The Childhood of Thomas Jefferson

In Charlottesville, Virginia, Thomas Jefferson was the third of ten children born to Peter Jefferson and Jane Randolph on April 13, 1743. His father, a planter and surveyor by trade, was of Welsh ancestry. Jefferson’s family moved to Tuckahoe in 1745 and resided for seven years before returning to Albemarle County, where his father had been elected to the colonelcy. In 1752, Jefferson enrolled in a school taught by a Scottish pastor named William Douglas. Jefferson began studying Greek, French, and Latin at nine and continued until his death at 76. Although Thomas Jefferson’s father died in 1757, he became the only heir to his estate, including many slaves.

Jefferson was educated classically and studied science and history in Virginia under the tutelage of Reverend James Maury from 1758 to 1760. He enrolled in The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg and studied Mathematics, Metaphysics, and Philosophy from 1760 until 1762 when he graduated with the highest honors. Jefferson had a significant interest in learning new languages as a high school student. As a college student, he routinely put in up to 15 hours of study each day. Thomas was also a talented musician who had a passion for the arts. After graduating, he pursued legal studies under the tutelage of George Wythe before entering the Virginia bar in 1767 to begin practicing law. From 1768 to 1773, he practiced law and built a solid reputation for himself.


Jefferson enrolled in a nearby school run by a Scottish Presbyterian minister in 1752. Jefferson began studying Latin, Greek, and French at nine; he also learned to ride horses and appreciate nature study. From 1758 to 1760, Jefferson studied under the Reverend James Maury near Gordonsville, Virginia. He studied history, science, and the classics while boarding with Maury’s family.

Thomas Jefferson was admitted at The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg in 1760 at sixteen and remained for two years. He enrolled at William & Mary’s philosophy school. Thomas Jefferson studied mathematics, metaphysics, and philosophy under Professor William Small, who introduced Jefferson to the British Empiricists’ writings, including John Locke, Francis Bacon, and Isaac Newton. Additionally, he worked on his French, carried his Greek grammar book everywhere he went, practiced the violin, and read Tacitus and Homer. Jefferson possessed an insatiable curiosity about everything and, according to family legend, frequently studied fifteen hours a day.

Jefferson became a member of a secret organization called the Flat Hat Club during his college years, which is now the name of the William & Mary student newspaper. He boarded and lodged at the College in what is now known as the Sir Christopher Wren Building, where he attended communal meals in the Great Hall and morning and evening prayers in the Wren Chapel. Jefferson frequently participated at the extravagant parties hosted by royal governor Francis Fauquier, where Jefferson played his violin and developed an early interest in wine. He studied law with George Wythe following graduation and was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1767.

Career Political Early life

In 1775, Jefferson was appointed to the ‘Second Continental Congress’ as a delegate. In 1776, when the American resolution of independence began, he was appointed to a committee preparing the declaration of independence decision. The draft was introduced to Congress on July 2, and the text of the ‘Declaration of Independence was approved on July 4, 1776, establishing Thomas Jefferson as a popular figure in the country.

Jefferson was elected to the newly formed ‘Virginia House of Delegates’ in 1776. As a delegate, he championed a series of reforms and bills to establish Virginia’s new democratic status. Among his reforms, the most notable were the laws abolishing primogeniture and establishing state-sanctioned religious freedom. Jefferson also introduced a bill in 1778 to promote the ‘general diffusion of knowledge,’ which founded an elective system of study at the ‘College of William and Mary.’ He introduced legislation to repeal the death penalty, except in cases of murder and treason. However, his efforts were fruitless, as crimes such as rape remained punishable by death for an extended period following the passage of Jefferson’s bills on capital punishment.

Governor of Virginia

Thomas Jefferson was appointed governor of Virginia in 1779 and served until 1781. In 1780, during his tenure as governor, Virginia’s capital was moved from Williamsburg to Richmond. In 1779, George Wythe was appointed the first professor of law at the ‘College of Williams and Mary,’ recognizing his tireless efforts in education. Jefferson’s governorship was blemished by two British invasions, which tarnished his reputation as governor and prevented him from ever winning another election in Virginia. Jefferson served as France’s minister from 1785 to 1789 and sided with France against Britain when the two countries announced the war in 1793.

Secretary State of the U.S

Jefferson was appointed the first secretary of state in 1790, during George Washington’s presidency. He spoke out against widespread Federalism in the United States as a secretary of state and continued to sees it as a threat to Republicanism. He co-founded and led the ‘Democratic-Republican Party’ with James Madison and developed a network of Republican allies to fight the Federalists.

Vice Presidency and Presidency

Thomas Jefferson became vice-president of the United States in 1797, following a failed bid for the vice presidency in 1796. Federalists, preparing for war with France, enacted the ‘Alien and Sedition Acts’ in 1798 to generate revenue through taxes. Jefferson slammed these tactics and stepped up his attack on Federalism, believing that Federalists lacked the authority to exercise such power.

In 1800, Thomas Jefferson made his first presidential bid. Though he did not campaign for his party, he was elected President of the United States on February 17, 1801, by a landslide victory, as was customary at the time.

He waged the ‘Barbary War,’ defending the US Coast against pirates and acquiring Louisiana from France during his presidency. In the 1804 presidential elections, he won a second term in office.

Life after Presidency

Jefferson stayed involved in American politics and educational and cultural institutions. Throughout his life, he worked to promote higher education. In 1819, he founded the ‘University of Virginia.’ In 1825, the University of Virginia became the first university to offer a full range of elective courses.

His passion for architecture and archeology, both new fields at the time, is well-known. With its planned site around grass and linking arcades, the ‘University of Virginia’ became an emblem of science and beauty. The university’s Greek and Roman architecture reflects Thomas Jefferson’s intellectual beliefs and role as the university’s father.

Jefferson joined Benjamin Franklin’s American Philosophical Society in 1780 and led it from 1797 until 1815. Jefferson, a wine connoisseur, visited France and other European countries to add to his collection. His first book, ‘A Manual of Parliamentary Practice,’ was released in 1801. After the British burned down the ‘Library of Congress in 1814, Jefferson’s massive book collection became part of the new library named after him.