Thomas Jefferson is remembered in history not only for the
offices he held, but also for his belief in the natural rights of man
as expressed in the Declaration of Independence and his faith in the
people's ability to govern themselves. He left an impact on his times
equaled by few others in American history. Born on April 13, 1743,
Jefferson was the third child in the family and grew up with six
sisters and one brother. Though he opposed slavery, his family
had owned slaves. From his father and his environment he developed an
interest in botany, geology, cartography, and North American
exploration, and from his childhood teacher developed a love for Greek
and Latin. In 1760, at the age of 16, Jefferson entered the College of
William and Mary and studied under William Small and George Wythe.
Through Small, he got his first views of the expansion of science and
of the system of things in which we are placed.
Through Small and
Wythe, Jefferson became acquainted with Governor Francis Fauquier.
After finishing college in 1762, Jefferson studied law with Wythe and
noticed growing tension between America and Great Britain.
Jefferson was admitted to the bar in 1767. He successfully practiced
law until public service occupied most of his time. At his home in
Shadwell, he designed and supervised the building of his home,
Monticello, on a nearby hill. He was elected to the Virginia House of
Burgesses in 1769. Jefferson met Martha Wayles Skelton, a wealthy
widow of 23, in 1770 and married her in 1772. They settled in
Monticello and had one son and five daughters. Only two of his
children, Martha and Mary, survived until maturity. Mrs. Martha
Jefferson died in 1782, leaving Thomas to take care of his two
Though not very...