Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743 at Shadwell in Abbemarl County, Virginia. He was the only son of Peter Jefferson and Jane Randolph's four children. Peter Jefferson was owner and caretaker of the Randolph plantation, since Jane was the closest living relative of the Randolph family.
Thomas attended the College of William and Mary in the 1760's. There he was introduced to the ideas of Scottish Enlightenment, with its assimilated approach to history, science, law and philosophy. He was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses from 1769 to 1775. He married Martha Wayles Skelton, a 23 year old widow, in 1773. In 1774, Jefferson wrote the dynamic booklet A Summary View of the Rights of British America. This effectual piece, though published anonymously, earned Jefferson a wide spread reputation. He soon was placed on the Continental Congress and put in charge of drafting the Declaration of Independence. In this historic document, he passionately expressed the natural rights of man, and the right to self-govern.
Thomas Jefferson was a legislator for Virginia from 1776 to 1779. He had many accomplishments such as abolishing entail (inheritance of land through a particular line of descent) and primogeniture (inheritance only by the eldest son). He also helped reform the Virginia criminal code, eliminating public whippings, dunkings, and bills of attainder (practice of condemning accused people without trail). Jefferson finally became governor of Virginia in 1779 until 1781, yet failed to prevent a British invasion of the state. After his wife's death in 1782, he went on to be a delegate to Congress and minister to France from 1784 to 1789.
Jefferson was secretary in George Washington's cabinet and then vice president under John Adams. In the election of 1800, Jefferson ran against Aaron Burr for the presidency. They both received the equal amounts of electoral votes, thus turning the election over to the House of Representatives. The House declared Jefferson the president. His major accomplishments as president were the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Jefferson retired to Monticello after leaving office in 1809. He tried to preserve his declining estate for his daughters instead of his creditors, but was unable, for financial reasons, to free his own slaves. Thomas Jefferson died at his estate in Monticello on July 4, 1826.