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The Legacy of Thomas Jefferson

The phrase "Renaissance man" might have been coined to describe Thomas Jefferson. Perhaps our most important founding father, he was a lawyer, architect, scientist, musician, writer, educator, and horticulturist.

After drafting the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson served as governor of Virginia, ambassador to France, secretary of state, and president for two terms, during which he nearly doubled the size of the United States by engineering the Louisiana Purchase from France. He sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their famous exploration of the territory.

Yet despite all his achievements, Jefferson ordered that his gravestone be inscribed: "Here Was Buried Thomas Jefferson/Author Of The Declaration Of American Independence/Of The Statute Of Virginia For Religious Freedom/And Father Of The University Of Virginia."

Jefferson was 83 when he died at Monticello on July 4, 1826, 50 years to the day after his Declaration of Independence was signed at Philadelphia. Ironically, his fellow revolutionary but later heated political enemy John Adams lay on his own deathbed in Massachusetts. Unaware that Jefferson had died earlier, Adams's last words were: "Jefferson survives."

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