Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 - July 4, 1826) was the third (1801
- 1809) President of the United States.
|Term of Office:
||March 4, 1801 - March 4, 1809
|Date of Birth
||April 13, 1743
|Place of Birth:
|Date of Death:
||July 4, 1826
|Place of Death:
||Martha Wayles Jefferson
|First Lady :
||Martha Jefferson Randolph (daughter)
Dolley Madison (friend)
||Aaron Burr (1801 - 1805)
George Clinton (1805 - 1809)
This powerful advocate of liberty was born in 1743 in Albermarle County,
Virginia, inheriting from his father, a planter and surveyor, some 5,000
acres of land, and from his mother, a Randolph, high social standing. He
studied at the College of William and Mary, then read law. In 1772 he married
Martha Wayles Skelton, a widow, and took her to live in his partly constructed
mountaintop home, Monticello.
Freckled and sandy-haired, rather tall and awkward, Jefferson was eloquent
as a correspondent, but he was no public speaker. In the Virginia House
of Burgesses and the Continental Congress, he contributed his pen rather
than his voice to the patriot cause. As the "silent member" of the Congress,
Jefferson, at 33, drafted the Declaration of Independence. In years following
he labored to make its words a reality in Virginia. Most notably, he wrote
a bill establishing religious freedom, enacted in 1786.
Jefferson succeeded Benjamin Franklin as minister to France in 1785.
His sympathy for the French Revolution led him into conflict with Alexander
Hamilton when Jefferson was Secretary of State in President Washington's
Cabinet. He resigned in 1793.
Sharp political conflict developed, and two separate parties, the Federalists
and the Democratic-Republicans, began to form. Jefferson gradually assumed
leadership of the Republicans, who sympathized with the revolutionary cause
in France. Attacking Federalist policies, he opposed a strong centralized
Government and championed the rights of states.
As a reluctant candidate for President in 1796, Jefferson came within
three votes of election. Through a flaw in the Constitution, he became
Vice President, although an opponent of President Adams. In 1800 the defect
caused a more serious problem. Republican electors, attempting to name
both a President and a Vice President from their own party, cast a tie
vote between Jefferson and Aaron Burr. The House of Representatives settled
the tie. Hamilton, disliking both Jefferson and Burr, nevertheless urged
In the thick of party conflict in 1800, Thomas Jefferson wrote in a
private letter, "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against
every form of tyranny over the mind of man."
When Jefferson assumed the Presidency, the crisis in France had passed.
He slashed Army and Navy expenditures, cut the budget, eliminated the tax
on whiskey so unpopular in the West, yet reduced the national debt by a
third. He also sent a naval squadron to fight the Barbary pirates, who
were harassing American commerce in the Mediterranean. Further, although
the Constitution made no provision for the acquisition of new land, Jefferson
suppressed his qualms over constitutionality when he had the opportunity
to acquire the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon in 1803.
During Jefferson's second term, he was increasingly preoccupied with
keeping the Nation from involvement in the Napoleonic wars, though both
England and France interfered with the neutral rights of American merchantmen.
Jefferson's attempted solution, an embargo upon American shipping, worked
badly and was unpopular.
Jefferson retired to Monticello to ponder such projects as his grand
designs for the University of Virginia. A French nobleman observed that
he had placed his house and his mind "on an elevated situation, from which
he might contemplate the universe."
He died on July 4, 1826.
Supreme Court appointments
William Johnson - 1804
Henry Brockholst Livingston - 1807
Thomas Todd - 1807