Thomas Jefferson, the nation’s third American president and Charlottesville’s favorite son, achieved much during his life of 83 years: author of the Declaration of Independence, Governor of Virginia, U.S. Secretary of State, Vice President, President, and founder of the University of Virginia, just to name a few.
An outstanding U.S. president and important American historical figure, he was the largest contributor to the future of our city. By founding the University of Virginia, he shaped the city we know and love. Charlottesville’s largest employer is the University of Virginia and the University of Virginia’s Health System.
Facts about Thomas Jefferson:
- Presidential Term: March 4, 1801 – March 3, 1809
- Political Party: Democratic-Republican
- Vice Presidents: Aaron Burr (1801-1805), George Clinton (1805-1809)
- State From Which Elected: Virginia
- First Lady: None (wife, Martha Wayles Skelton died in 1782)
- Children: Two (both daughters; three older children died in infancy)
- Birth: April 13, 1743 / Goochland (now Albemarle) County. Virginia
- Age at Inauguration: 57
- Religion: Deism (no denomination)
- Education: College of William and Mary (two years); Studied law; Admitted to the Virginia bar, 1767
- Military Service: None
- Career Before the Presidency: Lawyer; Virginia State Legislator (House of Burgesses), 1769-1774 and (House of Delegates) 1776-1779; Member of Continental Congress, 1775-1776 and 1783-1784 (Author of Declaration of Independence); Governor of Virginia, 1779-1781; Minister to France, 1785-1789; Secretary of State, 1790-1793; Vice President, 1797-1801
- During Administration: Tripolitan War, 1801-1805; Louisiana Purchase, 1803; Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1804-1806; Burr Conspiracy, 1805-1806; Abolition of the Slave Trade, 1807 (for 1808); European Embargo, 1807-1809; Constitutional Amendment Ratified: Twelfth Amendment, 1804; State Admitted to the Union: Ohio-1803
- Date of Death: July 4, 1826
- Sidelight: He was the first president to be inaugurated in Washington, D.C.
According to the epitaph he ordered, Thomas Jefferson wanted to be remembered for three things: founding the University of Virginia, drafting that state’s act of religious toleration, and writing the Declaration of Independence. While we may wonder why he neglected to mention his presidency, the achievements he cited are not surprising. Jefferson dedicated his entire life to the pursuit of reason, believing rationality and freedom to be the greatest riches of the human spirit.
As principal author of the document that defined the nation’s guiding principles, Jefferson strove for “common sense of the subject.” The historical importance of the American Revolution was that it tested these radical notions in the heat of battle. Continental “might” made them right. And, although it took a Civil War for the inclusion of a race, plus another fifty years to break down the masculine bias, Jefferson deserves credit for setting the model.
Most newspapers feature a section for letters to the editor. This section allows readers a place to comment on their feelings about certain issues. By writing about our thoughts on a particular subject, we may also be expressing feelings shared by many others – just as Jefferson wrote for all Americans when he drafted the Declaration of Independence.
Begin a letter to the editor, expressing your feelings about a topic of interest to most Americans today.
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See also CJ Hatcher’s National Lesson Plans column!