Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
STUDENT AND LAWYER
 THE treaty that closed the American Revolution was
signed at Paris, in 1783. Before the new year the British
soldiers had gone home; the Continental troops had
disbanded; and the American people had begun to test their
ability to use in peace the
freedom that they had declared to be theirs by right.
On that day, long before,
when Patrick Henry offered
his resolutions against the
Stamp Act, he had other
hearers besides the members
of the Virginia House of
Burgesses. Near the door
stood a tall, gawky young
man with sandy hair, freckled
face, and large hands and
feet. He was Thomas Jefferson, who was later to write
America's Declaration of Independence.
Jefferson was the son of a well-to-do Virginia planter.
In 1760, when seventeen years old, he came to
Williamsburg and entered William and Mary College. After
 two years he left the college and took up the study of law.
These were happy years which Jefferson passed in
Williamsburg. Cheery, genial, and fond of fun, he made
many friends. But especially did he enjoy the evenings
of violin playing, story-telling, and laughter spent with
Patrick Henry, the rising young lawyer.
Fortunately for Jefferson, his legal instructor as well
as certain of his college professors were among the ablest
men of the time. He attracted their attention and
wen their friendship because he was interested in his work
and wide awake to everything around him. And under
their influence he learned to think clearly and to express
his views simply, but with force.
In 1767, Jefferson's student life came to an end, and he
began the practice of law, at which he proved himself a
Two rears later, he was chosen a member of the House
of Burgesses. He was still a member when, early in 1775,
the Burgesses met at Richmond. Here he heard Patrick
Henry's second stirring speech—the speech in which he
denounced all efforts at peace and for himself chose liberty
or death. Jefferson was thrilled by his eloquence and
heartily approved Henry's motion that Virginia "be immediately
put into a state of defense."
Later in the same year Jefferson was sent to represent
Virginia at the Continental Congress, which met in
AUTHOR OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
THE crisis had come. England had thoroughly roused
the blood of her American colonists. Fighting had begun,
and dependence on England was no longer to be endured.
 It was time for Ainerica to declare her rights and claim het
freedom. So in June, 1776, John Adams, Benjamin
Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert R. Livingston, and Thomas
Jefferson were appointed to draw up a declaration of the
Thanks to Jefferson's early training, he had developed
into a powerful writer; and it now fell to his lot to draft
paper. He worked
on it for three
weeks. By the end
of June it was
ready, and Jefferson submitted it to
a few days in going
over it, making
changes here and
there. As a whole,
they were well
pleased with Thomas Jefferson's work;
and on July 4, 1776.
the Declaration of
formally adopted. The first to sign it was John Hancock,
the President of Congress. He wrote his name in a clear,
bold hand and, as he put down the pen, exclaimed, "There,
John Bull can read that without spectacles!"
Meanwhile, about the State House throngs packed the
streets. Would Congress adopt the Declaration? If so,
the old State House bell was to announce the fact. While
 the anxious crowd watched and listened, up in the building
a small boy waited for a signal from the doorkeeper. At
last it came. Away to the old bell ringer rushed the boy
shouting, "Ring! ring! ring!" And in an instant the great
bell pealed out the joyous news.
"RING! RING! RING!"
The excitement was intense. Cheer rose after cheer;
and there were handshakings and shouting, and even
tears of joy. Then a copy of the Declaration was sent
to each colony. And everywhere by, fireworks, cannon
firing, and flag flying the American people proclaimed
their new-born freedom.
CROWDS IN BOSTON LISTENING TO
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.
It was the 4th of July, 1776, when this greatest, this
most prized blessing—independence—became the
possession of America. That day marked the founding of the
American nation. And on each 4th of July, we, the
American people, still proclaim our undying love of
independence by patriotic speeches, cannon firing, and
"SAGE OF MONTICELLO" AND PRESIDENT
BUT to return to Thomas Jefferson. Two months
after the adoption of his Declaration of Independence, he
resigned from Congress and went home to Virginia. Some
say that he did this because his wife was ill and needed him;
ot'ners hold that he left Congress because he was anxious
to bring about certain reforms in the laws of Virginia.
His first attack on the laws was on those of inheritance.
At this time a Virginia landowner was obliged to
leave his property to his eldest son. He could not divide
it among all his children, nor could he will it away from
his family without a special act of legislature. This
seemed all wrong and unfair to Thomas Jefferson, and he
succeeded in having these laws annulled.
 Another law that he attacked was that which
required the people of Virginia to pay taxes for the support
of the Established Church. Jefferson felt that no one
should be compelled to attend or support a church against
his will; and this law, too, was abolished through his
For two years he was Governor of Virginia. For five
years he was abroad as envoy to France. On his return
 to America he was appointed Secretary of State under
President Washington. And later, so well had the
American people come to know his value, he was elected
the third President of the United States.
Jefferson was the first President to take the oath of
office in the city of Washington, the new capital of the
country, named for George Washington and founded on
a site of his choice. At the time, Washington was a city
of but a few thousands, and the Capitol was an
This fact must have well suited Thomas Jefferson.
Both Washington and John Adams, Washington's
successor, had felt that the President of the United States
should stand a little apart from the people. They had
kept up a dignity and formality befitting their idea. All
this was very unlike Jefferson. He believed in "Republican
simplicity"; believed that all men are equal, and that
the President should be always ready to exchange a
friendly handshake with anyone. On the day of his
inauguration, dressed in his everyday clothes, he went on
foot to the Capitol.
Thomas Jefferson was President for eight years. One
of the wisest things he did while in office was to buy from
France the land known as Louisiana. This was not
merely the present state of Louisiana; it was a great
stretch of land containing nearly nine hundred thousand
square miles, lying between the Mississippi River and the
Rocky Mountains, and between Canada and the Gulf of
MAP SHOWING THE TERRITORY OF
THE UNITED STATES BEFORE THE LOUISIANA PURCHASE.
All this Jefferson got from Napoleon Bonaparte, at a
veritable bargain. At the time, Napoleon was in sore need
of money; so he was glad to sell Louisiana to America for
fifteen millions of dollars—less than three cents an acre.
Now that Louisiana was the property of the United
 States, Jefferson wanted to know what it was like. Few,
if any, Americans had ever crossed that part of the
country; so no one could tell him. Accordingly he sent out
an expedition under two young men named Lewis and
Clark. They started from the log cabin village of St.
Louis and went by boat up the Missouri River to the
They were away nearly two years and a half, and when
they came back they brought with them tales of adventure and
descriptions of the natural
wealth and beauty of
Louisiana, and a carefully made map of their
MAP SHOWING THE TERRITORY OF THE
UNITED STATES AFTER THE LOUSIANA PURCHASE.
In 1809 President
Jefferson's term ended,
and he went back to Monticello—his beautiful home near
Charlotteville—to live with
his daughter in a house
full of rollicking grandchildren. His wife had
died many vears before; but Jefferson still
kept up the hospitality
of their home, receiving
and entertaining the many who came, drawn either by
friendship or to ask advice of the "Sage of Monticello."
Nor did he lose his keen interest in the welfare of
Virginia. He had long wanted to see a new university
in his State, and during these peaceful years at home he
himself founded the University of Virginia.
 Jefferson lived until 1826. It is a strange coincidence
that his death should have occurred on the 4th of July,
the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration
of Independence. His body was laid in the family
cemetery at Monticello, and on the stone which marked
his grave were written the words, "Here was buried
Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence."