Thomas Jefferson served as an American Revolutionary and political theorist and as the third president of the United States. Jefferson, who was a talented architect, writer, and diplomat,
played a profound role in shaping U.S. government and politics.
Jefferson was born April 13, 1743, at Shadwell, in Albemarle County, Virginia. His father was a plantation owner and his mother belonged to the Randolph family, whose members were leaders of colonial Virginia society. Jefferson graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1762, and worked as a surveyor before studying law with GEORGE WYTHE. He was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1767.
His interest in colonial politics led to his election to the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1769. In the legislature he became closely aligned with PATRICK HENRY, Richard Henry Lee, and Francis Lightfoot Lee, all of whom espoused the belief that the British Parliament had no control over the American colonies. He helped form the Virginia Committee of Correspondence, which protested legislation imposed on the colonies by Great Britain.
In 1774 Jefferson wrote A Summary View of the Rights of British America, a pamphlet that denied the power of Parliament in the colonies and stated that any loyalty to England and the king was to be given by choice. He attended the Second CONTINENTAL CONGRESS in 1775 and drafted the Reply to Lord North, in which Congress rejected the British prime minister's proposal that Parliament would not tax the colonists if they agreed to tax themselves.
After the Revolutionary War began, Jefferson and four others were asked to draft a declaration of independence. Jefferson actually wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776, which stated the arguments justifying the position of the American Revolutionaries. It also affirmed the natural rights of all people and affirmed the
right of the colonists to "dissolve the political bands" with the British government.
Jefferson served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1776 to 1779 and became governor of Virginia in 1779. He was responsible for many changes in Virginia law, including the abolition of religious persecution and the end to entail (inheritance of land through a particular line of descent) and primogeniture (inheritance only by the eldest son). Jefferson also disestablished the Anglican Church as the state-endorsed...