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He could have filled several markers had he chosen to list his other public offices: third president of the new United States, vice president, secretary of state, diplomatic minister, and congressman. For his home state of Virginia he served as governor and member of the House of Delegates and the House of Burgesses as well as filling various local offices — all tallied into almost five decades of public service. He also omitted his work as a lawyer, architect, writer, farmer, gentleman scientist, and life as patriarch of an extended family at Monticello, both white and black.

He offered no particular explanation as to why only these three accomplishments should be recorded, but they were unique to Jefferson. Other men would serve as U. More importantly, through these three accomplishments he had made an enormous contribution to the aspirations of a new America and to the dawning hopes of repressed people around the world. He had dedicated his life to meeting the challenges of his age: political freedom, religious freedom, and educational opportunity. He never wavered from his belief in the American experiment. I have no fear that the result of our experiment will be that men may be trusted to govern themselves.

Thomas Jefferson, 2 July He spent much of his life laying the groundwork to insure that the great experiment would continue. When Jefferson was fourteen, his father died, and he inherited a sizeable estate of approximately 5, acres. That inheritance included the house at Shadwell, but Jefferson dreamed of living on a mountain.

In he contracted for the clearing of a feet square site on the topmost point of the foot mountain that rose above Shadwell and where he played as a boy. This would eventually be referred to as the South Pavilion and was where he lived first alone and then with his bride, Martha Wayles Skelton, following their marriage in January Along with the land Jefferson inherited slaves from his father and even more slaves from his father-in-law, John Wayles ; he also bought and sold enslaved people. In a typical year, he owned about , almost half of them under the age of sixteen.

About eighty of these enslaved individuals lived at Monticello; the others lived on his adjacent Albemarle County farms, and on his Poplar Forest estate in Bedford County, Virginia. Over the course of his life, he owned over enslaved people. These men, women and children were integral to the running of his farms and building and maintaining his home at Monticello. Some were given training in various trades, others worked the fields, and some worked inside the main house. Many of the enslaved house servants were members of the Hemings family.

Jefferson gave the Hemingses special positions, and the only slaves Jefferson freed in his lifetime and in his will were all Hemingses, giving credence to the oral history. The Declaration has been regarded as a charter of American and universal liberties. The document proclaims that all men are equal in rights, regardless of birth, wealth, or status; that those rights are inherent in each human, a gift of the creator, not a gift of government, and that government is the servant and not the master of the people.

Jefferson recognized that the principles he included in the Declaration had not been fully realized and would remain a challenge across time, but his poetic vision continues to have a profound influence in the United States and around the world.

Abraham Lincoln made just this point when he declared:. All honor to Jefferson — to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, and so to embalm it there, that to-day and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of reappearing tyranny and oppression.

After Jefferson left Congress in , he returned to Virginia and served in the legislature. In late , as a member of the new House of Delegates of Virginia, he worked closely with James Madison. Elected governor from to , he suffered an inquiry into his conduct during the British invasion of Virginia in his last year in office that, although the investigation was finally repudiated by the General Assembly, left him with a life-long pricklishness in the face of criticism and generated a life-long enmity toward Patrick Henry whom Jefferson blamed for the investigation.

Several aspects of this work were highly controversial. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. In , he entered public service again, in France, first as trade commissioner and then as Benjamin Franklin's successor as U. During this period, he avidly studied European culture, sending home to Monticello, books, seeds and plants, along with architectural drawings, artwork, furniture, scientific instruments, and information. In he agreed to be the first secretary of state under the new Constitution in the administration of the first president, George Washington.

His tenure was marked by his opposition to the policies of Alexander Hamilton which Jefferson believed both encouraged a larger and more powerful national government and were too pro-British. In , as the presidential candidate of the nascent Democratic-Republican Party, he became vice-president after losing to John Adams by three electoral votes. Four years later, he defeated Adams in another hotly contested election and became president, the first peaceful transfer of authority from one party to another in the history of the young nation.

Perhaps the most notable achievements of his first term were the purchase of the Louisiana Territory in and his support of the Lewis and Clark expedition. His second term, a time when he encountered more difficulties on both the domestic and foreign fronts, is most remembered for his efforts to maintain neutrality in the midst of the conflict between Britain and France.

Unfortunately, his efforts did not avert a war with Britain in after he had left office and his friend and colleague, James Madison, had assumed the presidency. During the last seventeen years of his life, Jefferson generally remained at Monticello, welcoming the many visitors who came to call upon the Sage. During this period, he sold his collection of books almost volumes to the government to form the nucleus of the Library of Congress before promptly beginning to purchase more volumes for his final library.

Jefferson embarked on his last great public service at the age of seventy-six with the founding of the University of Virginia. He spearheaded the legislative campaign for its charter, secured its location, deed its buildings, planned its curriculum, and served as the first rector. Like so many Virginia planters, he had contended with debts most of his adult life, but along with the constant fluctuations in the agricultural markets, he was never able to totally liquidate the sizeable debt attached to the inheritance from his father-in-law John Wayles.

His finances worsened in retirement with the War of and the subsequent recession, headed by the Panic of Despite his debts, when he died just a few hours before his friend John Adams on the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, , he was optimistic as to the future of the republican experiment. Dumas Malone, Jefferson and His Time , 6 vols. Boston: I; Appendix I, I Bear and Lucia Stanton, eds. Princeton: Princeton University Press, I: TJ to Benjamin Latrobe, 10 Oct. PTJ Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Henry L.

Pierce, et al. Nicolay and John Hay, eds. Notes on the State of Virginia. Library of America, , Buy Tickets. Home Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson, 2 July He spent much of his life laying the groundwork to insure that the great experiment would continue. Abraham Lincoln made just this point when he declared: All honor to Jefferson — to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, and so to embalm it there, that to-day and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of reappearing tyranny and oppression.

Retirement During the last seventeen years of his life, Jefferson generally remained at Monticello, welcoming the many visitors who came to call upon the Sage. Jefferson's personal life, interests, and habits. The people in Jefferson's life. Articles about Jefferson's political career and accomplishments. Learn more about Jefferson's "tranquil pursuits of science" which he called his "supreme delight. Information about Jefferson's religious beliefs and his promotion of religious freedom.

Reports some of Jefferson's documents, his correspondence, and his writing habits. Anecdotes and stories, generally inaccurate, about Jefferson's life. Footnotes 1. Calendar of Events. Thomas Jefferson.

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