Thomas Jefferson, the third President of USA, was the third of
eight siblings in Virginia. Jane Randolph was his mother who came from a family
of high social standing. Her father, Isham Randolph was the captain of a ship
and a planter. The father of Thomas Jefferson was Peter Jefferson who was a
planter as well as surveyor. His ancestors were of English origin.
At the age of nine Thomas started going to a neighbouring school
that was run by a Scottish minister. From that early age he began to learn
Latin, Greek as well as French. Thomas lost his father when he was only 14 years
old. He inherited 20 square km of land and many dozens of slaves. With time he
settled here which later came to be known as Monticello. He continued his
education at the school of another minister 19 km from his home. Here he came in
touch with classical learning, science and history.
When 16, Thomas joined The College of William and Mary and
graduated with high laurels in 1762. Although his stream was philosophy he also
studied mathematics and the writings of Locke, Bacon and Newton. Jefferson
referred to them as the three greatest individuals the world had ever seen.
Playing the violin was another hobby of Thomas. Curious in all
fields of knowledge he often studied for fifteen hours in a day. While in
college he joined a secret organization known as the Flat Hat Club. Jefferson
frequented the communal meals in the hall, regularly attended prayers at the
chapel and was frequently invited to lavish parties hosted by the Governor. Here
he played the violin and acquired a taste for wines at an early age. After
graduating Thomas Jefferson went on to study law and came to be admitted in 1767
to the Virginia bar.
Thomas Jefferson married Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson – a
widow. They had six children.
Thomas Jefferson was tall with freckles and sandy hair. He was
eloquent and a forceful correspondent. – although he was no orator.
At the age of 33 he drafted the Declaration of Independence. In 1786 he also
drafted anther bill trying to establish freedom of religion. It became law in
Jefferson followed Benjamin Franklin to be minister in France in
1785. Here he came to sympathize with the French Revolution. This led to a clash
with the Secretary of State, Hamilton and Jefferson resigned in 1793. Sharp
differences led to the formation of two parties – the Federalists and
Democratic-Republicans. Jefferson became leader of the Republicans and started
to attack the policy of the Federalists. He opposed centralized government and
was for the rights of the states.
As President Thomas Jefferson he cut down drastically expenses in
the armed forces, did away with whisky tax and yet managed to bring down the
national debt and send troops to put down the Barbary pirates who were
disturbing American commerce in the Mediterranean. He tried hard, during his
second term as President to keep the nation out of the Napoleonic wars although
both England and France interfered with the neutral rights of American vessels.
An embargo on American ships made him highly unpopular.
He retired to his home in Monticello to mull over great designs of setting up a University in Virginia in 1819. He lifted his mind from the mundane and moved around in a world of knowledge. The opening of the university with selective courses was a dream come true for Thomas Jefferson. It was the largest project in North America at that time and the notable fact was that it was built round a library and not the church. No chapel was there in the original plan. He invited scholars from abroad and one of them was Edgar Allan Poe.