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Thomas Jefferson: A Biography

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Many strong and reputable leaders use their oratory skills or other traits to build their reputation, but Thomas Jefferson displayed a quite different and unique style of leadership. His countless successes made him one of the most valued presidents, although he had some failures in his time. The third president of the United States’ casual and friendly approach shocked many people. One man even thought he was a vagabond when he walked to his inauguration in casual brown clothes. Thomas Jefferson enjoyed reading and did so often, sometimes for 15 hours straight. He was also a very talented writer. The bulk of his talent was used to write. Jefferson set crowds of men, women, and children crying out for independence and rebellion from the crown when he wrote one of the most important documents in United States history, The Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson helped the country endure many hardships and is honored today for his contributions.

In a cozy home in Shadwell, Virginia in 1743, Thomas Jefferson was born. Shadwell was a quiet town near a forest back then. Thomas was the third eldest of ten children.  Thomas grew to idolize his father, who was claimed to be the smartest and the strongest in the town. His father could even lift two 1,000 pound tobacco barrels upright.  He attended a local school for several years. When the young, red haired boy was about nine years old, he moved on to live with Sir Reverend Douglas for five years. The reverend would teach him Greek, Latin, and French. Alone, Thomas Jefferson would play violin for at least three hours a day. After, he boarded with another reverend, James Maury, to learn about science and history for two years. Sixteen years old and fully prepared, Jefferson set out to the College of William and Mary. Thomas Jefferson was an eager, hardworking student to Professor William Small.  After only two years of studying in college industriously, the teen graduated college with the highest honors.

Jefferson then studied law and order to become a lawyer. After study, he became an exceptionally successful lawyer. The lawyer mastermind solved hundreds of cases. But he was different from other great lawyer; he undercharged his clients. As a lawyer, he married 23 year old widow Martha Skelton. They married on the New Year’s of 1772. Together the couple had six children, but only two, Patsy and Maria, survived to experience adulthood. He later designed a home in Monticello for him to live in. He went in dept to pay for the house. This worried him very much.

After the young man married, he advanced to the House of Burgesses, where he would spend three years. Jefferson wrote many pamphlets about Independence for America, such as A Summary View of the Rights of British America. A Summary View of the Rights of British America was the first political pamphlet. Then he joined the congress in 1775, at age 32. His other works, like the Declaration of Independence, the nation’s “birth certificate”, are more famous. The Declaration of Independence helped the colonies deter the British forces and gave America’s people their spirit and created an uproar against the British. Jefferson later joined the Virginia legislature and used his amazing writing to help manage the laws of Virginia.

The experienced 33 year old continued to help Virginia as a member of the legislature for 14 happy years. He then went higher in the ranks to be Secretary of State in 1790. The Secretary of State is the head and chief administrator of the state. Thomas Jefferson was outstanding at his new job. He made relations with France and avoided conflict with the Spanish, the French, and the British. Even when British ships commandeered dozens of American vessels, Jefferson didn’t clash with the British. When Jefferson sailed to France to make relations, he tried many French foods, including spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, and ice cream. He swiped a few tomato seeds during his stay, even though the penalty for stealing is death in France. He was Secretary of State for four years. When it was election time in 1797, Thomas Jefferson was the leader of the Democratic/Republican Party. He was a candidate, but wanted John Adams to win the election. So Jefferson did the least of his obligations as a candidate and the least a candidate could have ever done. John Adams became the second President of the United States after he won that election. Jefferson lost by only three electoral votes. The next election would be the one where Thomas Jefferson would step up.

Thomas Jefferson finished his dream home in Monticello. The marvelous residence consisted of plantations, fields, and a glorious house that he designed himself. He won the 1801 election at age 58. Thomas Jefferson was the first person to live in the White House. Aaron Burr was his vice president. During Jefferson’s first four year term as president, he organized and sent the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Lewis, Clark, and their men claimed what are now Oregon, Idaho, and Washington for the United States. He also made the Louisiana Purchase with France in 1803. The United States gave France the equivalent of 15 million US dollars today in francs in exchange for the 828,000 acres that doubled America’s size. Some say that it was the greatest land deal in United States history. For each acre of space, America paid only three cents. Jefferson prevented many wars with Britain during his second term of presidency. Thomas Jefferson signed a bill that said it was illegal to ship slaves, but the failure resulted in southerners smuggling slaves at night. Thomas Jefferson’s many accomplishments really built his reputation, despite his one failure.

Thomas Jefferson spent the last eighteen years of his life in retirement. He resided in his completed home that he designed himself in Monticello. Jefferson continued to remain in endless debt. In his final years he had many hobbies. One of Jefferson’s hobbies was botany. He experimented and bred plants. He documented much of his retirement life through memoirs. Thomas Jefferson, by then a grandfather, often played with his young grandchildren when they visited him. Another of his hobbies that he was fascinated with was paleontology. He collected various fossils and displayed them. Some of his local folk called him “Mr. Mammoth” because of his fondness with mammoths especially.

Thomas Jefferson also designed and founded the University of Virginia. His 6,000 volumes of memoirs and other works became the nucleus of the Library of Congress. As Jefferson was nearing his death, he suffered from disease and became very ill. His situation worsened and was followed by symptoms such as painful stomach aches, diarrhea, and infection. He requested that his epitaph reflect what he did for the people, not on what the people did for him. In his bed, Thomas Jefferson would occasionally ask weakly, “Is it the fourth?” He wanted to expire on July the fourth. On the fourth, someone replied yes to his constantly repeated question. Soon all of Thomas Jefferson’s loved ones sat by his bedside to be with him when he passed away. Then Thomas Jefferson closed his eyes and breathed his last breath. Thomas Jefferson died in his home in Monticello on July 4, 1826.

 

Thomas Jefferson was a generous and caring soul in his time. I would describe him as meek. Many would think that meek means weak, mild, or timid. But the first meaning of meek in Greek etymology is patient, showing power on the inside, and not on the outside, and peaceful. I believe that Jefferson was meek because he didn’t yell or fight in battles, but instead of yelling his ideas and opinions, he put them on paper neatly. Thomas Jefferson will forever be an irreplaceable and priceless person in history. 

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