Thomas Jefferson’s gravestone contains words he wrote himself. On it, he listed only three accomplishments: writing the Declaration of Independence, writing the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and founding the University of Virginia.
These are just the beginning of his accomplishments, but they were the ones he thought most worth remembering. Find out what else he did.
- Thomas Jefferson spent almost 50 years in public office. He believed deeply that America could be a light to the world. He was passionate about political and religious freedom, and educational opportunity.
- He was born in 1743 on a plantation in Virginia. His father was a prosperous farmer and surveyor; his mother belonged to one of the most important families in Virginia.
- Jefferson’s father died when he was fourteen and he inherited the estate, more than 5,000 acres.
- But Jefferson wanted to live on the mountain above his father’s plantation. When he was just 25, he purchased the property and began clearing trees to build his beloved home, Monticello. He started with a simple one-room building and slowly expanded.
- He married Martha Wayles Skelton and they had six children, only two of whom survived to adulthood. Jefferson was devastated when she died ten years after their marriage. He referred to her as “the cherished companion of my life.”
- Thomas Jefferson was uncomfortable with slavery, and yet, he owned slaves, typically around 200 at any time. He also had a romantic relationship with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, which lasted for 25 years until his death. They had at least six children.
- Thomas Jefferson enjoyed being in the woods and was a fine outdoorsman. As a child, he learned Latin, Greek, and French. He played the violin. He loved books and learning and had a library with over 2,000 books.
- He was the principle creator of the Declaration of Independence. He was somewhat reserved in public, but he was a wonderful writer.
- He later became the third president of the United States. During his presidency, he negotiated the Louisiana Purchase and planned the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
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