Thomas Jefferson

Essay by lexisityA+, October 2002

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Thomas Jefferson is remembered in history not only for the

offices he held, but also for his belief in the natural rights of man

as expressed in the Declaration of Independence and his faith in the

people's ability to govern themselves. He left an impact on his times

equaled by few others in American history. Born on April 13, 1743,

Jefferson was the third child in the family and grew up with six

sisters and one brother. Though he opposed slavery, his family

had owned slaves. From his father and his environment he developed an

interest in botany, geology, cartography, and North American

exploration, and from his childhood teacher developed a love for Greek

and Latin. In 1760, at the age of 16, Jefferson entered the College of

William and Mary and studied under William Small and George Wythe.

Through Small, he got his first views of the expansion of science and

of the system of things in which we are placed.

Through Small and

Wythe, Jefferson became acquainted with Governor Francis Fauquier.

After finishing college in 1762, Jefferson studied law with Wythe and

noticed growing tension between America and Great Britain.

Jefferson was admitted to the bar in 1767. He successfully practiced

law until public service occupied most of his time. At his home in

Shadwell, he designed and supervised the building of his home,

Monticello, on a nearby hill. He was elected to the Virginia House of

Burgesses in 1769. Jefferson met Martha Wayles Skelton, a wealthy

widow of 23, in 1770 and married her in 1772. They settled in

Monticello and had one son and five daughters. Only two of his

children, Martha and Mary, survived until maturity. Mrs. Martha

Jefferson died in 1782, leaving Thomas to take care of his two

remaining children.

Though not very...