THOMAS JEFFERSON was born at "Shadwell" in Virginia on April 2, 1743. His father was a man of lowly descent, but of considerable ability; his mother, an aristocrat-her maiden name was Randolph-who assured her son of high social standing after her husband's death in 1757. The boy was strong, sociable and gay, fond of outdoor exercise, including horsemanship. But his mind was taking a turn toward serious studies. He became soon interested in classical languages and literature; and, as he approached manhood, he added legal history and political philosophy to his interests. John Locke was his favorite thinker. As to formal education, it was completed at the College of William and Mary (1760 1762).
Young Thomas was admitted to the bar in 1767 and practically at once developed a flourishing practice. His heart was more inclined, however, to a political career into which he found an opportunity to throw himself shortly before the American Revolution. His anti-British feelings had been formed early. These he brilliantly and constructively expressed in A Summary View of the Rights of British America, which he presented, as a delegate, to the Virginia convention of 1774 (in a written form on account of illness); in this statement he contended that the only tie of the colonies with the mother country resided in the King, while the Parliament had neither lawful nor rational authority over the colonies.
When elected by the convention to serve in the Continental Congress, Jefferson was unable at first to devote much active interest to it, insofar as his mother's sickness and death (on March 31, 1776) and the resulting complications in the family affairs kept him at home much of the time. However, once these domestic troubles were over, he threw himself wholeheartedly into the torrent of national events. In June of that year he was chosen, with John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, R. Livingston, and R. Sherman, to draw up a declaration of independence. Jefferson wrote the text, but some changes were introduced into it by his fellow-com