He is best remembered as a great president and as the author of the Declaration of Independence. He also won lasting fame as a diplomat, a political thinker, and a founder of the Democratic Party. Jefferson's interests and talents covered an amazing range. He became one of the leading American architects of his time and designed the Virginia Capitol, the University of Virginia, and his own home, Monticello. He greatly appreciated art and music and tried to encourage their advancement in the United States. He arranged for the famous French sculptor Jean Houdon to come to America to make a statue of George Washington. Jefferson also posed for Houdon and for the famous American portrait painter Gilbert Stuart. Jefferson also enjoyed playing the violin in chamber music concerts. In addition, Jefferson served as president of the American Philosophical Society, an organization that encouraged a wide range of scientific and intellectual research. Jefferson invented a decoding device, a lap desk, and an improved type of moldboard plow. His collection of more than 6,400 books became a major part of the Library of Congress. Jefferson revised Virginia's laws and founded its state university. He developed the decimal system of coinage that allows Americans to keep accounts in dollars and cents. He compiled a Manual of Parliamentary Practice and prepared written vocabularies of Indian languages. ( Thomas Jefferson, by David Saville Muzzey. New York, Scribner, 1918)
During Jefferson's two terms as president, the United States almost doubled in area with the purchase of the vast Louisiana Territory. America preserved its hard-won neutrality while France, was led by Napoleon's armies. Congress passed a law banning the slave trade. It took travelers two days to go from New York City to Philadelphia by stagecoach. But the first successful voyage of Robert Fulton's steamboat, which became famous as the Clermont, signaled a promising new era in the history of transportation. (Thomas Jefferson, an intimate history [by] Fawn M. Brodie. Published: New York, Norton )
Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, at Shadwell, the family farm in Goochland (now Albemarle) County, Virginia. (The date was April 2 by the calendar then in use.) He was the third child in the family and grew up with six sisters and one brother. Two other brothers died in infancy. His father, Peter Jefferson, had served as surveyor, sheriff, colonel of militia, and member of the House of Burgesses. Thomas's mother, Jane Randolph Jefferson, came from one of the oldest families in Virginia. Thomas developed the normal interests of a country boy—hunting, fishing, horseback riding, and canoeing. He also learned to play the violin and to love music. Jefferson was 14 years old when his father died. As the oldest son, he became head of the family. He inherited more than 2,500 acres (1,010 hectares) of land and at least 20 slaves. His guardian, John Harvie,...