Thomas Jefferson was born in 1743 and became a Founding Father of the United States by signing the Declaration of Independence. At the start of the American Revolution he was the Virginian representative for the Continental Congress. He served as a diplomat in Paris and in 1785 became the Minister of the U.S.A. to France.
With confidant and friend James Madison, Jefferson began the Democratic and Republican parties. In 1796 he was elected Vice-President; this was also when he wrote the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions.
In 1800, Jefferson was elected president. He oversaw the purchase of the Louisiana Territory and ordered the Lewis and Clark party to explore the West. In 1803 Jefferson began the process of removing indigenous Indians from their land and relocating them to the Louisiana Territory in order to open up the landscape for future American settlers.
Jefferson was a leader of the Enlightenment (a period in the 16th and 17th century marked by intellectual and scientific advancement), spoke five languages fluently and had skill and interest in science, architecture, philosophy and religion. These traits encouraged him to found The University of Virginia after he was no longer president. Jefferson was a very articulate and accurate writer; he regularly communicated with notable figures across America and Europe.
Despite Jefferson's opposition to the institution of slavery, he owned many slaves. To reconcile this irony, he treated them very well and did not require more work from them than a free farmer would produce.
Jefferson had 6 children; arguably, some of them came from Sally Hemings, a slave in Monticello. In 1807 Jefferson signed the ban of the importation of slaves in the United States.
In 1825, Jefferson's health began to decline. By 1826 a number of illnesses, which included uremia, pneumonia and toxemia left him in a very fragile state. By June of that year he was bed-bound. On June 24th, Jefferson wrote his final letter; he wrote to the National Intelligencia (a Washington newspaper), reaffirming his strident beliefs in the Declaration of Independence. July 3rd saw Jefferson debilitated by high fever. An invitation to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of The Declaration of Independence was sent to him, yet he declined on account of his health. His last words were “Is it the fourth yet?”. Jefferson died on July 4th at the age of 83. This was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
Concerning government and society, Jefferson believed that all men had certain inalienable rights. He believed that a correct and proper government prevents the infringement of rights from one person onto another, yet it also promotes individual liberty. Jefferson was well-aware of the possibility of uprisings springing forth from the individual and held this idea within the understanding of their personal rights. Gordon S. Wood, by criticism and contrast, believed these thoughts of Jefferson's were largely a result of his time and place in society, and more-so of his personal scientific interests. The phrase “All men are created equal” was considered by Wood to be a cliche in that time, yet he admits that Jefferson took the notion farther than most.
Although still controversial because of slavery, Jefferson is seen as one of the greatest United States presidents.