Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) was born in Virginia into a wealthy and socially prominent family. After attending the College of William and Mary, he went on to study law. At the age of twenty-six, Jefferson began building Monticello. Three years later, he married Martha Wayles Skelton. The couple had six children, two of whom survived to adulthood. Considered eloquent in his writing, Jefferson took on much of the writing needed by the Virginia House of Burgesses and the Continental Congress, both of which he was a member. In 1776, the thirty-three-year-old Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence. From 1779 to 1781, Jefferson served as governor of Virginia. He temporarily retired from public life after his term as governor, returning to public life in 1784 as a diplomat serving in France. In 1790, Jefferson was appointed secretary of state in President Washington's cabinet but resigned in 1793 over a disagreement with Alexander Hamilton. As political disagreements continued to polarize the young government, Jefferson found himself leading those who sympathized with the revolutionary cause in France. In 1800, Jefferson was elected president in a tie vote that ironically was decided by Alexander Hamilton. In 1809, after two terms as president, Jefferson returned to his home in Monticello, where he developed, among other projects, plans for the University of Virginia. In addition, he sold his collection of books to the government to form the basis of the Library of Congress.
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