Skip to main content

Thomas Jefferson's - 3rd President: Father of the Declaration of Independence

Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past—or else be destined to repeat it.

Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence.

Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence.

President Thomas Jefferson

From 1801 to 1809, Thomas Jefferson, our third President, was one of our founding fathers and served two terms. Under George Washington, he was the Secretary of State, then served as Vice-President to John Adams. Jefferson was proud of his accomplishments. He wanted to be remembered most for being the "author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia," which Jefferson had written on his tomb. He asked that not a word more be written. He was very adamant that no one embellished beyond these successes.

What Bill Is Thomas Jefferson On?

Jefferson's Family History

Thomas Jefferson was born April 13, 1743, in Albemarle County, Virginia, to Peter and Jane Randolph Jefferson. Jefferson came from one of the first families of Virginia through his mother's side. His father was a very prominent landowner, although not necessarily wealthy. Jefferson inherited some of his father's land, where he built a mansion that he and his wife moved into when they married on January 1, 1772. Together they had six children, but only two survived into adulthood: Martha Washington Jefferson and Mary Jefferson. The other four died within the first three years of life, which was common back then because of the lack of health care today.

Monticello, Jefferson's Childhood Home

Today, Jefferson left behind his mansion, named Monticello, which lies on a massive plantation with a beautiful landscape that you can visit today. You can learn even more about this founding father's history and his use of enslaved people on his plantation, where descendants of those enslaved have shared their stories. Despite stating in the Declaration of Independence, "all men are created equal," he enslaved over 600 men and women in his life. Ironically he made legislatures against slavery and stated that slavery was "moral depravity" and a "hideous blot."

There were five men who helped author the Declaration of Independence, although Jefferson is often credited as being the Father of the Declration of Independence.

There were five men who helped author the Declaration of Independence, although Jefferson is often credited as being the Father of the Declration of Independence.

The History of the Declaration of Independence

Five men were chosen to write the Declaration of Independence; Jefferson stood apart from the rest. He was elected to head the committee for writing the Declaration of Independence. He wrote the majority of it, which earned him the title Father of the Declaration of Independence.

He was officially elected as head of the committee on June 11, 1776, and the Declaration of Independence was finished less than a month later. John Adams was one of the men assigned to help him with the Declaration of Independence. He also preceded Jefferson as President. Benjamin Franklin amended the original draft. Then Congress edited it for style and substance. Two main items were deleted from Jefferson's initial draft. One was a statement that colonists could have voluntary allegiance to the crown. The new Americans did not want this in the draft. They wanted to be as separate from England as possible, which would have contradicted the American desire to be independent. The other item lost was a clause that could have censored England, which they referred to as the home country back then, from forcing slavery in America.


Thomas Jefferson originally ran for president right after George Washington but lost the race to Adams. The race was very tight, and Adams won with 71 electoral votes, whereas Jefferson had 68 electoral votes. Because Thomas Jefferson had the second most votes, he served as vice-president, which was a tradition in America's early years, but now the President chooses his vice-president.

Four years later, Jefferson and Adams ran again against each other. This time Jefferson won and became our third president.

In his inaugural address, Jefferson discussed his desire to have the United States spread into the Louisiana Territory. During this time, Spain owned the Territory.

He was true to his word, and the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory, doubling the country in size. Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on an expedition to explore the land.

Jefferson dreamed of eliminating the national debt during his presidency because he felt it was a "cesspool for corruption." He thought that the country did not have to get into debt to be able to have foreign credit. He would be very discouraged to learn where our National debt is today.

Basic Facts

Question Answer


April 13, 1743 - Virginia

President Number




Military Service


Wars Served


Age at Beginning of Presidency

58 years old

Term of Office

March 4, 1801 - March 3, 1809

How Long President

8 years


Aaron Burr (1801–1805) George Clinton (1805–1809)

Age and Year of Death

July 4, 1826 (aged 83)

Cause of Death

failing health due to rheumatism, urinary, and digestive issues

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Owlcation

History of the University of Virginia

Although many would state that the Presidency was Thomas Jefferson's greatest claim to fame, it was not what Jefferson prided himself on. He felt his greatest achievement was not only dreaming up but also planning and building the University of Virginia. He was involved in all facets of its construction, whether supervising the construction workers or planning the curriculum and hiring the staff. The university was finished and opened years after his Presidency and still resides today in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was founded in 1819 but did not open for classes until 1825, the year before Jefferson's death. Its first group of students was a class of 68 students with eight faculty members to educate them.

The college's most notable and recognizable part is the Rotunda, which Jefferson designed himself. For most of the university's years, the Rotunda was used as the library, although they constructed a much more extensive library in recent years. The Rotunda lies at the north end of campus because he wanted the Rotunda to be the university's focal point. He felt a library belonged as the focal point of education. Unfortunately, the original building was burned down in a fire and restored in 1975. They stayed true to the original structure keeping the essence of the original inspiration, which was the Pantheon in Rome.

His Death

Thomas Jefferson, along with one other fellow writer of the Declaration of Independence, died on the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson died just hours before John Adams on July 4, 1826. Ironically John Adams was quoted as saying on his deathbed, "Thomas Jefferson survives." This statement may have been in remembrance of Jefferson being the President who succeeded him, or Jefferson, being the chief writer of the Declaration of Independence, was on his mind due to the anniversary of the first Independence Day.

Although we often remember Thomas Jefferson as our third president, it is evident that he had a much stronger influence on our country than being an American President. From being the father of the Declaration to fathering the University of Virginia, he has impacted our country significantly.

Fun Facts

  • He died the same day as his predecessor John Adams on July 4th, 1826.
  • Died hours before John Adams, which he ironically stated: "Thomas Jefferson survives."
  • He spoke six languages, including Latin and Greek.
  • Because of his love for gadgets, he once built a working clock using cannonballs as weights.
  • He was a redhead.
  • He played the violin.

List of American Presidents

1. George Washington

16. Abraham Lincoln

31. Herbert Hoover

2. John Adams

17. Andrew Johnson

32. Franklin D. Roosevelt

3. Thomas Jefferson

18. Ulysses S. Grant

33. Harry S. Truman

4. James Madison

19. Rutherford B. Hayes

34. Dwight D. Eisenhower

5. James Monroe

20. James Garfield

35. John F. Kennedy

6. John Quincy Adams

21. Chester A. Arthur

36. Lyndon B. Johnson

7. Andrew Jackson

22. Grover Cleveland

37. Richard M. Nixon

8. Martin Van Buren

23. Benjamin Harrison

38. Gerald R. Ford

9. William Henry Harrison

24. Grover Cleveland

39. James Carter

10. John Tyler

25. William McKinley

40. Ronald Reagan

11. James K. Polk

26. Theodore Roosevelt

41. George H. W. Bush

12. Zachary Taylor

27. William Howard Taft

42. William J. Clinton

13. Millard Fillmore

28. Woodrow Wilson

43. George W. Bush

14. Franklin Pierce

29. Warren G. Harding

44. Barack Obama

15. James Buchanan

30. Calvin Coolidge

45. Donald Trump

Quiz about Thomas Jefferson

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. What did Jefferson not want to be written on his tomb stone?
    • Writing the Declaration of Independence
    • Writing the statute for freedom in Virginia
    • Founding the University of Virginia
    • Being the Third United States President
  2. How many children did he have?
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
    • 6
  3. How many of his children survived into adulthood?
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  4. What land did Jefferson try to purchase?
    • The Mississippi Purchase
    • The Florida Purchse
    • The Louisiana Purchase
    • The Colorado Purchase
  5. Why did he want the Rotunda to be the center of the University of Virginia?
    • Because it was big, and it fit best there.
    • Because it was beautiful, and he wanted everyone to see it.
    • Because he felt a library should be the centerpoint of education.
    • Because he wanted everyone to see his greatest work.
  6. Thomas Jefferson died on...
    • the same day as John Adams.
    • the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
    • the fourth of July.
    • all of the above

Answer Key

  1. Founding the University of Virginia
  2. 6
  3. 2
  4. The Louisiana Purchase
  5. Because he felt a library should be the centerpoint of education.
  6. all of the above

Interpreting Your Score

If you got between 0 and 1 correct answer: Make sure to reread the article, you can do better next time!

If you got between 2 and 3 correct answers: Almost got it, double check your answers, you can do better next time.

If you got 4 correct answers: Good job! You almost got them alright!

If you got 5 correct answers: Wow! Good memory. Take it again and see if you can get the last answer correct!

If you got 6 correct answers: Congrats, you got them all right!


  • Sullivan, G. (2001). Mr. President: A book of U.S. presidents. New York: Scholastic.
  • Thomas Jefferson - American History. (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2016, from
  • "Thomas Jefferson's Monticello." Thomas Jefferson's Attitudes toward Slavery | Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. Accessed April 15, 2018.
  • What are some interesting facts about presidents and first ladies? (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2016, from

Questions & Answers

Question: Did Thomas Jefferson play a sport?

Answer: According to, he was a fan of cockfighting. Although I am not sure that you can count that as a sport. Sports Illustrated claims he enjoyed chess, backgammon, and a coin game called, "cross and pile." On the more athletic side, he walked, ran, and swam. Once he even swam 13 times across a millpond. It is claimed he preferred intellectual sports.

© 2011 Angela Michelle Schultz


keywc58 on April 14, 2014:

This is a well written and excellent historical hub.

Tom Schumacher from Huntington Beach, CA on April 13, 2014:

Thanks, I enjoyed the history lesson about Thomas Jefferson. And I agree, he would be greatly disappointed to know our national debt now exceeds $17.5 trillion.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 14, 2011:

I agree Murrah, I wish more had followed him. Unfortunately, we still, as Americans follow Hamilton's ideas today, and look where it stands now. I bet Hamilton had no idea that we would still be in debt as a nation two hundred years later.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 14, 2011:

dahoglund, that is true, I didn't think of it that way. I think Adams was kind of emotional guy, from what I have read. Jefferson seemed to be more even keeled, there friendship would have made sense for that reason.

J D Murrah from Refugee from Shoreacres, Texas on May 12, 2011:

Jefferson had some wonderful ideas on the economy and national debt. In many ways the two schools of thought Jeffersonians and Hamiltonians (followers of Alexander Hamilton) have framed the debates. Hamilton saw debt as good for the nation, while Jefferson saw it as bad. It would have been wonderful had more politicians followed Jeffersonian ideas rather than Hamiltonian ones.

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on May 12, 2011:

We could use someone like him today. Adams and Jefferson had a long relationship as friends, than enemies, and as friends again. In later years they carried on correspondence so it is no surprise that Adams on his death bed would possibly have Jefferson on his mind.

Related Articles