Thomas Jefferson Lesson for Kids: Facts & Biography

Instructor: Jenny Homer

Jenny has masters' degrees in public health and public administration.

His face is on the front of the nickel, and his house is on the back. It's least we could do for Thomas Jefferson, who was president, vice president, and secretary of state of the United States. This lesson talks about his life and accomplishments.

Thomas Jefferson's Early Life

Thomas Jefferson was born in 1743. He grew up in Virginia and went to school to be a lawyer. At age 26, Thomas Jefferson started to build his house, which would become the famous Monticello. It was located on land he got from his father. Like many other landowners at the time, Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. In 1772, he married Martha Wayles Skelton and had several children.

Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson
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Back then, the United States was not a country yet. Instead, there were 13 colonies, or separate areas under the control of the King of Great Britain. Thomas Jefferson was elected to the Continental Congress in 1775.

The Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence
Declaration of Independence

People in the colonies had to pay high taxes to Britain, and other laws made life hard, too. As more people started to believe the colonies should start a new free country, the Continental Congress wanted to write something explaining why they felt this way. Thomas Jefferson wrote the paper, which was called the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and others made some changes.

On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress in Philadelphia adopted the Declaration of Independence, which lists the ways the British government treated the colonists badly and tells why the colonies should be free. One of the most famous lines states that 'all men are created equal'.

Thomas Jefferson as President

Thomas Jefferson had lots of different jobs. He wrote another famous paper in 1777 called the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, where he said people should have the right to practice religion freely. He was Governor of Virginia, a congressman, represented the United States in France, the first secretary of state (for President George Washington), and vice president. In 1801, Jefferson was elected to be the third President of the United States. He was president until 1809.

What's amazing is that someone like Jefferson, who wrote such powerful words, did not like to speak publicly. At one of his first speeches as President, people filled the building to listen to him, but Jefferson spoke so softly that barely anyone could hear it! Most of the time, when he had to speak to Congress, Jefferson asked someone else to talk for him.

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