diplomat and vice president
At the end of 1781 he began working on his work Notes on the State of Virginia, where he elaborated a sketch of his vision of a good society, dedicated to the work of the field and full of values, centered on the free landowner.
However, he also embodies his contradictory defence on the institution of slavery. In June 1783, he traveled to Philadelphia as director of the Virginia delegation to the Congress of the Confederacy. In 1785, he was appointed as a diplomat to France, replacing Benjamin Franklin.
Upon his return to the United States, in 1789, President George Washignton appointed him Secretary of State. Despite domestic political clashes, led by the Federalists and Republicans, that Jefferson again decided to resign from his public office and retire to his home in Monticello. In 1797, he was appointed by the Republicans as Vice President, a position he would hold for three years.
Third President of the United States
In 1800, he was elected as the third president of the United States by the House of Representatives. His presidency was distinguished as the first step in office from one party to another in peace. It was also a productive period for the country.
Jefferson reduced the national debt by twenty-three million, as well as the Armed Forces and bureaucracy. For many, however, the most important achievement of his mandate was the purchase of Louisiana, which he acquired from Napoleonic France for only fifteen million, with which he managed to double the American territory from one moment to the next.
In 1804 he was elected to a second term as president. However, it was unable to maintain the same pace of productivity in the country. On the contrary, he had to face the War between Napoleon’s France and Britain. In 1807, before the siege of France and Britain, he passed the Embargo Act, suspending all commercial relationship with Europe, and bringing ruin to the national economy.
In 1809, after surrendering the presidency to James Madison, he returned home to Virginia. During his later years, he personally commissioned the foundation of the University of Virginia, which opened on March 7, 1825.
On July 4, 1826, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson died at his home in Monticello, Virginia. His body was buried in the family cemetery, where he rests under an epitaph that prays:
“Here Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and father of the University of Virginia was buried.”
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July 31, 2019