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"Information is the currency of democracy." - Thomas Jefferson

Thomas JeffersonBefore Thomas Jefferson died at the age of 83 he wrote his own tombstone epitaph listing the things that he considered his major accomplishments.

It reads:

Here Was Buried Thomas Jefferson
Author of the Declaration of American Independence
Of The Statute of Virginia For Religion Freedom
And Father of the University of Virginia
Born April 2, 1743
Died July 4, 1826

In addition to the above accomplishments, before becoming a member of the Continental Congress and drafting the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia plantation owner served in local government as a magistrate, county lieutentant and member of the House of Burgesses - which was established in Jamestown, Virginia as the first assembly of elected representatives of English colonists in North America.

During and after the Revolutionary War, and before becoming President, he held a number of political positions during and after the war including U.S. Minister to France, Governor of Virginia, the first Secretary of State under George Washington, and Vice President under John Adams.

He became the third President of the United States on March 4, 1801. It was the first peaceful transfer of authority from one party to another in the history of the USA. The most notable action of his first term was the purchase of the Louisiana Territory. During his second term he is perhaps best remembered for attempting to keep the USA neutral in the war between Britain and France.

He was an accomplished architect, designing both his home at Monticello and the buildings for the University of Virginia. In addition, as President, he played an important role in establishing the structure of the Library of Congress. The Library had been established in April, 1800, when President John Adams signed an act of Congress to move the seat of government from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington, including "the purchase of such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress ..., and for fitting up a suitable apartment for containing them...."

In 1814, British soldiers burned Washington including the Capitol, destroying effectively all of the Library of Congress's 3000 volumes. Soon after, the now retired (and heavily in debt) Jefferson offered to sell his personal library as a replacement. His collection, accumulated over 50 years, included books in a number of languages on a wide variety of subjects including philosophy, science, literature, architecture, law, religion, mathematics and cooking. In January 1815, Congress bought the entire collection of 6,487 books for $23,950, over the complaints of some representatives who wanted to return "all books of an atheistical, irreligious, and immoral tendency."

Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, just hours before his friend and fellow "founding father" John Adams--on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

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This quote & biography originally ran in an issue of BookBrowse's membership magazine. Full Membership Features & Benefits.

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