Thomas Jefferson Fast Facts

Third President of the United States

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

Thomas Jefferson was the third president of the United States, after George Washington and John Adams. His presidency is perhaps best known for the Louisiana Purchase, a single land transaction that nearly doubled the size of the United States' territory. Jefferson was an anti-Federalist who was weary of a large central government and favored states rights over federal authority. Unofficially, Jefferson is known as a true Renaissance man, with a deep curiosity and a mind for science, architecture, discovery of nature and many other pursuits. 

Fast Facts: Thomas Jefferson

  • Birth: April 13, 1743
  • Death: July 4, 1826
  • Known for: Third president of the U.S.; founding father, drafted the Declaration of Independence, president during the Louisiana Purchase.
  • Term of Office: March 4, 1801 to March 3, 1809
  • Number of Terms Elected: 2 terms
  • Spouse: Jefferson was a widower while in office. His wife, Martha Wayles Skelton, died in 1782.
  • Quote: "The government is best that governs least."

Revolution of 1800

Thomas Jefferson actually named the election of 1800 as the "Revolution of 1800" because this was the first election in the new United States where the presidency passed from one party to another. It marked a peaceful transition of power that has continued to this day. However, when the electoral votes were counted, while Thomas Jefferson did defeat John Adams in the end, the election itself caused an uproar. This was because the ballot did not distinguish between the presidential and vice-presidential candidates and Jefferson received the same number of electoral votes as his running mate Aaron Burr. The vote was thrown into the House of Representatives where it took 36 votes before Jefferson was named the president. After this, Congress passed the twelfth amendment which made it so that electors voted specifically for president and vice-president. 

Major Events While in Office

  • Tripolitan War (1801-1805), in which Jefferson showed America's resolve to defy the rulers of the Barbary States and their demands to receive tributes--essentially protection money to prevent attack from pirates in the Mediterranean.
  • Louisiana Purchase (1803): Jefferson's purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France, a move that began as an effort to secure the port of New Orleans and ended up nearly doubling the size of the US. 
  • Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806): Jefferson dispatches the Corps of Discovery, the expedition party led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, to explore the new territory acquired through the Louisiana Purchase. 
  • Abolition of Slave Trade (1807): This Congressional Act was designed to eliminate America's involvement in the international slave trade, primarily the importation of slaves from Africa. It was passed in 1807 and went into effect January 1, 1808, following the expiration of Article 1, Section 9, Clause 1 of the Constitution, which prohibited Congress from banning slavery until the year 1808.

    States Entering Union While in Office

    Related Thomas Jefferson Resources

    These additional resources on Thomas Jefferson can provide you with further information about the president and his times.

    Thomas Jefferson Biography: Take a more in-depth look at the third president of the United States through this biography covering his childhood, family, military career, early political life and major events of his administration.

    Declaration of Independence: The Declaration of Independence was initially a list of grievances against King George III. It was drafted by Thomas Jefferson when he was thirty-three years old. 

    Thomas Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase: A discussion of Jefferson's motivations and the impact this land deal had on the United States. What today seems like the perfect transaction presented a philosophical challenge to Jefferson's anti-Federalist beliefs. 

    American Revolution: The debate over the Revolutionary War as a true 'revolution' will not be resolved. However, without this struggle America might still be part of the British Empire.