The Political Career of Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson is one of the most fascinating figures of early American political history. He was a founding father, the third president of the United States and one of the country’s foremost thinkers. As an active politician, he served in both houses of Congress, ran for vice president and governor, and was twice elected as president.

But what makes him such a fascinating figure? How did he rise to such prominence at such a young age? Let’s explore his political career by exploring his life from childhood to adulthood.

1) Childhood and Early Life

Jefferson was born in 1743 on the estate of Shadwell in the Colony of Virginia, to a prosperous and well-connected family. Jefferson’s father, Peter Jefferson, was a planter who owned over 500 slaves and had an annual income of approximately £20,000 (roughly $280,000 today).

Peter Jefferson was an investment banker and a member of the colonial assembly, who had served as governor of the colony as well. His mother, Jane Randolph Jefferson, was also from a well-connected family and served as the wife of Thomas Jefferson’s father.

2) Experience in the House of Burgesses and Assembly

Jefferson was educated at the College of William and Mary, and at the age of 18, he moved to London to study law. While in London, Jefferson served for a year in the House of Burgesses and the next year, he moved to Williamsburg to study law at the College of William and Mary.

While in London, Jefferson also became interested in horticulture, a hobby that would lead him to become a noted gardener. He also studied logic and mathematics, as well as Greek and Latin classics. While studying law, Jefferson also engaged in scientific experiments and experimentation, including one involving a design for a water wheel that would have been used for pumps.

3) A career in the Continental Congress

Jefferson returned to the United States in 1766 to complete his law studies, and in 1767, he was admitted to the bar and began practicing law in Williamsburg, Virginia. In 1769, both of Jefferson’s parents died, and he became the head of the family.

Jefferson continued his law practice, while also serving in the House of Burgesses and the colonial Governor’s Council. Jefferson’s law practice was sufficiently successful that in 1772, he purchased a large plantation at Monticello.

4) Presidency: First Term

In 1775, the American Revolutionary War broke out between the colonials and British forces. Jefferson’s home state of Virginia was quickly involved in the war, and Jefferson himself was elected to the Second Continental Congress on May 20, 1775. In Congress, Jefferson served first as a representative for Virginia, and then as a representative for the newly created state of Kentucky.

He quickly emerged as an important member of the Congress and served as a representative of the Congress’s finances, as well as its diplomatic relations with other foreign nations. It was in Congress that Jefferson first met future President George Washington.

5) President: Second Term

In 1781, Jefferson was elected as the second President of the United States. He easily won the election against Alexander Hamilton and Matthew Perry. While in office, Jefferson continued his legal practice and served as governor of Virginia in 1788 and 1789.

He also continued his scientific experiments, and experimented with the cultivation of various crops, including hemp, tobacco, and cotton. During his second term as president, Jefferson’s most notable accomplishment was the Louisiana Purchase.

6) Legacy

Jefferson was a founding father who wrote many of the foundational documents of the United States, including the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Constitution.

He was also a champion of the rights of African-Americans and women, opposing slavery and the slave trade. His writings on education and the scientific method are still influential today. However, it is his political career that makes him one of the most fascinating figures in early American history.