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Our Third President Thomas Jefferson

By Ruth Browning

Besides serving as the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson’s contributions to America include the Declaration of Independence, the Statue of Virginia for Religious Freedom and the founding of the University of Virginia. Jefferson was a man of many talents, including being able to read more than five languages. He was an architect, an inventor, a scientist and a collector of books and artifacts of American history. Jefferson served as president from 1801-1809. The most notable achievement of his first term undoubtedly was the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon in 1803 and the sending of the Lewis and Clark expedition to survey the new purchase. Jefferson inherited a large estate in Virginia from his father and, at the age of 26, he began building Monticello, which he designed himself. Jefferson wanted a nice place to invite his friends. This was Monticello, which included rooms where guests could be entertained and also a library just for his large collection of books. He married at age 29 to Martha Wayles Skelton. She died ten years later. Of their six children, only two lived to adulthood. Jefferson had served as minister to France from 1785-1793 and brought many French recipes and a French cook back to his home in Monticello. Some favorite dishes he served his guests were macaroni, macaroons, peach flambé and ice cream. Ice cream was one recipe he brought from France, a dish which soon became an American favorite. The British, in the War of 1812, invaded Washington and burned the Capitol in 1814. At that time the Library of Congress with its 3,000 volumes was housed in the Capitol. Jefferson offered to sell Congress his private collection of 6,487 volumes, considered the largest and finest in the country, for $23,950 to help restart the Library. This was done and Jefferson’s collection became the beginning of the fine collection that was kept in the Congressional Reading Room in the Capitol. Eventually a separate building was completed for the Library of Congress in 1886. Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and just hours before John Adams, the second president, died.