The Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress

Time Line: The Colonial Period
The Colonial Period | The American Revolution | The Early Republic
April 13 (April 2, Old Style)*, Thomas Jefferson is born at Shadwell in Goochland (later Albemarle) County to Peter Jefferson, a planter and surveyor, and Jane Randolph, daughter of a prominent Virginia family.

*April 2 by the Old (Julian) Calendar, April 13 by the New (Gregorian) Calendar. The New Calendar was adopted by Great Britain and the colonies in 1752. To bring the calendar in line with the solar year, it added 11 days and began the new year in January rather than March.

Jefferson begins attending a local school run by Reverend William Douglas, who is originally from Scotland.

Peter Jefferson, his father, dies.

Jefferson attends the school of Reverend James Maury in Fredericksville Parish, twelve miles from Shadwell. He boards with Maury's family. About this time, he also begins keeping a literary commonplace book, writing extracts in it from classical and English literature and poetry.


Jefferson attends the College of William and Mary. He studies mathematics and philosophy with William Small of Scotland. He learns French and how to play the violin, and gains a reputation for studiousness. He attends dinners with Virginia governor, Francis Fauquier. Jefferson graduates from William and Mary in 1762.

Jefferson begins law studies with George Wythe, his former teacher at the College of William and Mary, and now his mentor in the legal profession.

Jefferson comes of age, inheriting 2,750 acres from his father's estate.

Jefferson passes his bar examination and returns to Shadwell. The courts close during the Stamp Act Crisis.

Spring-Summer, Jefferson, aged twenty-four, makes a tour of Annapolis, Philadelphia, and New York.

Jefferson begins practicing law in Albemarle and Augusta counties.

Jefferson begins building his home Monticello at the top of an 867-foot mountain near Shadwell, inherited from his father.

Jefferson is admitted to the bar of the General Court.

May, Jefferson takes his seat as representative from Albemarle County in the Virginia House of Burgesses. Edmund Pendleton and Jefferson's uncle Peyton Randolph, both prominent planters in the House, act as his mentors. Jefferson serves in the House of Burgesses for Albemarle County until 1776.

February 1, Shadwell, the Jefferson family estate, burns. Most of Jefferson's personal and family papers and books are destroyed.

November, Jefferson takes up residence at Monticello.

January 11, Jefferson marries Martha Wayles Skelton, a widow, aged twenty-three. Her dowry almost doubles his land and slaves. In addition to Monticello, Jefferson's holdings will include several plantations in Albemarle County, and Poplar Forest estate in Bedford County.

September 27, Martha (Patsy) is born. Jefferson and his wife Martha will have six children, only two of which will live to adulthood.

January 14, through the division of the estate of Jefferson's wife's father, John Wayles, Jefferson acquires 135 additional slaves, among these Elizabeth (Betty) Hemings (c1735-1807). Betty Hemings is the daughter of an African slave and an English sea captain and reportedly the mistress of John Wayles and mother of several of his children. Betty Hemings eventually has ten children, among whom are Robert, who works as Jefferson's valet, Martin, who acts as household butler, Sally, who is trained as a lady's maid and becomes Jefferson's mistress, John, who becomes a skilled cabinet-maker, and James Hemings, who is trained in French cooking and cuisine in Paris. With the inheritance from Jefferson's father-in-law also comes £4000 in debts.

The American Revolution

July, Jefferson drafts instructions for the Virginia delegates to the first Continental Congress. In the draft, Jefferson argues that Parliament has no governing rights over the Colonies and asserts that the colonies were independent from their origin. He describes the usurpations of power and deviations from law committed by King George III as well as by Parliament. Jefferson is not present in the Virginia House when his draft instructions are debated. While the House adopts a more moderate position, Jefferson's friends have his instructions published in August, in Williamsburg, as A Summary View of the Rights of British America. The pamphlet is circulated in London as well as in Philadelphia and New York and establishes Jefferson's reputation as a skillful, if radical, political writer.

March 27, Jefferson is elected a delegate to Congress, to replace Peyton Randolph, the former president of Congress, who is now presiding over the Virginia House of Burgesses. Jefferson attends the House of Burgesses in Richmond until his departure for Philadelphia in mid-June.

June 20, Jefferson arrives in Philadelphia as the youngest Virginia delegate to the second Continental Congress. Other Virginia delegates are George Washington, Patrick Henry, Benjamin Harrison, Richard Henry Lee, and Edmund Pendleton. Jefferson is accompanied by Jupiter (d. 1800), his slave and servant since his school days at the College of William and Mary. Jefferson takes up residence on Chestnut Street, has a special writing desk made, and purchases a windsor chair to go with it.

June-July, Jefferson drafts an address titled Declaration of the Causes & Necessity for Taking Up Arms. Jefferson modifies some of the arguments he made earlier in 1774 in A Summary View of the Rights of British America. Continental Congress's Declaration of Causes of Taking Up Arms; Notes and Chronology [mtj1\001\0372-0373] | Continental Congress Declaration of Causes for Taking Up Arms; Drafts [mtj1\001\0377-0382]

July, Jefferson drafts resolutions in response to Lord North's proposal for reconciliation. Draft of Continental Congress Resolutions on Lord North's Conciliatory Proposal; with Amendment by Benjamin Franklin [mtj1\001\0400-0404]

June-July, Jefferson copies out and annotates Benjamin Franklin's draft of the Articles of Confederation, the governing document of the Continental Congress. Thomas Jefferson's Copy of "Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union" [mtj1\001\0359-0367]

June-July, Jefferson makes calculations (or, possibly takes notes from ongoing work in Congress) on the cost of a war with Great Britain. His calculations show that a six-month conflict would cost approximately 3 million dollars. Financial and Military Estimates for Continental Defense, July 2, 1775 [mtj1\001\0375-0376]

August 9, Jefferson, having returned to Virginia, attends the Convention, a common interim form of state government in the early years of the Revolution.

October 1, Jefferson returns to Philadelphia. He serves on several Congressional committees, among which are the Committee on Currency, the Committee on the Business of Congress, and committees addressing petitions and disputes.

December 2, Jefferson proposes a resolution in Congress calling for the exchange of Ethan Allen, captured by the British at Montreal. He also drafts a declaration on the British treatment of Allen in January 1776. Continental Congress to William Howe, Draft of Declaration on the British Treatment of Ethan Allen, January 2, 1776 [mtj1\001\0478-0479]

December, Jefferson returns to Monticello.

January, Jefferson writes an "alternative" history of the Colonies in which he elaborates on what he wrote in 1774 in A Summary View of the Rights of Englishmen. To show that the original English colonists saw themselves from the beginning as independent from King and Parliament, he draws from Richard Hakluyt's famous three-volume The Principal Navigations Voyages Traffiques & Discoveries Made by Sea or Overland to the Remote & Farthest Distant Quarters of the Earth...., first published in London 1598-1600. Historical Notes on Virginia [mtj7\Volume 3]

March 31, Jefferson's mother, Jane Randolph Jefferson, dies.

May 10, Congress passes John Adams's resolution charging the states to write constitutions and to create new, independent state governments. Years later, John Adams describes this action as Congress's substantive declaration of independence, and, at the time, of greater political significance than the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.

May 14, Jefferson arrives back in Philadelphia to attend the second Continental Congress. He remains until September. Richard Henry Lee attends with Jefferson, but former Virginia delegates Edmund Pendleton and Patrick Henry remain in Virginia to attend the state Constitutional Convention. May 15, the Virginia Convention appoints a committee to draft a constitution.

May 23, Jefferson moves to a new residence, the house of Jacob Graff, on the corner of Market and 7th Street, farther out from the city center. He takes his writing desk and windsor chair with him.

May-June, Jefferson writes several drafts of a constitution for Virginia, although he is not a member of the committee assigned to do so. He envisions a popular assembly and a senate drawn from among the assembly's members rather than being popularly elected. Senators will serve for life, though later Jefferson amends it to nine years. In Jefferson's draft constitution, the royal governor is reduced to an administrator serving a 1 year term. Among reforms are an independent judiciary, the extension of suffrage, the gradual abolition of slavery, the appropriation of unsettled western land as freeholds to independent farmers, and fewer obstacles to naturalization of immigrants. Letters to/from Edmund Pendleton, 24 May, and 26 Aug., Pres. of the Convention

June 7, Richard Henry Lee, acting on instructions from the Virginia government, moves a resolution in Congress calling for a complete declaration of the independence.

June 7, Congress appoints a committee to draft the declaration of independence in anticipation of approval of Richard Henry Lee's resolution. The committee includes Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman. The committee prevails on Jefferson to draft the document.
Jefferson writes a draft in two to three days and submits this "original Rough draught" first to John Adams, then to Benjamin Franklin, and two other committee members, who make a total of forty-seven changes to the draft.

June 28, the Committee submits to Congress the emended draft, entitled "A Declaration by the Representatives in General Congress Assembled."

July 1, a vote in Congress on a declaration of independence finds nine states in favor, South Carolina and Pennsylvania opposed, Delaware delegates divided, and New York still without instructions.

July 2, with the arrival of Caesar Rodney to break the Delaware deadlock, and the absence of two opposed Pennsylvania delegates, and a change in position by South Carolina, Lee's resolution on independence passes, 12 to 0, with New York abstaining.

July 1-4, Congress debates the draft declaration, making thirty-nine additional changes. The most significant of these changes are Congress's deletion of Jefferson's arguments holding King George III responsible for the slave trade in the Colonies, and Jefferson's paragraph blaming Parliament and the British people, as well as King George III, for the oppression of slavery, and his strongly worded ending, which Congress replaces with the text of Lee's resolution.

July 3-4, Congress approves these final thirty-nine changes to the Declaration.

Jefferson objects to many of Congress's revisions. During the summer of 1776, Jefferson makes a copy of his original rough draft for himself, without the deletions, which he circulates among friends.

"We Hold These Truth To Be Self-Evident....": Jefferson's "original Rough draught". Top Treasures of the Library of Congress []

July 4, on Congress's orders, John Dunlap of Philadelphia makes printed copies of the Declaration.

July 8, the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence takes place in Philadelphia.

July 9, General George Washington reads his printed copy of the Declaration to his troops in New York. George Washington Papers Time Line: The American Revolution: 1776 []

July 19, Congress orders a parchment copy of "The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America" to be made. This parchment copy is signed by most of the delegates on August 2. Others sign at later dates.

June-August, Jefferson keeps notes on the proceedings in Congress. These notes chronicle Congress's move toward total independence and debates on and passage of the Articles of Confederation. Jefferson maintains in his notes that all but John Dickinson signed the Declaration on the 4th, while other documentary evidence suggests that most signed it on the August 2. Jefferson later sent a copy of these notes to James Madison, Jr., in 1783, and included them notes in his "Autobiography," which he wrote in 1821.

September 9, Congress designates "United States" as the nation's official name.

September 26, Congress appoints Jefferson a commissioner abroad with Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane, but on October 11, Jefferson writes John Hancock, declining. He returns to Virginia where he serves in the House of Delegates.

October, Jefferson and James Madison serve in the Virginia House in Williamsburg, become friends, and begin a lifelong political partnership, exchanging approximately 1200 letters during their lifetime.

Throughout this year, Jefferson serves as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and as a member of the committee to revise Virginia's state laws.

May 16, Jefferson begins a correspondence with John Adams.

June, Jefferson's first and only son dies at age three weeks.

Jefferson continues as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.

August 1, Mary (Polly) is born.


June 1, Jefferson is elected governor of Virginia; the term is one year.

June 18, Jefferson submits to the Virginia House a "Report of the Committee of Revisors." The report includes Jefferson's "Statute for Religious Freedom," a bill for reforming the legal code, especially the application of the death penalty, a bill for the "General Diffusion of Knowledge," establishing a public school system, measures for the expansion of suffrage, and for the abolition of feudal land inheritance laws. Only the last measures for the abolition of primogeniture and entail as forms of land inheritance pass the House. However, in 1785, the House does pass a Statute for Religious Freedom.

Spring, James Monroe begins legal studies with Jefferson.

June 2, Jefferson is re-elected governor of Virginia.

September, Jefferson begins planning an expedition of Virginia's militia, under command of George Rogers Clark, against the British and their Indian allies at Detroit. George Washington Papers Time Line, American Revolution [Link to GW Time Line\American Revolution\1778\"July 4, 1778, George Rogers Clark...."]

December 20, Jefferson sends an answer to a questionnaire from François Barbé de Marbois, secretary to the French legation in Philadelphia. Marbois' questionnaire, sent to all state governors, aims at acquiring historical, geographical, economic, and cultural information on the United States for the French government. After sending the answers to Marbois, Jefferson makes further changes to them in manuscript, and gives a copy to a friend, the Marquis de Chastellux, a French officer serving with the American army. In 1784, Jefferson has 200 copies privately printed in France of what has become his Notes on the State of Virginia. His name is not on it as the author, a not unusual practice then. He distributes the printed copies to French, English, and fellow American friends. LINK? TJ to D'Anmour, November 30, 1780, a Chevalier, french officer with the troops at Baltimore.


January, Jefferson receives on behalf of the state of Virginia, the recently published twenty-eight-volume Encyclopédie, by French philosophe, Denis Diderot, advertised in the Virginia Gazette as the "supreme work of the Enlightenment." The volumes are delivered to Jefferson just before the British invasion of Virginia. He uses them for research in further revisions of his Notes on the State of Virginia, and finally, months later, after receiving a request from the Council, Jefferson reluctantly turns the treasured volumes over to the state government.

January 6-10, Benedict Arnold, having defected to the British, leads an invasion of Virginia, burning Richmond. Jefferson and other government officials are forced to flee the capital.

June 2, Jefferson's term as governor expires, but before a new governor can be elected, a detachment from British General Lord Cornwallis's army attacks Charlottesville, Virginia, and Monticello, Jefferson's home. Jefferson, his family, and friends flee Monticello, just barely escaping capture. The detachment, led by Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, leaves Monticello unharmed, possibly because Jefferson has become renowned for his hospitality to captured Hessian officers on parole and awaiting exchange.

June 12, the Virginia House elects Thomas Nelson, Jr., governor and passes a resolution calling for an inquiry into the adequacy of Jefferson's preparations for defense against British invasion and into his flight from Richmond the previous January. On December 15, the House receives and accepts a committee's report absolving Jefferson of any blame.

This year, Jefferson begins a lifelong friendship with William Short, a relative of Jefferson's wife, Martha.

September 6, Jefferson's wife Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson dies after an illness of several months that followed the birth, May 8, of a daughter, Lucy Elizabeth, her sixth child. Jefferson is inconsolable for some time after her death. In a November 26 letter to the Marquis de Chastellux, a French officer serving with the American army, Jefferson writes that in the wake of his grief, "Your letter recalled to my memory that there were persons still living of much value to me." Thomas Jefferson to Marquis de Chastellux, November 26, 1782.

November 12, Congress appoints Jefferson as an additional commissioner to join John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Henry Laurens in Europe to negotiate a peace treaty with Great Britain.

December 27, Jefferson arrives in Philadelphia to prepare for departure for France. Winter weather delays Jefferson's departure, and he eventually declines the appointment. Congress withdraws it April 2, 1783.


June 6, Jefferson is elected a Virginia delegate to Congress.

November, Jefferson attends Congress at Princeton, and then at Annapolis, where Congress moves the same month.

December, Congress appoints Jefferson, Elbridge Gerry, and James McHenry a committee to arrange the ceremony for Congress's acceptance of George Washington's resignation of his military commission to Congress. George Washington Papers Time Line: The American Revolution

December 22, Jefferson writes his daughter Martha (Patsy), noting that she does not write him every week as he has asked. Jefferson guides his daughter's upbringing closely. In this letter he gives Patsy detailed instructions on her conduct in respect to dress. Thomas Jefferson to Martha Jefferson, December 22, 1783. [mtj1\003\0005-0006\]

The Early Republic |

March 1, Jefferson submits to Congress his "Report of a Plan of Government for the Western Territory," the Ordinance of 1784, which establishes procedures for the entrance of new states. In it, Jefferson proposes that slavery be abolished in new states by 1800. Congress rejects this part of the plan and the revised Ordinance is passed April 23. Jefferson blames southern representatives for Congress's rejection of his original plan. The Ordinance of 1784 is the high point of Jefferson's opposition to slavery. Thereafter his opposition is more muted.

March, Jefferson drafts a report for reform of the United States coinage, aimed at replacing the English system of pounds sterling, shillings, and pence, with a fraction or decimal system, and an American version of the Spanish dollar as the basic unit. The reform does not pass Congress then, but it is adopted in 1786, with some changes, and becomes effective several years later.

May 7, Congress appoints Jefferson minister plenipotentiary to join John Adams and Benjamin Franklin in negotiating treaties of amity and commerce with European nations. Jefferson eventually replaces Benjamin Franklin as minister to France.

June-July, Jefferson travels throughout the eastern states, collecting information on their history, geography, agriculture, and commerce, for his new role as minister in Europe.

July 5, Jefferson sails from Boston for Europe, accompanied by his twelve-year-old daughter Martha (Patsy), and William Short, as personal secretary. James Hemings, his nineteen-year-old slave follows soon after. William Short (1759-1849) is a young relative and protege, who trained as a lawyer with George Wythe and served on the Executive Council of Virginia. James Hemings is the son of Betty Hemings and brother of Sally. Jefferson intends that James Hemings learn the art of French cooking in Paris.

August, Jefferson and his party arrive in Le Havre and travel on to Paris. Jefferson takes up residence first in the Hôtel de Landron and then the Hôtel de Langeac on the Champs-Élysées. David Humphreys joins the household as secretary to all three commissioners, Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams. Jefferson hires Frenchman Adrien Petit to manage the household. About the same time, Abigail Adams, and her children John Quincy and Abigail, arrive in Paris to join John Adams, who will be appointed the first ambassador to the Court of St. James in London.

Fall, Jefferson begins work with Abbé Morellet on a French translation of Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia. Having heard of a bad french translation already in the works, Jefferson hopes to preempt it with his own. However, he is unsatisfied with Morellet's translation, published in 1787 as Obsérvations sur la Virginie.


April-May, John Adams and Jefferson successfully negotiate a loan from Dutch bankers to consolidate United States debts, to pay long overdue salaries to French officer veterans of the American Revolution, and to ransom American captives held by the Algerian and Moroccan regimes. These regimes exact tribute from commercial shipping in the Mediterranean and hold ransom the seaman of those countries unable or unwilling to pay.

July, Jefferson's other, nine-year-old daughter Mary (Polly) arrives in Paris with fourteen-year-old slave, Sally Hemings. They arrive from Virginia in London, where they stay with John and Abigail Adams for a short while before proceeding to Paris.


January 7, Jefferson writes John Sullivan, directing him on how to find and convey to Paris the skeleton and hide of a moose. Jefferson aims to refute famed French naturalist, Georges de Buffon, who argues that nature, animals, and by implication, humans, in the New World, are of a less developed state and smaller stature than those on the European continent. Thomas Jefferson to John Sullivan, January 7, 1786 [mtj1\005\0034-0034]

January-March, Jefferson drafts a proposal to form a concert of powers led by the United States to oppose North African regimes, or the "Barbary Pirates," as they are known, who levy tribute on American and European commercial ships. Friends present his proposal in Congress, but it is rejected because of its expense, as John Adams had predicted to Jefferson.

March-April, Jefferson visits the Adamses in London. John Adams and Jefferson take a tour of the English countryside. During his visit in London, Jefferson is presented at court and snubbed by King George III.

September, Jefferson is introduced to Maria Cosway by the American artist John Trumbull, at the Halle aux Bleds, the French grain market in Paris. She is a talented English artist, raised in Italy, and married to the miniaturist Richard Cosway. A close personal relationship develops.

October 12, after recovering from a broken wrist, Jefferson writes Maria Cosway a carefully crafted letter in which his "Head" debates with his "Heart" the contesting merits of love and pleasure, on one hand, and intellect and rationality, on the other. Jefferson's letterpress copy survives. Thomas Jefferson to Maria Hadfield Cosway, October 12, 1786 (mtj1\006\0469-0480]

October-November, Jefferson learns of "Shay's Rebellion" in western Massachusetts, first from John Adams November 30, and later from John Jay, October 27. The rebellion, led by Daniel Shays, is directed by western debtor farmers against eastern creditors and the courts. Abigail Adams, who regularly corresponds with Jefferson, also writes him about the insurgency, and Jefferson, who is not as alarmed as the Adamses, replies in a February 22, 1787, letter that "I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere." Thomas Jefferson to Abigail Adams, February 22, 1787 [mtj1\006\1251-1252]


March-June, Jefferson travels through the south of France and in northern Italy.

May-September, the Constitutional Convention meets in Philadelphia, presided over by George Washington. Madison has been keeping Jefferson informed of developments, and Jefferson generally supports the effort. Under the Articles of Confederation, the government has the power to negotiate treaties but cannot regulate trade and this has hampered Jefferson's efforts to negotiate commercial treaties in Europe and more particularly with France. In November, Jefferson receives a copy of a draft of the Constitution and generally approves it, but urges Madison and others to add a bill of rights and to limit the number of terms a president can serve.


March-April, Jefferson travels through Holland and central Europe. June 19, he writes his "Hints to Americans Travelling in Europe," for Thomas Lee Shippen and John Rutledge, Jr. (Shippen Family Papers, Library of Congress).


May 5, Jefferson attends the opening of the French Estates General and its debates at Versailles, called in the wake of the crown's increasing fiscal difficulties. Jefferson drafts a charter of rights with Lafayette in June. It serves as the basis of the French Declaration of Rights that Lafayette presents to the National Assembly in July.

July, a series of riots and mob actions, including the storming of the Bastille on July 14, occur in the streets of Paris. August, Lafayette and other French liberals secretly meet at Jefferson's home, the Hôtel de Langeac, just outside the city, to discuss a new French constitution.

September 26, the United States Senate confirms Jefferson's appointment as secretary of state under the administration of George Washington, first president of the United States.

September 28, Jefferson departs for home from the French port of Le Havre on board the Clermont. He does not learn of his appointment as secretary of state until he arrives in Norfolk, Virginia, November 23. On February 14, 1790, he accepts, but, reluctantly, because he had hoped to devote his time to Monticello and his private affairs.


February 22, Jefferson's daughter Martha (Patsy) marries Thomas Mann Randolph, her second cousin, at Monticello. They live at Edgehill, an estate two miles from Monticello.

March 21, Jefferson assumes the duties of secretary of state in New York City where the federal government is currently located. Initially he works cordially with Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton, helping to reduce southern opposition to federal assumption of state debts and Hamilton's plan for funding them, in return for the selection of a site on the Potomac River for the proposed capital city.

July 4, Jefferson submits to Congress his "Report on the subject of measures, weights, and coins," an effort to establish uniform standards between coinage and weight measures. Jefferson is particularly excited by the discovery that the established weight for the American version of the Spanish dollar equals an ounce. Jefferson works out an ideal system of equivalencies between money and weight standards, but it is at odds with that of Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton, whose proposal is based on current business practices.

February 15, Jefferson sends President George Washington, his "Opinion of the Constitutionality of the Bill for Establishing a National Bank," recently proposed by Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton argues that the Constitution provides "implied" powers to establish a Bank. Jefferson disagrees, and he sees Hamilton's plans for a national bank, the development of manufactures, and other related financial policies, as creating conditions for the accumulation of power and corruption identified with the old courts and monarchies of Great Britain and Europe.

May 8, Jefferson explains to President Washington his involvement in the publication of Thomas Paine's new book The Rights of Man. Jefferson had written an endorsement which had been published in the preface to the book that year. In his endorsement, Jefferson describes current "heresies" against true republicanism, and readers correctly assume the remarks are aimed at John Adams. Newspaper wars ensue between the pro-Jefferson National Gazette and pro-Federalist Gazette of the United States. Madison writes on behalf of the anti-federalists or Republican cause and Hamilton responds, accusing Jefferson of using the National Gazette to attack the Constitution.

May-June, Jefferson and James Madison, Jr., embark on a botanical tour of the northern states, departing from New York. Hamilton and his allies interpret the trip as politically motivated--a journey for the sounding out and gathering in of potential allies in the growing conflict between Republicans and Federalists.

October 31, Philip Freneau publishes the first issue of the National Gazette in the current capital city, Philadelphia. He has established the newspaper at the urging of Jefferson, who also gives Freneau a clerkship in the State Department. The newspaper will represent the views of Jefferson and his supporters who oppose Federalist policies of a national bank, an alliance with Great Britain, and the encouragement of manufactures.

May 23, Jefferson sends President Washington a lengthy letter detailing his objections to Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton's programs. Washington recopies the letter himself and without disclosing its author, sends it to Hamilton for his response. August 23, Washington writes Jefferson from Mount Vernon, "How unfortunate, and how much is it to be regretted then, that whilst we are encompassed on all sides with avowed enemies and insidious friends, that internal dissensions should be harrowing and tearing our vitals." He writes a similar letter to Alexander Hamilton August 26. George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, August 23, 1792 [] George Washington to Alexander Hamilton, August 26, 1792 []

Fall, in one of the first openly partisan electoral contests, George Clinton is supported by allies of Jefferson for the office of governor of New York, while Hamiltonians support John Jay. Clinton wins. Officials canvassing votes nullify some of those for Jay.


January 3, Jefferson writes William Short, United States chargé d'affaires in Paris, reproving him for expressing dismay at the increasing violence of the French Revolution. Lafayette has been arrested for treason and will spend five years in jail, and others of Jefferson's Paris acquaintance have been beheaded. But Jefferson, while expressing sorrow at the losses, argues that such sacrifices of "innocent blood" are a small price to pay for the liberty he believes will follow the excesses of the Revolution. Thomas Jefferson to William Short, January 3, 1793.

April 28, Jefferson, as secretary of state, writes an opinion for President Washington arguing that accepting the new French minister to the United States, Edmund Genet, is an acceptance of the Gironde, the new revolutionary government in Paris. Jefferson argues that the current French government is continuous with that of Louis XVI which preceded it, and with whom the United States made a formal treaty of alliance during the American Revolution, in 1778. Hamilton argues that the United States's treaty and formal relationship was with the monarchy of Louis XVI and that the relationship ended when Louis was dethroned, imprisoned, and then executed January 21, 1793. The relationship must therefore be renegotiated.

Mid-August, Jefferson, as secretary of state, writes a justification for the United States government to request the recall of Edmund Genet, minister from France. Since his arrival in Philadelphia May 16, Genet compromised United States neutrality in the conflict between France and Great Britain. He has recruited American seamen and ships in privateering ventures and has attempted to organize a land expedition against Spanish-held territories in the southwest. Washington strongly opposes any involvement in the European conflict and criticizes private political societies, the democratic-republican clubs, that have sprung up in the United States in support of France. Genet plans to appeal to Americans over the head of President Washington. Eventually even Jefferson becomes disillusioned with Genet and concludes that he has gone too far. In mid-August, the Jacobins gain control of the government and many Girondists are imprisoned. Although recalled, Genet, a Girondist, dares not return to France, and he eventually receives asylum in the United States, settles on a farm in upstate New York, and marries Cornelia Clinton, the daughter of Governor George Clinton.

November 16, Jefferson writes Eli Whitney, telling him that he approves of his efforts to win a patent for his cotton gin.

December, Jefferson, who has been at Monticello, returns to Philadelphia where a yellow fever epidemic, one of the worst of the century, is raging. Jefferson resigns his position as secretary of state, effective December 31.


Winter-Summer, Jefferson returns to Monticello and introduces a seven-step crop rotation plan to restore the soil, long depleted by tobacco, on his lands in Albemarle and Bedord Counties, Virginia. He begins borrowing money from William Short to maintain a nailery on Mulberry Row at Monticello. There he supervises the manufacture of nails by his teenage slaves, among whom are Wormley Hughes, Burwell Colbert, and Joe Fossett. He establishes a sawmill and devotes himself to the renovation of Monticello. In 1799, Jefferson will return to the cultivation of the cash-crop, tobacco, because of his mounting debts.

July, Jefferson learns of the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania against the excise tax on whiskey, which is the area's main form of grain export. The excise tax is part of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton's plans for funding federal assumption of state debts from the American Revolution. George Washington and Hamilton march with the federal and militia armies against the rebellion, which soon dissolves.

October, James Madison, Jr., visits Monticello to discuss the Jay Treaty with Jefferson. They are both opposed to its passage. The Treaty, negotiated with Great Britain by John Jay, addresses issues left unresolved since the 1783 Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolution. The Jay Treaty provides for compensation to British creditors by American debtors, many of whom are Virginians, and it arranges the evacuation of British troops still occupying northwestern posts in the United States. However, it fails to address the all-important issue of American trading rights, especially in the British West Indies, and leaves the problem of the impressment of American seamen by the British navy unresolved. The treaty is immensely unpopular and furthers the development of party politics. The Senate narrowly ratifies it in April 1796.


February 5, Jefferson frees James Hemings, as promised in a written agreement made September 15, 1793. The agreement promised Hemings his freedom if he trained a replacement in the art of French cooking. Having gained his freedom, Hemings moves to Philadelphia, but in 1801, returns to Monticello to work for wages as Jefferson's chef. He stays only briefly, however, and several months later apparently commits suicide at the age of thirty-six. The September 15, 1793, written agreement can be found in Jefferson's Farm Book, which is at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

April 24, Jefferson writes Philip Mazzei in Tuscany. Mazzei is an Italian merchant, physician, and writer, and a former neighbor of Jefferson's in Virginia, who had advised him on how to grow grapes and olives on his land in Virginia. In this letter Jefferson writes that an "Anglican monarchical & aristocratical party has sprung up" in the United States whose aim is to return the country to "forms" of British government. He refers to great heroes of the Revolution who have "gone over to these heresies," "Samsons in the field & Solomons in the council." A newspaper in Florence obtains a transcription of the letter, which ends up translated back into English and published in the United States, May 14, 1797, in Noah Webster's Federalist newspaper Minerva. George Washington assumes Jefferson includes him among the "Samsons" and ends all correspondence with him.

December 7, Jefferson is elected vice president, having received the second largest number of electoral votes. John Adams is elected president.

March 4, Jefferson is inaugurated as vice-president of the United States and begins gathering information on rules of parliamentary practice. As vice-president, Jefferson presides over the Senate.

October 13, Jefferson's daughter Mary (Polly) marries her cousin John Wayles Eppes.


June-July, Congress passes what are collectively known as the Alien and Sedition Acts. These acts, the Naturalization Act, the Alien Act, the Sedition Act, and the Alien Enemies Act, are passed by Congress in the midst of a quasi-war with France and heightened public criticism of government foreign policy. Americans learn of the "XYZ Affair," in which French minister Talleyrand attempts to extort money from American envoys sent to negotiate a reduction in hostilities between the United States and the French government under Napoleon Bonaparte. Popular outcry focuses on lack of action by the Adams administration, which is striving to avoid a costly war. The Sedition Act, making it illegal to criticize publicly the government or its officials, is most controversial of the Acts.

September-October, Jefferson and Madison consult on how to block the Alien and Sedition Acts at the state level. Jefferson, who is still vice president, privately drafts resolutions against the Alien and Sedition Acts and has them introduced into the Kentucky legislature. James Madison, Jr., drafts similar resolutions for introduction in the Virginia legislature. The Kentucky legislature passes Jefferson's resolutions in November, declaring the Acts void, and the Virginia legislature passes Madison's in December, declaring the Acts unconstitutional.


March 1, Jefferson leaves Philadelphia for Monticello, arriving there on the 8th. Throughout the coming year he devotes himself to the development of Monticello. In November he travels to the new federal city, Washington, D.C., which he plays a key role in designing.

December 14, George Washington dies at Mount Vernon.


February, while in Philadelphia, Jefferson learns that his lifelong body servant and slave, Jupiter, has died. Jupiter had fallen ill but insisted on accompanying Jefferson in his travels. Unable to continue, and left in Fredericksburg, Virginia, to recuperate, Jupiter had ultimately returned home to Monticello, where he died.

July, Jefferson works on his Manual of Parliamentary Practice, which, published in 1801, will become the procedural handbook for the Senate. About twelve years after Jefferson's death in 1826, the House adopts it as well. While undergoing revision and republication in successive editions, it remains in use today.

June, the United States capital is moved from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C.

June 30, a false report is published in Baltimore and taken up elsewhere throughout the country that Jefferson is dead.

December 3, electors meet in their various states and cast votes for the next president of the United States to succeed John Adams. A tie vote between Jefferson and Aaron Burr does not become known till the end of the month. This throws the election into the House which addresses the matter February 11, 1801.


February 11, the elector's votes for president are officially opened and counted in Congress, which already knows that the vote is tied between Jefferson and Aaron Burr. The House meets separately and balloting continues for six days. February 17, on the thirty-sixth ballot, Jefferson is elected president, and Aaron Burr, the runner-up, becomes vice-president.

March 2, President John Adams appoints sixteen federal judges in a series of "midnight appointments," after the Judiciary Act, establishing courts between the Supreme and the federal district courts, becomes effective February 13. Republicans see it as a Federalist attempt to gain control of the federal court system in the last hours of Adams administration. Adams also appoints John Marshall, an avowed Federalist, chief justice of the Supreme Court. Jefferson and Adams cease correspondence thereafter and do not resume it until 1812. The Judiciary Act is repealed March 8, 1801.

March 4, Jefferson is the first president inaugurated in the new capital city. He walks to his inauguration from his current residence, Conrad and McCunn's boarding house, a very short distance from the Capitol Building. "We are all republicans, we are all federalists," Jefferson says in his Inaugural Address. In Jefferson's handwritten copy, "republicans" and "federalists" are both lowercased. In the National Intelligencer, where the Address is published the same day, the terms are capitalized as would be appropriate for two political parties. In the weeks that follow, Jefferson sends copies of his Inaugural Address to some of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Rush, and Samuel Adams, and to John Dickinson and Nathaniel Niles.

May, the Pasha of Tripoli declares war on the United States because it has been paying Tripoli less tribute than it pays Algiers. Tripoli is one of several North African regimes collecting tribute from commercial shipping in the Mediterranean. May 20, Jefferson sends a naval squadron to the area. In 1804, Stephen Decatur rescues American seamen held in the Bay of Tripoli on their captured ship the Philadelphia. The naval war ends shortly thereafter.

June 2, Jefferson pays Martha Washington a visit of condolence at Mount Vernon.

January 1, Jefferson replies to a letter from Connecticut's Danbury Baptist Association. In his reply Jefferson explains his position on the issue of government establishment of religion. Exhibitions: Religion and the Founding of the American Republic. Part VI: Religion and the Federal Government. September, James Callender makes the accusation that Thomas Jefferson has "for many years past kept, as his concubine, one of his own slaves," Sally Hemings. It is published in the Richmond Recorder that month, and the story is soon picked up by Federalist presses around the country. Callender, a Republican, has previously been an avid investigator of Federalist scandals. In 1798, Jefferson had helped pay for the publication of Callender's pamphlet, "The Prospect Before Us, which claimed to expose John Adams as a monarchist. However, when Jefferson, now president, fails to reward Callender with the office of Richmond, Virginia, postmaster, Callender turns on him.
Monticello: The Home of Thomas Jefferson. The Monticello website presents articles on Jefferson, Sally Hemings, and the Hemings family. Among the articles: "Founding Father," by Eric S. Lander and Joseph J. Ellis, Nature, November 5, 1998.

January 18, Jefferson asks Congress for funds for an expedition to explore the Mississippi River and beyond in search of a route to the Pacific. Meriwether Lewis, Jefferson's private secretary, begins planning the expedition, which forms in late 1803. April 30, Robert Livingston, ambassador to France, and James Monroe, special envoy, conclude a treaty of cession in Paris, in which the United States purchases from France the whole of the Louisiana territory for fifteen million dollars. The purchase, approximately 800,000 square miles comprising the Mississippi River valley and most of the present-day midwest, almost doubles the size of the United States. Jefferson's original expectation was that they might persuade the French to yield a portion of the Mississippi River valley for ten million dollars. However, Emperor Napoleon of France has just lost an army and the island of Santo Domingo in the Caribbean to Touissaint L'ouverture, leader of a slave insurrection, and he is no longer interested in maintaining a French foothold in North America. He offers the United States the whole of the territory.

July 4, news of the purchase of the Louisiana territory is announced in the United States. Jefferson drafts an amendment that if ratified would retroactively make the purchase of the Louisiana territory constitutional. The draft contains measures for the removal of Indian tribes to the other side of the Mississippi River and prohibits white settlement above the 33rd parallel. Draft of Constitutional Amendment Incorporating Louisiana Territory into the United States [mtj1\003\0042-0043]

October, a special session of Congress dispenses with Jefferson's draft amendment and ratifies the purchase of the Louisiana territory. Congress also passes legislation giving Jefferson authority over the provisional governments established there.

April 17, Jefferson's daughter Mary (Polly) Jefferson Eppes dies from complications in childbirth. She is twenty-five years old. Abigail Adams, learning of Jefferson's loss, writes him a letter of condolence. June 13, Jefferson responds to her letter and a correspondence follows. However, it soon ceases when political differences on old issues resurface: Jefferson's support of James Callender's pamphlet criticizing Adams in 1798, and John Adams's appointment of "midnight judges" during the last weeks of his presidency in 1801.

May, Lewis and Clark's expedition departs up the Missouri River, not to return until September 18, 1806.

July 12, Alexander Hamilton is killed by Vice-President Aaron Burr in a duel at Weehawken, New Jersey.

November, Jefferson is re-elected president. He receives the votes of all state electors except those of Connecticut, Delaware, and two electors from Maryland. George Clinton is his vice-president.

November, Jefferson begins planning an expedition up the Red River to Spanish territory in the southwest.

March 4, Jefferson is inaugurated as president, serving a second term.

April 7, Lewis and Clark depart Fort Mondon, North Dakota, for the Pacific. They report to Jefferson on the findings of the first year of their expedition.

June 4, a peace treaty is signed with Tripoli, ending the Mediterranean naval war between the two countries.

August-October, Zebulon Pike begins expedition to the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Thomas Freeman accepts Jefferson's invitation to head the Red River expedition.


February-March, Joseph H. Daveiss, a Kentucky Federalist, writes Jefferson several letters warning him of possible conspiratorial activities by Aaron Burr. Daveiss's July 14 letter to Jefferson flatly states that Burr plans to provoke a rebellion in Spanish-held parts of the west, to join them to areas in the southwest, and thereby form an independent nation under his, Burr's, rule. Similar accusations are appearing against local Republicans in a Frankfurt, Kentucky, newspaper, Western World, and Jefferson dismisses Daveiss's accusations against Burr, a Republican, as politically motivated.

April 19, Jefferson appoints James Monroe and William Pinckney as joint commissioners to Great Britain. British warships have been boarding and searching American ships and seizing American as well as British seamen, claiming they are British deserters. Jefferson hopes to resolve the issue and maintain American neutrality in the conflict between Great Britain and France.

July, Zebulon Pike begins expedition up the Arkansas River.

September 25, Lewis and Clark return to St. Louis.

September-October, Jefferson receives further information from a variety of sources in Pennsylvania and New York, from Generals William Eaton and James Wilkinson, that Aaron Burr is organizing a military expedition against Spanish possessions, with the purpose of separating western territories from the United States. Eaton, a veteran of the recent Tripolitan War, claims Burr tried to recruit him. Wilkinson, commander of United States military in the west, provides information about the conspiracy after having become implicated in it himself. He does not name Burr specifically.

November 27, Jefferson issues a proclamation declaring that "sundry persons, citizens of the U.S. or resident within the same, are conspiring & confederating...against the dominions of Spain," and requiring all military and civil officials of all states and territories of the United States to prevent "the carrying on such expedition or enterprise by all lawful means within their power."


January 18, Aaron Burr is captured near New Orleans. He escapes but is recaptured and imprisoned. In April, Burr is charged with and tried for treason in a Richmond federal circuit court presided over by John Marshall. Burr is acquitted. Later, with other charges pending, Burr escapes to England.

March, the Monroe-Pinckney Treaty between Great Britain and the United States, negotiated a year ago, is made public in Washington. It does not include any guarantees against impressment. However, the British have offered informal assurances. Jefferson finds the Treaty unacceptable and the Senate refuses to ratify it. Secretary of State James Madison suggests defusing the situation by no longer allowing British seamen to serve on American trading ships.

June 22, the British warship Leopard attacks the American ship Chesapeake off the Virginia coast because its captain refused to allow the British to board and search for deserters. Three American seamen are killed and eighteen wounded. The British force a boarding and remove four alleged deserters. After learning of the attack June 25, Jefferson calls an emergency cabinet meeting.

July, Jefferson and his cabinet release a proclamation closing American ports to all British ships, except for those with emergencies or on diplomatic missions. The Revenge will carry an ultimatum to Great Britain. Meanwhile, state governors are to call up troops for the federal army.

October-December, James Monroe's further negotiations with Great Britain on the boarding and searching of American ships and other issues fail. In December, Jefferson learns, as the war between Great Britain and Frances escalates, that Napoleon will extend his blockade to American shipping and authorize French seizure of American ships.

December 14, the Nonimportation Act becomes effective, and on December 18, the Senate passes the Embargo Act. The Nonimportation Act was drafted in 1806, but Congress has awaited the outcome of negotiations before making it effective. The Embargo Act closes all American ports to foreign trade. Only coastal trade is allowed. In 1808, further measures tighten the Embargo Act and prohibit exports by land. Opposition to the Embargo Act is especially strong among New England Federalist Merchants.


April 19, Jefferson declares the Lake Champlain region to be in a state of insurrection because of its outright violations of the Embargo Act.

November 8, Jefferson calls for an increase in domestic manufactures in his Annual Message to Congress. He cites the beneficial expansion of manufacturing while the Embargo Act was in effect.

December 7, James Madison, Jr., is elected president.


March 1, Jefferson signs the Non-Intercouse Act which effectively repeals the Embargo Act of 1807.

March 4, Jefferson retires from public office, and James Madison is inaugurated president. Jefferson leaves Washington and returns to his home, Monticello, in Virginia. He never leaves Virginia again.

July 15, John Adams writes Thomas Jefferson, breaking a decades-long silence between the former friends. Adams argues that it would be a shame for them to die without having explained themselves to each other. In the three-year correspondence that follows, Adams and Jefferson review the events of the Revolution and range over a variety of political and philosophical issues.

February 20, Jefferson's bill for the establishment of free public education in Virginia is defeated in the state legislature. September 21, Jefferson offers for sale his library of 9-10,000 volumes to the federal government. The government's own library has recently been lost in August when the British burned federal buildings in Washington, D.C. January, 1815, Congress purchases Jefferson's library for $23,950 and it is shipped to Washington by wagon in May. Jefferson's library becomes the foundation for the collections of the Library of Congress.

January 9, Jefferson writes Charles Thomson that an "acquaintance of fifty-two years...calls for an interchange of notice now and then, that we remain in existence, the monuments of another age.... More specifically, Jefferson tells his old friend of his work on what will become "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth," a volume of clippings Jefferson has been making from different language editions of the New Testament, creating a "paradigma" of what he considers the moral teachings of Jesus.


October 6, the cornerstone is laid for Central College, which will later become the University of Virginia.

February 4, Jefferson writes an introduction for the "Anas," a collection of letters, confidential notes, and reports written while he was secretary of state. He has had them bound in three quarto volumes. His grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, who inherits Jefferson's papers, gives them the name of "Anas," the Greek plural of the suffix employed to form the term "Jeffersoniana."

August 1-4, Jefferson chairs a meeting of commissioners at Rockfish Gap, Virginia, to plan the University of Virginia. Jefferson writes the commissioner's report. On January 25, 1819, the Virginia state legislature charters the University.


April 22, Jefferson writes John Holmes, criticizing the Missouri Compromise, which maintains the balance of free and slave states in the Union by admitting Maine with Missouri. In 1819, a bill to admit Missouri to the Union was before Congress when a New York representative proposed an amendment prohibiting slavery in the new state. Though this measure did not pass, Jefferson sees the debate surrounding the Compromise as an example of unprofitable northern interference in a southern institution. He has completely withdrawn from his earlier calls for abolition and views it as so complex a problem as to be intractable and therefore best left to the next generation. Jefferson describes the Missouri Compromise as a "fire bell in the night."

January-July, Jefferson works on and off on an autobiographical essay. He is seventy-seven.

April, Jefferson prepares instructions for recruiting faculty in Europe for the University of Virginia.

November 3-15, Lafayette, visiting America, is feted at the University of Virginia and visits Jefferson at Monticello.

July 4, Jefferson dies shortly after 12noon, on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. He is eighty-three years old. Several hours later John Adams dies in Massachusetts. The last letter Jefferson wrote to John Adams was on March 23.

January 27, Monticello, its furnishings, and Jefferson's slaves are sold in an executor's sale. One hundred and thirty slaves are sold at auction. During his lifetime, Jefferson distributed substantial property to his heirs. However, he died more than $100,000 in debt.

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