Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. He served as the third President of the United States (1801–1809) and was elected the second Vice President of the United States under John Adams (1797–1801).
By all accounts Jefferson was an obsessive student, often spending 15 hours of the day with his books, 3 hours practicing his violin, and the remaining 6 hours eating and sleeping.
Jefferson collected fossils and was obsessed with animals, especially the mammoth. He even had the bones of a mastodon (now displayed in the Monticello Entrance Hall) sent to him during his residence in the President’s House in Washington, DC.
A true Renaissance man, Jefferson is known for his many talents in writing, economics, religion and philosophy as well as horticulture and mathematics. He spoke 6 languages including English, French, Greek, Italian, Latin and Spanish. He also had a love for the written word, having written over 19,000 letters in his lifetime.
Jefferson was 33 years old when he drafted and signed the Declaration of Independence. Although the Declaration of Independence adopted on July 4, 1776 had undergone a series of revisions from Jefferson’s original draft, its immortal words remain essentially his own: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Although he expressed his opposition to slavery, Jefferson owned slaves throughout his lifetime. He did not free them because he thought they might not be able to live on their own.
He was an accomplished farmer, lawyer, architect, inventor, naturalist, philosopher and scientist. He also loved books a lot, donating 6,500 volumes to the Library of Congress.
He kept pet mockingbirds. He loved their singing and often had at least four at a time. His favorite bird was named Dick.
He was the first president to lead a political party—the Democratic-Republican party.
He loved vanilla ice cream. He probably first tasted ice cream while traveling in France. He brought home a recipe for it, which is now in the Library of Congress.
Jefferson is known for his many talents in writing, economics, religion and philosophy as well as horticulture and mathematics. He spoke 6 languages including English, French, Greek, Italian, Latin and Spanish. He also had a love for the written word, having written over 19,000 letters in his lifetime.
He married a widow who bore him six children but only two, both of them girls, lived to maturity. His wife died ten years after they got married.
Jefferson’s grandson James Madison Randolph became the first child born in the White House in 1806.
He died on the same day as his predecessor, John Adams, on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson and Adams also share the distinction of being the only Declaration of Independence signatories who would later serve as President.
“Equal and exact justice to all men…freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus.”- Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), 3rd President of the United States (1801-1809).
Jefferson’s grave is inscribed with an epitaph of the three things of which he was the proudest. They are his authorship of the Declaration of Independence, the Statute of Virginia that guaranteed religious freedom and his founding of the University of Virginia in 1819. There is no mention of him being President on his gravestone.
In addition to the Jefferson Memorial near the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., he is immortalised on the $2 bill, the nickel and as one of the figures of Mount Rushmore. The memorial in the nation’s capital, featuring a 19-foot tall statue of Jefferson, was dedicated in 1943 on the 200th anniversary of his birth.
His last words were “Is it the Fourth?”
Ayomide Akinbode holds a degree in Chemistry but has a passion for History and Classics. When he is not writing, he’s either sleeping or playing Scrabble.