On April 13, 1743, in the Shadwell plantation located in central Virginia, a boy was born to a wealthy, elite family. He would later grow to be one of the most important people in American history. This boy’s name was Thomas Jefferson. His mother was a member of the proud Randolph clan, which had high social status. His father was a successful farmer as well as a skilled surveyor and cartographer. Young Jefferson spent his time playing in the woods, reading, and practicing violin.
At the age of nine, he began his formal education at a local private school run by the Reverend William Douglas where he excelled in classical languages. When he became 14, he took up further study of the classical languages as well as literature and mathematics with the Reverend James Maury. In 1760, Jefferson enrolled at the College of William and Mary, taking classes in science, mathematics, rhetoric, philosophy, and literature. There, Jefferson fell under the influence of Professor William Small. He introduced him to his friends George Wythe, a noted lawyer, and Francis Fauquier, the colonial governor of Virginia.
Jefferson graduated from college in 1762. A career in law appealed to him. In those days, there were no law schools. Young men aspiring to become attorneys studied with already established attorneys. Then they took a test. Those who passed became lawyers. Jefferson began his study under George Wythe, one of the most distinguished lawyers of the American colonies. Wythe guided him through a rigorous five year study.
Jefferson was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1767 and was, by that time, one of the most learned lawyers in America. Jefferson practiced law by following the meetings of the colonial court as it traveled throughout Virginia. It was during these years that he met and fell in love with Martha Wayles Skelton, a wealthy widow and daughter of a prominent Virginia lawyer and landowner. Martha and Thomas married on January 1, 1772, moving into a house at Jefferson's Virginia plantation, which he called Monticello.
Jefferson also became interested in politics. In 1769, he ran for and won a seat in the House of Burgesses. Over the past few years, the colonies grew restless under British rule. England had been trying to tax the colonies, but America refused to pay due to them having no representation in Parliament. The Tea Act made things worse. On December 16, the Boston Tea Party took place, where the Sons of Liberty threw 342 chests of English tea into the harbor in order to protest the Tea Act. Great Britain retaliated by closing the harbor through the Intolerable Acts. Many colonists, including Jefferson, were furious. Jefferson was an eloquent writer. In 1774, Jefferson penned his first major political work, "A Summary View of the Rights of British America,” It revealed he was thinking of matters far beyond taxes. The colonists might be ready to separate from Britain. War between the thirteen colonies and Britain broke out on April...