10 Things to Know About Thomas Jefferson

Facts About Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826) was the third president of the United States. He had been the head writer of the Declaration of Independence. As president, he presided over the Louisiana Purchase. Following are ten key and interesting facts about him and his time as president.

01
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Excellent Student

Image of Thomas Jefferson by Charles Wilson Peale, 1791.
Thomas Jefferson, 1791. Credit: Library of Congress

Thomas Jefferson was a wonderful student and gifted learner from a young age. He was tutored at home, only attending school for two years before being accepted at the College of William and Mary. While there, he became close friends Governor Francis Fauquier, William Small, and George Wythe, the first American law professor.

02
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Bachelor President

circa 1830: First Lady Dolley Madison (1768 - 1849), nee Payne, the wife of American president James Madison and a renowned Washington socialite.
circa 1830: First Lady Dolley Madison (1768 - 1849), nee Payne, the wife of American president James Madison and a renowned Washington socialite. Pubilc Domain

Jefferson married Martha Wayles Skelton when he was twenty-nine. Her holdings doubled Jefferson's wealth. Only two of his children lived to maturity. His wife died ten years after being married before Jefferson became the president. While president, his two daughters along with James Madison's wife Dolley served as the unofficial hostesses for the White House.

03
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Possible Relationship With Sally Hemings

An oil miniature with an inscription identity behind it of Harriet Hemings, daughter of Sally Hemings, niece of Martha Jefferson, half-sister of Martha Randolph.(
An oil miniature with an inscription identity behind it of Harriet Hemings, daughter of Sally Hemings, niece of Martha Jefferson, half-sister of Martha Randolph.(. Public Domain

In recent years, more and more scholars have come to believe that Jefferson was the father to all six of his slave Sally Hemings' children. DNA tests in 1999 showed that a descendant of the youngest son carried a Jefferson gene. Further, he had the opportunity to be the father for each of the children. Nevertheless, there are still skeptics who point out the issues with this belief. The Hemings' children was the only family to be freed either formally or informally after Jefferson's death.

04
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Author of the Declaration of Independence

The Declaration Committee
The Declaration Committee. MPI / Stringer / Getty Images

Jefferson was sent to the Second Continental Congress as a representative of Virginia. He was one of the five-man committee chosen to write the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was selected to write the first draft. His draft was mostly accepted and was later ratified on July 4, 1776.

05
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Staunch Anti-Federalist

Alexander Hamilton, Founding Father
Alexander Hamilton. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-48272

Jefferson was a strong believer in state's rights. As George Washington's Secretary of State he was often at odds against Alexander Hamilton. He felt that Hamilton's creation of the Bank of the United States was unconstitutional as this power was not specifically granted in the Constitution. Due to this and other issues, Jefferson eventually resigned from his post in 1793.

06
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Opposed American Neutrality

Portrait of President Thomas Jefferson. Getty Images

Jefferson had served as the Minister to France from 1785-1789. He returned home when the French Revolution began. However, he felt that America owed its loyalty to France who had supported it during the American Revolution. Washington felt that in order for America to survive, it had to remain neutral during France's war with England. Jefferson opposed this which helped lead to his resignation as Secretary of State.

07
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Co-Authored the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions

John Adams, Second President of the United States
Portrait of John Adams, Second President of the United States. Oil by Charles Wilson Peale, 1791. Independence National Historical Park

During John Adams' presidency, the Alien and Sedition Acts were passed to curtail some types of political speech. Thomas Jefferson worked with James Madison to create the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions in opposition to these acts. Once he became president, he allowed Adams' Alien and Sedition Acts to expire.

08
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Tied With Aaron Burr in the Election of 1800

Portrait of Aaron Burr
Portrait of Aaron Burr. Bettmann / Getty Images

In 1800, Jefferson ran against John Adams with Aaron Burr as his Vice Presidential candidate. Even though Jefferson and Burr were both part of the same party, they tied. At the time, whoever received the most votes won. This would not change until the passage of the twelfth amendment. Burr would not concede, so the election was sent to the House of Representatives. It took thirty-six ballots before Jefferson was named the winner. Jefferson would run for and win reelection in 1804.

09
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Completed the Louisiana Purchase

St. Louis Arch - Gateway to the West Commemorating the Louisiana Purchase
St. Louis Arch - Gateway to the West Commemorating the Louisiana Purchase. Mark Williamson / Getty Images

Due to Jefferson's strict constructionist beliefs, he was faced with a quandary when Napoleon offered the Louisiana Territory to the United States for $15 million. Jefferson wanted the land but did not feel that the Constitution gave him the authority to buy it. Nonetheless, he went ahead and got Congress to agree to the Louisiana Purchase, adding 529 million acres of land to the United States.

10
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America's Renaissance Man

Monticello - Home of Thomas Jefferson
Monticello - Home of Thomas Jefferson. Chris Parker / Getty Images
Thomas Jefferson was one of the most accomplished presidents in American History. He was a president, politician, inventor, author, educator, lawyer, architect, and philosopher. Visitors to his home, Monticello, can still see some of his inventions today.