Thomas Jefferson is remembered in history not only for the offices he held, but also for his belief in the natural rights of man as expressed in the Declaration of Independence and his faith in the people’s ability to govern themselves. He left an impact on his times equaled by few others in American history. Born on April 13, 1743, Jefferson was the third child in the family and grew up with six sisters and one brother. Though he opposed slavery, his family had owned slaves. From his father and his environment he developed an interest in botany, geology, cartography, and North American exploration, and from his childhood teacher developed a love for Greek and Latin. In 1760, at the age of 16, efferson entered the College of William and Mary and studied under William Small and George Wythe. Through Small, he got his first views of the expansion of science and of the system of things in which we are placed. Through Small and Wythe, Jefferson became acquainted with Governor Francis Fauquier. After finishing college in 1762, Jefferson studied law with Wythe and noticed growing tension between America and Great Britain. Jefferson was admitted to the bar in 1767. He successfully practiced law until public service occupied most of his time. At his home in Shadwell, he designed and supervised the building of his home, Monticello, on a nearby hill. He was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1769. Jefferson met Martha Wayles Skelton, a wealthy widow of 23, in 1770 and married her in 1772. They settled in Monticello and had one son and five daughters. Only two of his children, Martha and Mary, survived until maturity. Mrs. Martha Jefferson died in 1782, leaving Thomas to take care of his two remaining children.
Though not very articulate, Jefferson proved to be an able writer of laws and resolutions he was very concise and straight to the point. Jefferson soon became a member in a group which opposed and took action in the disputes between Britain and the colonies. Together with other patriots, the group met in the Apollo Room of Williamsburg’s famous Raleigh Tavern in 1769 and formed a nonimportation agreement against Britain, vowing not to pay import duties imposed by the Townshend Acts. After a period of calmness, problems faced the colonists again, forcing Jefferson to organize another nonimportation agreement and calling the colonies together to protest.
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Thomas Jefferson Biography
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