Thomas Jefferson was one of the most notable Founding Fathers of the United States. He served as the 3rd President of the United States from 1801 to 1809. He is notable for being the main author of the famous Declaration of Independence. Jefferson remained an important figure throughout the American Revolution and in the following years.
Thomas Jefferson was born in the Colony of Virginia and received an early education. He studied a broad range of subjects and mastered many of them. These included philosophy, natural law, religion, ethics, history and law. As a profession, Jefferson took up his law practice and became a prominent lawyer in Virginia. When Britain started imposing new taxes in 1760s and the anti-British sentiment was high, Jefferson wrote a number of pamphlets and articles protesting the British high-handedness. He would go on to play a prominent role in the American Revolution.
Thomas Jefferson was selected as the Virginia delegate for the First Continental Congress in 1774. Jefferson became prominent when he helped draft ‘Summary View of the Rights of British America’ as a member of the Congress. Two years later, Jefferson would go on to draft the ‘Declaration of Independence’, an achievement that became his permanent identity.
‘All men are created equal’. Jefferson wrote these famous words as the main author of the Declaration of Independence. As a member of the Second Continental Congress, Jefferson was selected along with four other members to draft the text of the declaration. Jefferson drew on his ideals and various sources, being the main contributor to the text. Consequently, he is today remembered as the man who helped draft the Declaration of Independence.
Once America had achieved independence from Britain, Jefferson became a member of the Congress. In this position, he played an instrumental role in drafting the policies for the newly born nation. He would later serve as the American Minister to France. When George Washington was elected as the 1st President of the United States, he gave Jefferson the charge of Secretary of State. In this role, a rivalry grew between Alexander Hamilton and Jefferson. Hamilton supported a centralized form of government whereas Jefferson was a fierce advocate of the rights of the states.
Thomas Jefferson remained an avid supporter of France as well as the French Revolution. He deeply appreciated the role of France in the American War of Independence. When the French Revolution turned violent and public sentiment turned against it, Jefferson still refused to denounce it. He believed that United States should foster stronger ties with France instead of establishing better relations with Britain. In doing so, his main opponent was Alexander Hamilton who supported trade ties with Britain.
In 1797, Thomas Jefferson was elected as the Vice President. He served in this position during the Presidency of John Addams, the 2nd President of the United States. As Vice President, Jefferson didn’t agree with many of the policies promulgated by John Adams. In fact, he opposed many of the steps taken by the Adams government. He didn’t play a very active role during his Vice Presidency. One of the notable events of his life during this period was the publication of ‘A Manual of Parliamentary Practice’ which remains an important guide to this day.
In 1800, Thomas Jefferson ran for the office of the President. He tied with Aaron Burr but was subsequently selected as the 3rd President of the United States by the Congress. His first term as President lasted from 1801 to 1804. During his first term, Jefferson took several important measures. He notably oversaw the negotiation of the Lousiana Purchase as well as the Lewis and Clark Expedition, both of which proved to be major landmarks in American history.
Another important event of his first term was the confrontation with Barbary pirates. Barbary pirates were known for attacking and capturing ships, holding crew members for ransom and otherwise pillaging the ships. When they attacked American ships, Jefferson authorized United States Navy to attack them. The conflict, known as the First Barbary War, was a victory for the United States.
Louisiana Territory was a large parcel of land to the west of the United States. At the turn of the 19th century, it was owned by France. Thomas Jefferson encouraged the purchase of the land from France. He oversaw the negotiations which ultimately purchased the land from France for a sum of $15 million. This became known as the Louisiana Purchase. The huge parcel of land stretched from Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. And it immediately doubled the size of the country, opening the path for Westward Expansion in subsequent decades.
Louisiana Purchase nearly doubled the size of the United States. However, little was known about the new lands added to the west of the country. To resolve this, Thomas Jefferson decided to send the Lewis and Clark Expedition into the west. The expedition was tasked with mapping the paths, mountains, rivers and other natural features as well getting information about the people inhabiting the region. The expedition was sent in 1804 and returned in 1806. The findings of the expedition were instrumental in the further exploratory trips into the West.
In 1804, Thomas Jefferson ran for a second term as President. He was still a very popular figure and easily secured the victory. However, his second term was fraught with difficulties. It was a time when war was raging between Napoleonic France and Great Britain. Both nations wanted the help of United States but Jefferson refused to be a part of the conflict. Consequently, American ships and sailors were harassed and pressed into forced service by both nations, especially by the Royal British navy. To confront this, Jefferson decided to suspend all trade with Europe. This adversely impacted the fledgling American economy and brought it crashing down. It also failed to resolve the issue and ultimately paved the path for a war between United States and Britain.