1801-1809Democratic-RepublicanApril 13, 1743, in Albemarle County, VirginiaJuly 4, 1826, at Monticello, Virginia
Vice PresidentsFirst LadiesPrevious OccupationsStates in Union
Aaron Burr
George Clinton
Dolley Madison (Friend)
Martha Jefferson Randolph (Daughter)
Lawyer, Planter17


Jefferson’s parents were Peter and Jane Randolph Jefferson. Jefferson married the young widow Martha Wayles Skelton in 1772. They were married only ten years when she died at age 33, before Jefferson was elected president. They had three daughters (Martha, Maria, and Lucy Elizabeth), plus three children who died in infancy.


Jefferson was the first president to be elected by the House of Representatives. This happened because both he and his opponent, Aaron Burr, each received 73 electoral votes, so the House voted to break the tie and elect Jefferson. The law at that time specified that Burr would become vice president. Because the crisis with France that emerged during President Adams’ administration had been resolved, Jefferson was determined to focus on reinventing government finances. He eliminated all internal taxes, abolished the Internal Revenue Service, slashed Army and Navy expenditures, and reduced the national debt by one third. Through his purchase of land from Napoleon in 1803, Jefferson nearly doubled the size of the U.S. and thus provided additional land for settlement and development.

Jefferson was elected to a second term, but U.S. ships continued to be attacked at sea by Britain and France, forcing Jefferson to ban foreign trade to coerce a resolution. The U.S. economy suffered, forcing him to lift the ban before leaving office.


In the midst of party conflict in 1800, Jefferson wrote, “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

In orchestrating the Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson asserted it was his duty to break the rules periodically for the good of the nation: “In seizing [Louisiana I] . . . have done an act beyond the Constitution, [but] it is incumbent on those . . . who accept great charges, to risk themselves on great occasions.”

“The care of human life and happiness, and not their destructions, is the first and only legitimate object of good government.” (1809)

“A little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”

At This Time

1803: The U.S. buys a large tract of land from France (Louisiana Purchase) • 1804: Napoleon is crowned emperor • 1807: England prohibits the slave trade • 1808: The U.S. prohibits importation of slaves from Africa, though the slave trade flourished up to the Civil War • Beethoven writes Symphonies No. 5 and No. 6

Did You Know?

Jefferson was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and played a major role in establishing the new country and its government. He believed that writing the Declaration was a far more important life achievement than being president. In fact, he left out his role as president when he wrote his own epitaph: “Author of the Declaration of American Independence, Author of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and the Father of the University of Virginia.”

Because Jefferson was a widower as president, he often asked his daughter Martha and family friend Dolley Madison to serve as official hostesses. While visiting Jefferson, the German scientist Baron Alexander von Humboldt came upon a newspaper that included abusive articles about the president. The Baron, aghast, asked why such libels were allowed. Jefferson replied, “Put that paper in your pocket, and should you hear the reality of our liberty, the freedom of the press questioned, show them this paper, and tell them where you found it.”

Learn More

  • Monticello.org
    Diverse collection of information about Jefferson’s life and home, plus the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
  • pbs.org/jefferson
    Photo essays, background information, and classroom activities sponsored by PBS.
  • MillerCenter.org/president/jefferson
    Biographical information, essays, and access to Jefferson’s presidential speeches sponsored by the Miller Center at the University of Virginia.

Field Trips for Thomas Jefferson

Monticello, Home of Thomas Jefferson
Charlottesville, Virginia

Filled with new ideas about architecture after years abroad, Jefferson designed this beautiful example of Roman neoclassicism. Filled with Jefferson’s innovations, it is the only house in the U.S. on the United Nation’s World Heritage List of international treasures.

Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest

Forest, Virginia

Poplar Forest is a beautifully designed Palladian villa that Jefferson intended for his use after his retirement. The original was damaged by fire in 1845; however, it is being carefully restored.

Tuckahoe Plantation, Boyhood Home of Thomas Jefferson
Richmond, Virginia

The boyhood home of Thomas Jefferson, this plantation is the finest existing example of an early 18th century plantation and the only remaining Randolph home found on its original site. A private home, it is open by appointment only.

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