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Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence (1776) and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom (1777), the third President of the United States (1801–1809) and founder of the University of Virginia (1819). He was an influential Founding Father and an exponent of Jeffersonian democracy.
At the beginning of the American Revolution, Jefferson served in the Continental Congress, representing Virginia. He then served as the wartime Governor of Virginia (1779–1781), barely escaping capture by the British in 1781. Just after the war ended, from mid-1784 Jefferson served as a diplomat, stationed in Paris, initially as a commissioner to help negotiate commercial treaties. In May 1785, he became the United States Minister to France. He was the first United States Secretary of State (1790–1793).
During the administration of President George Washington, Jefferson advised against a national bank and the Jay Treaty. Upon leaving office, with his close friend James Madison he organized the Democratic-Republican Party to oppose Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton's policies, especially his desire to create a national bank. He and Madison secretly wrote the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, which attempted to nullify the Alien and Sedition Acts and formed the basis of States' rights.
A leader in The Enlightenment, Jefferson was a polymath who spoke five languages and was deeply interested in science and political philosophy. While not an orator he was an indefatigable letter writer and was acquainted with many influential people in America and Europe. His views on slavery were complex, and changed over the course of his life. He was a leading American opponent of the international slave trade, and presided over its abolition in 1807. Jefferson has often been rated by historians as one of the greatest U.S. presidents, though in recent decades scholars have tended to be more negative.
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