Thomas Jefferson was born at Shadwell, Albemarle County, Va., 13 April 1743 and graduated from William and Mary College in 1762. He was admitted to the bar 5 years later. In 1769 he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses where he soon became a leader of the patriot faction and helped form the Virginia Committee of Correspondence. He maintained that the colonies were not subject to Parliament but were bound to England only by allegiance to the Crown.
Jefferson was sent to the Continental Congress in June 1775, and a year later he was entrusted with writing the Declaration of Independence. He returned to the Virginia legislature in October 1776 where he labored to reform the new state on democratic principles. He succeeded Patrick Henry as governor in 1779 and held that office until 1781.
Jefferson succeeded Franklin as Minister to France in 1785 and, after his return in 1789, became the Nation's first Secretary of State. Growing differences with Alexander Hamilton prompted him to resign from Washington's cabinet 31 December 1793, and he subsequently led growing opposition to the Federalist party. From 1797 to 1801 he was Vice President and he defeated John Adams in the presidential election of 1800. Upon entering the White House, Jefferson introduced a more democratic tone to public life, and his two terms as Chief Executive were marked by careful administration and rare frugality. Highlights of his presidency included the Louisiana Purchase, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and the Navy's victory over the Barbary pirates. Their valiant and skillful fighting in the struggle with the North African corsairs gave American seamen some of their most colorful and cherished memories while strengthening the new nation's position as a power worthy of respect.
In retirement Jefferson exerted great political and intellectual influence as he worked to establish the University of Virginia. His brilliant career was brought to a fitting close when he died 4 July 1826, the 50th anniversary of his immortal Declaration of Independence.
Perhaps Jefferson's place in American history was best measured by President Kennedy while entertaining the Nobel Prize winners of the Western Hemisphere. "... I think," the President told his distinguished guests, "this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."
The first Jefferson was a schooner purchased in 1802 by the United States Revenue Cutter Service and stationed at Norfolk, Va., where at the beginning of the War of 1812, she was placed under Navy orders, Captain William Ham, USRCS, in command.
She captured a British brig bound for Halifax from the West Indies in June 1812 and later in the summer she took British schooner Patriot. She captured three English barges in the James River 11 April 1813 and freed the crew of American schooner Flight, seized only a few hours before by the barges.
In the summer of 1817, she captured Spanish brig Providentia, the unlawful prize of Buenos Aires privateer Mangero. Inconclusive evidence indicates that about this time Jefferson may have taken a second Spanish ship, also a prize of Mangero. Later in the year Jefferson was sold.