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Thomas Jefferson
July 4, 1826 Thomas Jefferson dies on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which he wrote.
  Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was the third President of the United States. He expanded American borders with the Lousiana Purchase, funded the exploration of the West (Lewis and Clark). and dramatically expanded the power of the Presidency.

Jefferson's first major contribution to the United States was its birth certificate, the Declaration of Independence. Originally selected as an alternate to the First Continental Congress, he was chosen to be a member of the committee to write the Declaration by the Second Continental Congress. The committee decided to allow Jefferson, already a well-known and widely published author, a free hand in writing the document. Borrowing from English and French philosophy, including John Locke's "tabula rasa," (All men are created equal), Jefferson completed the document in less than a month.

Minor edits were then made by the committee (mostly James Monroe and Benjamin Franklin), before the document was presented to the Continental Congress. Following a vote on July 2, 1776 the document was sent to a printer and signed by most delegates on July 4. Copies were then sent to all colonies. Georgia received her copy last, on August 8.

Following a term as governor of Virginia (1780-1781), which saw him withdraw from Richmond (the capital) upon the approach of British troops, he retired to his beloved Monticello. The death of his wife in 1782 left him a life-long widower. Still, he can indirectly be credited with the establishment of the dollar as our form of currency, the outright ban of slavery in the Northwest Territories, and an early, if not the first, excavation of a Woodland Indian-era mound. From 1784 until 1789 he served as ambassador to France and was out of the country when the U. S. Constitution was written, although many people beleive he had a hand in the document.

Thomas Jefferson was the first Secretary of State of the United States, serving President Washington from 1789 until 1795. He ran for President in 1796 and came in second behind John Adams. Under the rules at the time he served as Vice President (1797 - 1801).

The Election of 1800 represented an attempt to organize two parties (Federalist and Democratic-Republican) with the major discussions centering on the Alien and Sedition Acts and internal improvements. Jefferson ran with Aaron Burr and John Adams ran with Charles Pinckney. Burr, who was running for Vice President, ended with the same number of votes as Jefferson, so the tied election ended in the House of Representatives. Finally, on February 17, 1801, the House chose Jefferson.

Adams, however, created an early crisis for Jefferson by appointing the "Midnight Judges." Congress created 16 federal judgeships which Adams filled just before midnight on his last day in office. Jefferson did not want to recognize the judges. This led to Marbury v. Madison, establishing the principle of judicial review. It was the first time the Supreme Court found a law passed by Congress to be unconstitutional.

The Barbary Wars represented a second challenge to the new president. Muslims were demanding tribute to prevent war, which Jefferson was unwilling to pay, resulting in pirate attacks on U. S. merchant vessels. Over the next four years naval battles were fought, ending in 1805 when the United States had the power to protect its merchants vessels.

One of the first major decisions under Jefferson was the Compact of 1802. The state of Georgia relinquished western lands to the federal government in exchange for removal of Indian tribes within Georgia. In later years George Troup and others used this to try to force the U. S. government to move the Cherokee west.

On April 30, 1803 Jefferson secured the Lousiana Purchase from the French for 60 million francs ( about $15 million), essentially doubling the size of the United States. On June 20, 1803 he wrote Meriwether Lewis with instructions on the exploration of the newly expanded western United States.

In 1804, the first election held under the 12th Amendment, Jefferson easily defeated Charles Pinckney of the dying Federalist Party. In 1807 the U. S. Congress came up with the Embargo Act of 1807.

For many years he was president of the American Philosophical Society, founded by his old friend, Benjamin Franklin. Georgian Joseph Habersham served as his Postmaster General during his first year in office. Jefferson County, Georgia is named in his honor.

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