The third president of the United States, a diplomat, statesman, architect, scientist, and philosopher, Thomas Jefferson is one of the most eminent figures in American history. No leader in the period of the American Enlightenment was as articulate, wise, or conscious of the implications and consequences of a free society as Thomas Jefferson.
Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, at Shadwell, a tobacco plantation in Virginia. His father, Peter Jefferson, was a self-made success, and although uneducated he was a very intelligent man. His mother, Jane Randolph was a member of one of the most distinguished families in Virginia . Peter Jefferson died when Thomas was 14 and left him valuable lands and property. Denied a formal education himself, he directed that his son be given complete classical training. He studied with Reverend Mr. Maury, a classical scholar, for two years and in 1760 he attended William and Mary College.
After graduating from William and Mary in 1762, Jefferson studied law for five years under George Wythe. In January of 1772, he married Martha Wayles Skelton and established a residence at Monticello. When they moved to Monticello, only a small one room building was completed. Jefferson was thirty when he began his political career. He was elected to the Virginia House of Burgess in 1769, where his first action was an unsuccessful bill allowing owners to free their slaves.
The impending crisis in British-Colonial relations overshadowed routine affairs of legislature. In 1774, the first of the Intolerable Acts closed the port of Boston until Massachusetts paid for the Boston Tea Party of the preceding year. Jefferson and other younger members of the Virginia Assembly ordained a day of fasting and prayer to demonstrate their sympathy with Massachusetts. Thereupon, Virginia's Royal Governor Dunmore once again dissolved the assembly (Koch and Peden 20). The members met and planned to call together an inter...