Thomas Jefferson is perhaps the most intriguing and complex of American presidents and, in the opinion of many scholars, the most accomplished. His diverse accomplishments include being the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, founder of the University of Virginia, and dramatically expanding the territory of the United States through the Louisiana Purchase. His personal library became the nucleus of the Library of Congress. He served as Ambassador to France, Governor of Virginia, Secretary of State under President George Washington, and Vice President under John Adams. He made important contributions to the Bill of Rights and created the Statue of Virginia for Religious Freedom. His book “Notes on the State of Virginia” provided a detailed and pioneering study of the natural life of the New World.
A true renaissance and enlightenment era man, Jefferson was a philosopher, naturalist, scientist, architect, inventor, musician, and writer. A sensitive, gentle, and thoughtful man, he also had a less attractive side. Although he wrote about the evils of slavery, he neither freed nor educated his own slaves. Despite inheriting substantial property, he was a poor financial manager who died deeply in debt. He tried to appear above politics, but engaged in much behind-the-scenes politicking. While extolling the virtues of the common man, his own tastes where those of the elite.
Although one of the most important public figures in the history of America, Jefferson genuinely preferred a quiet, scholarly life on his Virginia estate. Like John Adams, he died on the Fourth of July – exactly 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.