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Thomas Jefferson


"To preserve the freedom of the human mind then and freedom of the press, every spirit should be ready to devote itself to martyrdom; for as long as we may think as we will, and speak as we think, the condition of man will proceed in improvement."

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Attribution: Letter to William Green Mumford—Merrill D. Peterson, Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation, p. 616 (1970)

Date: June 18, 1799

Thomas Jefferson


3rd President of the United States (1801–9), author of the Declaration of Independence. Born April 13, 1743, at Shadwell in Goochland (now in Albemarle) County, VA. After graduating from the College of William and Mary in 1762 he studied law. As a delegate to the Second Continental Congress (1775–76), he served as a member of the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence. Except for minor alterations by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin and some others made on the floor of Congress, that document was wholly the work of Jefferson. In 1779, Jefferson succeeded Patrick Henry as governor of Virginia. In 1800 Jefferson tied with Aaron Burr in the presidential election but was elected after a long deadlock by the House of Representatives. Jefferson was the first President inaugurated in Washington, D.C., a city he had helped to plan. After 1809, Jefferson retired at Monticello. During these years he was able to help found of the University of Virginia. President of the American Philosophical Society (1797–1815), Jefferson was a scientist, an architect, and a philosopher-statesman, vitally interested in literature, the arts, and every phase of human activity.

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