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"By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge
the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches." ~Proverbs 24:3-4

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Thomas Jefferson: “Father of Democracy”

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was born on a Virginia estate. Thomas and his three sisters were taught by the family tutor in a little schoolhouse in the side yard. His father showed him how to ride a horse, shoot a gun, and paddle a canoe. Starting at age nine, Thomas received lessons in Latin, Greek, and French at the home of a minister. When Thomas was fourteen, his father died suddenly and Thomas became the man of the family. Thomas’s father left him a bookcase with 40 books. Thomas loved to read; he especially liked the histories of England and a book about the sun, moon, and stars. Sometimes he would sit and read for fifteen hours straight!

At age seventeen, Jefferson attended William and Mary College. Thomas was a brilliant student and was curious about everything. After two years at college, he decided to study law in Williamsburg. When Virginia was still a British colony, a law was passed that forbade people to attend any church except the Church of England. Jefferson proposed that “all men should be free to have their own religious opinions and that people should not be molested, restrained, or…otherwise made to suffer on account of their beliefs.”

Jefferson was a member of the Virginia legislature and became a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1775. He was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, which the Continental Congress adopted. Jefferson also served his country as minister to France, secretary of state, and Vice President before becoming the third President of the United States in 1801.

Soon afterward, the United States made an agreement with France to buy the vast region between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains. This was called the “Louisiana Purchase” and it doubled the size of the United States. Jefferson sent the Lewis and Clark Expedition to explore the land all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

Jefferson believed that virtue and talent – not money, title, or birth – was what gave a man true worth. Jefferson had a wide variety of interests and talents. He was a violinist, writer, lawyer, architect and inventor. He designed Monticello – “little mountain” – a beautiful stately home in a classical style, along with many of the objects and gadgets in it. On the grounds around Monticello, he enjoyed horseback riding and experimented with new ways of farming.

A noted scholar, Jefferson had so many books in his personal collection that when the British burned the Library of Congress in 1814, he was able to give the library 6,000 of his volumes and still have 4,000 left! Jefferson was also fascinated with science and had his own museum. Jefferson founded the University of Virginia and designed the original buildings.

Jefferson had owned slaves all his life but came to believe that slavery was wrong. He tried to keep slavery out of the new lands that were added to the United States. A few days before he died, he wrote “All eyes are opened or opening to the rights of man.” He left instructions that his slaves were to be freed after his death. He chose for his tomb the epitaph: "Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the statute of Virginia for religious freedom, and father of the university of Virginia."


Arrow Book of Presidents, by Sturges F. Cary.
Our Country’s Presidents, by Ann Bausum.
Our Country’s Presidents, by Frank Freidel.
Thomas Jefferson: A Picture Book Biography, by James Cross Giblin.
Who Was Thomas Jefferson? by Dennis Brindell Fradin.

Click here to see the complete list of famous homeschoolers and read more biographies.


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