About Thomas Jefferson

“Thomas Jefferson had a charm of manner and conversation that passes all description – so cheerful – so unassuming – so free, and easy, and frank, and kind, and gay – that even the young and overawed and embarrassed visitor at once forgot his fears and felt himself by the side of an old and familiar friend. There was no effort, no ambition in the conversation of the philosopher. It was as simple and unpretending as nature itself. And while in this easy manner he was pouring out instruction, like light from an inexhaustible solar fountain, he seemed continually to be asking, instead of giving information. The visitor felt himself lifted by the contact into a new and nobler region of thought, and became surprised at his own buoyancy and vigor. He could not, indeed, help being astounded, now and then, at those transcendent leaps of the mind, which he saw made out without the slightest exertion.

And there seemed to be no end to his knowledge. He was a thorough master of every subject that he touched. There seemed to be no longer any terra incognita of the human understanding; for, what the visitor had thought so, he had now found reduced to a familiar garden walk; and all this carried off so lightly, so playfully, so gracefully, so engagingly, that he won every heart that approached him, as certainly as he astonished every mind.”

United States Attorney General William Wirt
Tribute to Thomas Jefferson (1826)

Our country is fortunate that we can draw guidance from an extraordinary wellspring of wisdom–the vision of Thomas Jefferson. President Jefferson was the founder and leader who was best able to articulate our nation’s highest ideals and lay the foundation for America’s hope and promise. His perseverance and genius helped consolidate the victory of the American Revolution and his legacy is surprisingly relevant today.

In this lecture at the University of Chicago International House, Eric presents “The Vision of Thomas Jefferson for Today’s America”.

   Appreciating Thomas Jefferson   


“Let me describe to you, a man, not yet forty,  tall,  and with a mild and pleasing countenance,  but whose mind and understanding are ample substitutes for every exterior grace. An American, who without ever having quitted his own country, is at once a musician, skilled in drawing; a geometrician, an astronomer, a natural philosopher, legislator, and statesman.”

–Marquis de Chastellux: “Travels in North America in the Years 1780-81-82”

more contemporary appreciation


“All honor to Jefferson—to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so to embalm it there, that to-day, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression.”

The principles of Jefferson are the definitions and axioms of free society.”

– Abraham Lincoln: Letter to H.L. Pierce, April 6, 1859.


more appreciation 1830-1899


“I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

John F. Kennedy: April 29, 1962, Remarks at a White House dinner honoring Nobel Prize Winners.


more appreciation 1900-present

   Explore Jefferson's World   

   Useful links   

These links access digital Jeffersonian archives, providing valuable resources and general information.

Video »

An Innocent Man: Thomas Jefferson and the Sally Hemings Fiction

Video »

An Empire for Liberty:

Creating America as a Continental Nation

Video »

University of Chicago


Podcast »

Faith, religious freedom and Church-State Separation



1743 Born April 13 in Virginia at Shadwell, near Charlottesville, the son of Peter Jefferson and Jane Randolph.
1757 Father dies.
1758 Attends Reverend Maury’s school.
1760 Enters the College of William and Mary.
1762 Graduates from college and begins law studies under George Wythe at William and Mary.
1767 Commences seven-year legal practice.
1769 Elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses, serving until 1775.
1769 Begins building Monticello from his own architectural design.
1772 Marries Martha Wayles Skelton.
1773 Key organizer of Committees of Correspondence with other colonies.
1774 Writes “A Summary View of the Rights of British America.”
1775 Elected Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.
1776 Writes the Declaration of Independence.
1776 Elected Albermarle County representative in the Virginia House of Delegates.
1776 Drafts a proposed constitution for Virginia.
1779 Completes proposed revision of a substantial portion of Virginia’s statutes.
1779 Elected wartime governor of Virginia and after reelection serves two years.
1782 Wife, Martha, dies having borne six children, two of whom survive infancy.
1782 Writes substantial portions of his only book, “Notes on the State of Virginia.”
1783 Serves as a Virginia delegate in Congress.
1784 Drafts “Report on Government for Western Territory.”
1784 Sent by Congress to Paris to negotiate commercial treaties.
1785 Appointed Minister to France, succeeding Benjamin Franklin.
1786 Virginia enacts Jefferson’s “Statute for Religious Freedom.”
1786 Tours England.
1787 Tours southern France and northern Italy.
1788 Tours Netherlands and the Rhineland.
1789 Witnesses the opening events of the French Revolution.
1790 Appointed Secretary of State by George Washington.
1794 Returns to farming and rebuilds Monticello.
1796 Elected Vice President of the United States under John Adams.
1797 Elected President of the American Philosophical Society, serving until 1819.
1798 Drafts Kentucky resolutions declaring unconstitutional the federalist’s Alien and Sedition acts.
1801 Elected third President of the United States.
1803 Concludes Louisiana Purchase and mounts the “voyage of discovery” of the new land under Merriwether Lewis.
1805 Reelected President.
1806 Begins construction of second home at Poplar Forest, Bedford County, Virginia.
1807 Implements Embargo Act, seeking to use economic coercion to avoid war with Great Britain.
1808 Declines a third term as President.
1809 Retires to Monticello.
1815 Sells his library to the United States forming the foundation of the Library of Congress.
1819 Founds the University of Virginia.
1819 Completes “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth” for personal use.
1820 Protests the Missouri Compromise.
1821 Writes “Autobiography” for his family.
1823 Advocates the policy underlying the Monroe Doctrine.
1825 University of Virginia admits first students.
1826 Dies on July 4 at Monticello.
University_of_Virginia_Rotunda_1819_draft locvc77

Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the “South Elevevation of the Rotunda” at the University of Virginia. Courtesy, The Library of Congress.

68 Monticello TJ grave marker

Thomas Jefferson’s grave marker with the epitaph he composed, “& not a word more”.


Birthplace of Thomas Jefferson, Shadwell, Virginia.


Site of the “Maury School for Boys” on the border of Albemarle and Louisa counties, Virginia.



Draft Constitution for Virginia-no slaves grab

Jefferson’s Draft Constitution for Virginia. Note at the bottom of the page, “No person hereafter coming into this country shall be held in slavery under any pretext whatever.” (Courtesy the Library of Congress)


Jefferson’s Original Rough Draft of the Declaration of Independence. Click here to see the complete Rough Draft and Jefferson’s ringing denunciation of slavery on page 3 (Courtesy the Library of Congress)

Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom Lib of VA-high

An Act for Establishing Religious Freedom (May not be reproduced without written permission from the Library of Virginia, www.lva.virginia.gov)