Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was the third American president, being in office during the time of Napoleon. He also wrote the Declaration of Independence. It declared America to be independent of Britain. Among other things it says:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Jefferson goes on to say that governments rule only by consent of the governed. That gives the governed the right to overthrow the government in serious cases. Which is just what Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers did when they overthrew British rule in America.
Jefferson was an intellectual, a child of the Enlightenment who was up on all the latest ideas. Most of his political ideas came from John Locke. He called Locke, Bacon and Newton the three greatest men who ever lived. He had a picture of each one on his wall.
When Jefferson wrote that all men are created equal, he owned 175 black slaves. By 1822 he had 92 more: 267. He only freed 8 of them.
But there is more: after his wife died, Jefferson seems to have had six children by one of his slave women, Sally Hemings, possibly the black half-sister of his dead white wife.
While most consider George Washington and Abraham Lincoln better presidents and better men, Jefferson would make almost anyone’s short list of American presidents. He is on the money and you can see his face on the side of Mount Rushmore along with Lincoln, Washington and Teddy Roosevelt.
When he was president he doubled the size of the country: Napoleon, needing quick money for his wars, sold Louisiana to America. Louisiana in those days was not just a little state next to Texas like it is now: it was all the land from the Mississippi River to the Rocky mountains (except for Texas).
Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark on a three-year journey to find out what was out there. On the way they met Sacajawea.
Jefferson had a vast curiosity. He got every book he could find on America and wrote a book about his own state of Virginia.
He loved inventions. When he saw something new, he figured out how it worked and made one of his own. He invented a new sort of plough and was serious about making and selling nails.
Jefferson designed and built his own house, the Monticello.
Sometimes his intellectual pride got the best of him: He believed in God but not in miracles. Therefore he wrote his own gospel about Jesus without miracles.
Later in life Jefferson was deep in debt. When the British burned down the Library of Congress, Jefferson sold his books to Congress to start a new library.
Both Jefferson and John Adams died on the 50th birthday of the country, July 4th 1826. They were the last two of the Founding Fathers to die. That was the summer Lincoln was 17.