About Thomas Jefferson


Michael Benton, Contributor

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about thomas jeffersonFacts about Thomas Jefferson are sometimes hard to discern from legend and hearsay. Not everything about Thomas Jefferson is great and glorious, though he was a leader and a visionary among the Founding Fathers of the United States. Interesting facts about Thomas Jefferson must include details of his personal life that became fodder for his political opponents and a conundrum for American historians hoping to portray an idyllic vision of the man who drafted the Declaration of Independence. Facts about Thomas Jefferson for kids may focus on his political triumphs as well as his scientific and philosophical work. Fun facts about Thomas Jefferson could be drawn from his experience in France as well as his odd friendship and rivalry with John Adams. Jefferson's public life is well documented, as are the many letters he wrote to friends and fellow philosophers; this abundance of records has allowed historians to break through the mists of time and unlock a plethora of important facts about Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson was born in 1743 to a moderately wealthy Virginia planter family. After his father's death in 1752, Jefferson inherited 5,000 acres (which would later become Monticello) along with dozens of African slaves. Beginning at the age of 16, Jefferson attended the College of William & Mary where he displayed great curiosity and mastery in a wide variety of subjects. After graduating, Jefferson became a lawyer and was successful enough to be elected as a representative to the Virginia House of Burgesses at the age of 26. Fast facts about Thomas Jefferson and his political life begin here in Virginia and continue through his writing of the Declaration of Independence for the Continental Congress; the Governorship of Virginia during wartime; his diplomatic role in France after the war; his position on the cabinet of George Washington's administration; the contentious Vice Presidency under John Adams; as well as his two terms as President beginning in 1800 and marked most prominently by the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis & Clark expedition.

One fact about Thomas Jefferson that has only recently been confirmed centers on his relationship with a slave named Sally Hemings. Hemings was the half-sister of Thomas Jefferson's wife, Martha Wayles Skelton; the two shared a father, but Sally's mother was an African slave. Sally was also 25 years younger than Martha, and it was only after the death of the latter that the affair is believed to have begun. On the relationship between Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson, quick facts include the following: they met personally when Hemings joined Jefferson and his daughter during his time as Minister to France, their first child was conceived in Paris, all of Hemings' children were given relatively easy duties at Monticello and all were freed either through Jefferson's will or during his lifetime. Because of their very light skin, some of the Hemings children were able to enter 'white society' later in life. Historians still debate the veracity of the Jefferson-Hemings connection, but DNA tests have recently proven that Sally Hemings' youngest son was certainly descended from the Jefferson paternal line.