Celebrate Thomas Jefferson’s 270th birthday! Born at Shadwell Plantation in Albemarle County, Virginia, to Peter and Jane Randolph Jefferson, he was the third of their ten children and the first son. His father died in 1757 and his mother in 1776, a few months before the Declaration of Independence was signed. Little is known of his mother–one wonders what she thought of her son’s political activities.
Jefferson was educated at the College of William & Mary and studied law with George Wyeth. Jefferson remarked in 1769 that “[a] lawyer without books would be like a workman without tools.” Jefferson maintained a law practice until 1774 and represented Albemarle County in the House of Burgesses until 1775. With passage of the Intolerable Acts by Britain in 1774 to punish the Massachusetts colony for the Boston Tea Party, Jefferson became an outspoken critic of British policies in the colonies, writing A Summary View of the Rights of British America. He joined fellow dissidents and was the author of the Declaration of Independence.
Jefferson served as governor of Virginia after war was declared, as minister to France after the Revolution, as Washington’s Secretary of State, as Adams’ Vice-President, and as our third President. After the British burned the capitol in 1812, Jefferson sold his library of 6700 volumes in 1815 to the Library of Congress.
Jefferson died at Monticello on July 4, 1826. His writings on government and the law continue their influence to this day.
For more about Jefferson and his views, see:
The American Crucible: Slavery, Emancipation and Human Rights, by Robin Blackburn