Thomas Jefferson's childhood story explains much of his later efforts in politics, science, architecture and education. When was Thomas Jefferson born? Thomas Jefferson birthdate is April 13, 1743, but the Thomas Jefferson birthday was still celebrated as April 2nd in the Old Style calendar during his childhood. Where was Thomas Jefferson born? On his family estate at Shadwell, VA, named after the London district where his mother, Jane Randolph, was born. His father, Peter Jefferson, was a planter and surveyor who had brought his family out into the sparsely populated Piedmont region of Virginia whose border was still an open frontier. Here, among the green rolling hills and lush valleys, the early life of Thomas Jefferson as a kid was a balance of natural wonder and a classical European education. Thomas Jefferson as a child and his family stayed for seven years at the nearby Tuckahoe plantation while Peter managed its affairs for his late friend. It was during this time that he started his academic career under a Scottish tutor who inspired his curiosity in the Enlightenment but left him with a peculiar accent when he would speak French even years later as a diplomat in Europe. Although his father would pass away unexpectedly in 1757, the young Thomas Jefferson would carry on his legacy as a planter, surveyor, architect and politician.
For Thomas Jefferson, early years at Shadwell and Tuckahoe gave way to a decade of higher education. The inheritance from his father's death, thousands of acres and a few dozen slaves, would be held in trust until Thomas reached the age of 21. At the age of 16, he left the family home and moved to Williamsburg, VA to attend the College of William & Mary. Under the tutelage of the renowned professor Dr. William Small, Jefferson excelled in his studies and demonstrated a voracious curiosity in almost every subject available. It only took two years for Jefferson to graduate and he immediately undertook a clerkship under the eminent attorney George Wythe that would last five years. In 1767, Jefferson was admitted to the Virginia bar and began to practice law in Williamsburg where he built up a well-heeled clientele and a name for himself. Only a year later, Jefferson would be elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses as the representative of Albemarle County. His venture into the world of politics may also have roots in his childhood as his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather before had each served in the House of Burgesses as well. Although he was tremendously successful in the gentrified world of Virginia politics, Jefferson always retained his frontier orientation and understood the enormous potential for development laying ahead for the European colonists of America. Unfortunately, another legacy of his childhood that Jefferson retained was the family business of tobacco and other cash crops cultivated with slave labor. Despite all of his ideals about liberty and equality, Jefferson would never challenge the institution that provided him wealth through the suffering of others. In the end, Thomas Jefferson birth and death were only miles apart in his old Virginia.