Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, is recognized for his many accomplishments during the 18th century. Not only was he a president, but Jefferson was the author of The Declaration of Independence, a founding father of the United States, and the founder of the University of Virginia. Jefferson was a brilliant political writer who used his writing skills to separate the United States of America from Great Britain and to protect the rights of man. Jefferson addresses these rights in the declaration when he says, “All men are created equal and there are certain unalienable rights that governments should never violate. These rights include the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” (Jefferson, 1.) These words are popular and have historical meaning.
On April 13th, 1734 in Shadwell, Virginia, Thomas Jefferson was born to the parents Jane and Peter Jefferson. Shadwell is a town just outside of Charlottesville. His mother, Jane Randolph Jefferson, was from a family that claimed to be descended from English and Scottish royalty (“Thomas Jefferson”). His father, Peter Jefferson, was a skilled surveyor and cartographer, which meant that he studied and practiced making maps as well as accurately determined the three-dimensional position of points. Peter produced the first accurate map of the province of Virginia. Perhaps young Jefferson got inspiration from his father. Jefferson had five siblings. He had two older sisters, two younger sisters, and one younger brother. He lived in a very busy household. As a child, Jefferson spent his free time practicing the violin and reading books. At the age of twenty four, Jefferson married Martha Jefferson. They were both from plantation families and it is believed that they were introduced to each other by mutual friends. Thomas fell for the young American girl’s education and interest in music (“Thomas Jefferson”). Together they had six children, but only two lived to be adults. After many wonderful years married, illness fell upon Martha and she passed away on September 6th, 1782. Jefferson made a promise to her that he would never remarry. After her death, he spent three weeks mourning in his library. In a period of seclusion, Jefferson explained in his autobiography that he felt like a part of him had died after she passed (Jefferson, 42). Later on in life, Jefferson had an affair with slave-girl Sally Hemings. There isn’t much information on this story, but there was DNA proof that he fathered her child. (“Jefferson - Hemings”).
Thomas Jefferson began his education at a very young age. At the age of five, his father placed him in an English school and he was attending Latin school by age nine. The Latin school was conducted by Reverend William Douglas (Beran, 78). In 1758, Jefferson attended the school of Reverend James Maury. He described Reverend Maury as “a correct, classical scholar” (Jefferson, 29.) He later attended the College of William and Mary at the age of seventeen in Williamsburg. It was there that Jefferson began his law studies with George Wythe. Jefferson received and unofficial political and cultural education from him. For two years, Jefferson studied primarily with George Wythe and Dr. William Small. He said that Dr. Small taught him a vast majority what he knew about politics. Over the seven years of study spent at Williamsburg, Jefferson culminated in the practice of law, but without any degree. Thomas Jefferson was also strongly influenced by the political philosophy of the Enlightenment and also from John Locke.
Thomas Jefferson was not a good public speaker, but that didn’t stop him from expressing his opinions of politics. In his early writing years, Jefferson mostly wrote political letters (Skarmeas, 66). His earliest published work is The Declaration of Independence. He began drafting The Declaration of Independence after British troops had attempted to confiscate American ammunition...