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

Updated on November 29, 2019
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Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past—or else be destined to repeat it.

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. | Source

What Was Thomas Jefferson Most Famous For?

From 1801-1809, 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, and 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?

He was on the $2 bill.
He was on the $2 bill. | Source

Thomas Jefferson 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 as well as 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, which we have today.

What Was the Name of the House Thomas Jefferson Grew Up In?

Today, Jefferson left behind his mansion, named Monticello, who lays on a massive plantation with a beautiful landscape that you can visit today. There you can learn even more about this founding father's history and his use of slaves 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 the course of his life. Ironically he made legislatures against slavery and stated that slavery was "moral depravity" and a "hideous blot."

Painting of Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence.
Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence. | Source

The History of the Declaration of Independence

There were five men 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 ended up writing 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 American's did not want this in the draft, as 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.

Photos of Thomas Jefferson

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Thomas Jefferson shaped America and helped build what we know as the United States. Painted in 1800 by Rembrandt Peale. This is a young painting of Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson was the father of the University of Virginia.
Thomas Jefferson shaped America and helped build what we know as the United States.
Thomas Jefferson shaped America and helped build what we know as the United States. | Source
Painted in 1800 by Rembrandt Peale.
Painted in 1800 by Rembrandt Peale. | Source
This is a young painting of Thomas Jefferson.
This is a young painting of Thomas Jefferson. | Source
Thomas Jefferson was the father of the University of Virginia.
Thomas Jefferson was the father of the University of Virginia. | Source

What Did Thomas Jefferson Do for Our Country?

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 the early years of America, 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.

During his presidency, Jefferson dreamed of eliminating the national debt 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

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

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 it was 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 most notable and recognizable part of the college is the Rotunda, in which Jefferson designed himself. For most of the university's years, the Rotunda was used as the library, although in recent years, they constructed a much more extensive library. The Rotunda lies at the north end of campus because he wanted the Rotunda to be the focal point of the university. 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

Excerpt from the History Channel

Quiz about Thomas Jefferson

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  • 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

  • Did Thomas Jefferson play a sport?

    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


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      This is a well written and excellent historical hub.

    • Tom Schumacher profile image

      Tom Schumacher 

      6 years ago from Huntington Beach, CA

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      9 years ago from United States

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      9 years ago from United States

      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 profile image

      J D Murrah 

      9 years ago from Refugee from Shoreacres, Texas

      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.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      9 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      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.


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