Law Hall of Fame logoAmerican president and author of the the Declaration of American Independence.

Jefferson was born in Virginia and became a lawyer.

Eventually turning his attention to politics, Jefferson penned a series of articles which were critical of the authority of the British King over his fellow American citizens:

"The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time. The hand of force (the British) may destroy, but cannot disjoin them."

And:

"A little rebellion now and then is a good thing. As necessary in the political world as storms in the physical."

Thomas JeffersonHe studied at the College of William and Mary and at the age of 23, he was admitted to the bar of the colonial court of Virginia (1767). For seven years, he practised law in Virginia, handling over a thousand cases, until the revolutionary war shut down the courts of justice.

During his time as a practising lawyer, William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England made their first appearance in the colonies and the law students flocked to the publication, much to Jefferson's dismay. Jefferson thought that too many lawyers and law students were becoming "Tories" because of Blackstone, taking Blackstone's book to be other than the generalization that it was; studying it as if it were all-inclusive.

In 1774, Thomas Jefferson sold his Virginia law practise and by 1776, he was in Philadelphia where he was appointed to chair a group of five which drafted the Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson then returned to govern the new state of Virginia where he introduced a series of legal reforms.

Many of his reforms were ahead of his time such as proposing a tax-based free system of education and public libraries. His bill to allow complete religious freedom met with much resistance but finally passed.

He said:

"All men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions on matters of religion. The same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."

He was elected to the American Congress. Amongst his achievements was a bill which rejected the English Pound as currency and replaced it with an American dollar.

He became the Third President of the USA in 1801 and oversaw the purchase of the 800,00- square mile Louisiana Territory from France in 1803 for $15-million.

Jefferson had the finest private library in the world. In 1815, he sold his 6,000 volume collection to the Government for $23K, which then formed the basis of the fledging Library of Congress.

He died on July 4, 1826, only a few hours before his friend and colleague in the great adventure of the United States of America, John Adams.

In 1962, speaking to a group of Nobel prize-winners, John F. Kennedy remarked:

"I think it's the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever gathered together at the White House - with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."

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