Written by Alleah

Modified & Updated: 15 May 2024

Sherman Smith

Reviewed by Sherman Smith

Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of US

Becoming the President of the United States is a remarkable achievement. But in the grave of the 3rd President in the US, his presidential tenure was not there. That’s because being a US President was not the highlight in the life of a Virginia native, Thomas Jefferson. He was a man of ambition and faces.

Apart from his influence in politics, he was also a trendsetter. His curiosity in the world’s diverse cultures has made him a knowledgeable and learned man during his time. Thanks to his brilliance, the Declaration of Independence was adopted and a university was built through his efforts. In this list of Thomas Jefferson facts, get to know more about this Renaissance man. And discover how his role and talent in history made a difference in the land of the free.

  1. Born on April 13, 1743, Thomas Jefferson is one of America’s most important figures.
  2. Thomas Jefferson was the United States’ 3rd President.
  3. Before he became President, Thomas Jefferson was also the second Vice President in the US from 1797 to 1801.
  4. Thomas Jefferson was the U.S. President from 1801 to 1809.
  5. He also had other positions in the government and Thomas Jefferson was the country’s first secretary of state from 1789 to 1794.
  1. Thomas Jefferson was married to Martha Jefferson and they had six children together.
  2. He grew in Shadwell, Virginia from a wealthy family.
  3. Thomas Jefferson earned his degree at the University of William and Mary.
  4. He was not only a lawyer, Thomas Jefferson was also an inventor and an educator.
  5. Thomas Jefferson was also an advocate for democracy and he was a primary author of the order for the Declaration of Independence.
  6. His grandchildren lived with him at some point and Thomas Jefferson was close to all 12 of them.
  7. Thomas Jefferson has an influential style in a design known as the “Jeffersonian Architecture”.
  8. His favorite ice cream flavor was vanilla and Thomas Jefferson first got a taste of it in France.
  9. Thomas Jefferson’s design in Monticello took 40 years to complete.
  10. He was an animal lover and Thomas Jefferson kept mockingbirds as pets.
  1. Thomas Jefferson was only 18 years old when he graduated from college.
  2. He was a keen student so Thomas Jefferson spent 15 hours every day just to study natural and moral philosophy.
  3. Thomas Jefferson was an avid reader and his library had over 6,487 books.
  4. The University of Virginia’s Rotunda as well as the Monticello in Virginia were Thomas Jefferson’s designs and are now World Heritage Sites.
  5. One of Thomas Jefferson’s most prized devices was a rotating bookstand that holds four books at once.
Table of Contents

Thomas Jefferson's thirst for learning was remarkable.

Jefferson is known for many things. He is a Founding Father, a principal author/writer of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and many more. But one of the most interesting Thomas Jefferson facts in this list is he was always high in learning new things. Aside from his regular school load in college, he also had violin lessons. After getting his degree within two years, he studied law and became a lawyer. Because of his wit and smarts, he then became a member of the Virginia legislature at the Virginia House of Burgesses. To top it all off, he’s an eloquent speaker not only in English but also in Italian, French, and Latin languages. He can also read Spanish and Greek texts.

The Declaration of Independence had several revisions and Jefferson was not happy about it.

When the draft for the declaration was finished, Congress reviewed it for over two days. After the session got completed, he was not happy at all that there were major revisions and changes. He wanted to highlight in harsh words the complaints about the British rule. But Congress decided to omit and change it for a bit. Above all else, he was less thrilled knowing that that passage of the slave trade was purposely removed. Benjamin Franklin came to the rescue and soothed Jefferson’s irritation. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration was all set and it was spread via ship and horseback announcements.

Thomas Jefferson's greatest work contradicts his origins.

Jefferson was from plantation origins. He inherited it from his parents and it meant that his work embraced the culture of slavery. Jefferson was a member of the “Committee of Five” or the Second Continental Congress. Together with Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman, they were up to very important work. They had to make an argument against the British rule and Jefferson was given the task to write the Declaration of Independence.

The declaration insists that all men have inherent liberty right after they are born. Thus, everyone is equal. Since Jefferson’s plantation work had around 200 slaves all year round, his family business is a great contradiction to the work that he does for the Congress. Nevertheless, he wrote in his book, “Notes on the State of Virginia”, that the practice of slavery was unjust. Historians say that this hypocrisy is something that would haunt Jefferson’s legacy for many more years to come.

During his presidency, Thomas Jefferson doubled the country's size.

He was the President from 1801 to 1809. One of his greatest achievements during this time was the transaction and treaty with France for the Louisiana Purchase. This deal gave the United States more land area and doubled its size. There was a careful study in the whole ordeal. Jefferson was aware that the control of France in the Mississippi River would affect the movement of trade in the country. Napoleon Bonaparte sold the land of 830,000 square miles for $22 million. But Jefferson haggled and they settled at $15 million. Bonaparte gave in with the offer as he was hoping that the money could finance his advances and armed forces in Europe. Of course, there were critics. But there is no denying that with all these Thomas Jefferson facts, the deal gave the US more space and size.

Thomas Jefferson kept a journal for everything.

Source: Unsplash

Jefferson got the Shadwell Estate as an inheritance from his parents. He began the construction of Monticello which is a brick mansion inside the property. In Italian, it means little mountain. He records everything from his daily routine to the spur of the moment designs and decisions. Jotted down on his journal entries were about the weather, his garden, and the animals on the property. He even had a tally of all the things that are killed every year, including the diet of his people as well as the crop rotations.

Ice cream got its big break in America because of Thomas Jefferson. 

He was a diplomat in France in the 1700s. During his stay there, he grew to love ice cream. Although the dessert delicacy is not new to the US, it was not as popular as it is right now. Jefferson frequently served ice cream when he was the President and this increased ice cream awareness. He loved it so much that he had special tools and molds coming from France so that his staff could prepare them for him. Remember, there was no refrigerator at that time so the delicacy was stored in ice houses. Once it’s ready for serving, it will be taken out and the guests will then be amazed by the frozen dish. He even left behind his favorite ice cream recipe: six eggs, two cream bottles, vanilla bean, and sugar. Definitely one of the most interesting Thomas Jefferson facts today.

Thomas Jefferson was also an inventor. 

Jefferson always had something cooking on his plate. He was not a person who’d go idle for long. In his free time, he was always looking for solutions to the problems that arise in his farming endeavors. With this, Jefferson and his son-in-law invented the plow that could till and navigate hills. Not only that, but he also looked for ways to improve the dumbwaiter or the elevator that’s for delivering food. He is indeed an inventor of all sorts.

Reporters also tailed Thomas Jefferson.

It’s not new to hear about presidential scandals and gossip. Jefferson did not escape those, too. James Callender, a 1790s reporter, made scandalous articles about Jefferson and his slave. He was claiming that Jefferson was having an affair with Sally Hemmings. To keep things silent, Callender demanded a $200 bribe and work as a postmaster. Jefferson did not agree with it at all but he gave in anyway and gave the reporter $50. Eventually, Callender still wrote the piece and revealed that their relationship resulted in having several children. But he did not have enough evidence to prove the claim and his story drowned with him at the James River. He was found dead in 1803.

Historians say that Thomas Jefferson's mistress was his wife's sister.

He got married on January 1, 1772 to Martha Wayles. They were married for only 10 years because Martha died when she was only 33 years old in 1782. Controversial news says that Martha’s father had an affair with one of their slaves, Elizabeth Hemmings. Oddly enough, Elizabeth had a daughter named Sally. This was the same Sally that was linked as Jefferson’s mistress. This means that there’s a big chance that Sally and Martha were half-sisters. Up to this day, still no one knows and speculations remain as it is.

Thomas Jefferson's leadership fought pirates. 

Source: Pixabay

One of the least known Thomas Jefferson facts is that when he was the President, Barbary pirates were a common problem in the country. His constitutional power was tested during this time when these roving bands of pirates from North Africa targeted the supply ships coming from the Mediterranean. Under his orders, warships from America were sent to confront the sea bandits rather than give in to their demands. The initial push from the navy was successful but later on, the pirates got a hold of an American boat. In 1805, the Second Barbary War Treaty got declared.

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Thomas Jefferson had a haven at Lynchburg. 

The property at Monticello was Jefferson’s most prized property. But unknown to the public eye, he also had a private solace at Poplar Forest. It’s at Lynchburg, Virginia and this was his go-to residence when he just wanted to be alone. Everything in this house is made to the exact liking of Jefferson that’s why it took such a long time to construct. When he left his position in 1809, the house was nearly ready. Today, it’s already open for the public to visit.

Abraham Lincoln was not Thomas Jefferson's greatest fan.

According to Lincoln’s law partner, Abraham Lincoln hated Jefferson for his political views and moral shortcomings. Although they were not of the same generation, Lincoln never liked him. Even though he gave honor to the Declaration that Jefferson wrote, it did not change the fact that he did not see the chap as a friend. This is one of those Thomas Jefferson facts that just shows you will not be everyone’s cup of tea. No matter what you do, some people would not be your fan.

Thomas Jefferson was not stylish.

People believed that a president should wear formal and polished clothes. But Jefferson was in a different league. He seldom rode a carriage as he preferred riding a horse with his comfortable and plain clothing. Some of his people advised him otherwise but he remained simple as he is. But of course, you would see him dressed nicely on two occasions that he deem special. Celebrations that he acknowledged annually are New Year’s Day and the 4th of July.

Debt was a constant problem for Thomas Jefferson.

We think that politicians or those in a position do something dishonest to keep up with their status and grow their financial capabilities. But Jefferson was different. Historians say that he was in debt. And it went on for the rest of his life. Despite inheriting the estate of his father, his debt never left him. He even became responsible for the debt of his father-in-law when he died. Since he was always expanding and making renovations in his property and living beyond his means, he had a $2 million debt on his deathbed.

Thomas Jefferson was a wine connoisseur.

Source: Unsplash

His stay in France gave Jefferson a more cultured experience in food and drinks. Even before wine appreciation became a thing, Jefferson was already ahead of the game. His love for this was due to his many trips to France where he was introduced to various wine textures and tastes. He had a well-stocked wine cellar at Monticello. His interest in wine even gave him the idea to grow his own grapes but his venture did not become successful.

You can find opium in Thomas Jefferson's plant garden.

The opioid is used to chemically produce heroin and other drug trade. In today’s standards, it’s already illegal to grow it. But during Jefferson’s time, his sprawling plant and vegetable gardens had poppy seeds planted, too. Apart from his over 300 flowers, sprouts, and crops, the opioid plant has been a common plant as well. It was popular in those days but in 1991, the plant was under closer scrutiny. Definitely one of the most amazing Thomas Jefferson facts.

A popular catchphrase in the 1800s was from Thomas Jefferson.

Whenever people want to leave right away or to divert their embarrassment, they say “My name is Haines”. This might sound odd but this phrase was because of an incident that Jefferson had during his term as president. He ran into a man riding his horse near his estate in Monticello. The man quickly engaged him in a conversation with a complaint about everything wrong in Washington. He did not recognize Jefferson as the President. He only knew that he was talking to the commander-in-chief when Jefferson said his name.  With that, he got all red and said “My Name is Haines” in embarrassment. He galloped away without saying anything else and the catchphrase popularity then began.

Public speaking was not Thomas Jefferson's strongest suit.

You would expect that a President would be fluent and confident in front of crowds and speaking engagements. But contrary to what the public could expect, Jefferson had it the other way. An interesting addition in this list of Thomas Jefferson facts is that a listener in his 1801 inaugural address said that his voice was too low. According to that person, only a few people may have heard it. When he was in the courts as a lawyer, he wrote eloquent arguments but had trouble delivering them. We’re lucky today that we have many methods of expressing ourselves in public where we can practice our phobia. Twitter, radio, and television are a great help. But during Jefferson’s time, he had no choice but just face it each time.

Thomas Jefferson wrote the words on his tomb.

No one plans the details of their death. But Thomas Jefferson did not want anyone to mess with his final resting place. He gave instructions on what should be written on his grave and how it should read. There were also specifics on what materials should be used so that those who will prepare will not have a hard time. After he died in 1826, people went to Monticello to visit his grave. Today, there’s a Jefferson monument that people still tour. This time around, no one will dare to rewrite him.

He was the Founding Father of the University of Virginia.

university of virginia
Source: Pixabay

One thing you should know about Jefferson is that he was a strong advocate of learning. During his term as President, he was already planning on where to get the funds for a university in Virginia. He wrote a letter to the House of Delegates stating that college should not just be a building. It should be a village of learning. Because of his efforts, the University of Virginia had its formal opening in the spring of 1825. Despite being the university’s founding father, his influence and ideas were not always accepted by many. In 2018, students put vandals on the walls reading rapists and racists on Jefferson’s statue inside the campus.

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