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The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America

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☮ The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America by Thomas Jefferson ☮ Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, at Shadwell, a plantation on a large tract of land near present-day Charlottesville, Virginia. His father, Peter Jefferson (1707/08-57), was a successful planter and surveyor and his mother, Jane Randolph Jefferson (1720-76), came from a prominent Virginia family. Thomas was their third child and eldest son; he had six sisters and one surviving brother.

In 1775, with the American Revolutionary War recently underway, Jefferson was selected as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress. Although not known as a great public speaker, he was a gifted writer and at age 33, was asked to draft the Declaration of Independence (before he began writing, Jefferson discussed the document’s contents with a five-member drafting committee that included John Adams and Benjamin Franklin). The Declaration of Independence, which explained why the 13 colonies wanted to be free of British rule and also detailed the importance of individual rights and freedoms, was adopted on July 4, 1776.

In the presidential election of 1796, Jefferson ran against John Adams and received the second-highest amount of votes, which, according to the law at the time, made him vice president.

Jefferson was sworn into office on March 4, 1801; he was the first presidential inauguration held in Washington, D.C. (George Washington was inaugurated in New York in 1789; in 1793, he was sworn into office in Philadelphia, as was his successor, John Adams, in 1797.) Instead of riding in a horse-drawn carriage, Jefferson broke with tradition and walked to and from the ceremony.

Jefferson died at age 83 at Monticello on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Coincidentally, John Adams, Jefferson’s friend, former rival and fellow signer of the Declaration of Independence, died the same day. Jefferson was buried at Monticello. However, due to the significant debt the former president had accumulated during his life, his mansion, furnishing and slaves were sold at auction following his death. Monticello was eventually acquired by a nonprofit organization, which opened it to the public in 1954.

Jefferson remains an American icon. His face appears on the U.S. nickel and is carved into stone at Mount Rushmore. The Jefferson Memorial, near the National Mall in Washington, D.C., was dedicated on April 13, 1943, the 200th anniversary of Jefferson’s birth.


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