Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was the third President of the United States (1801–1809) and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776). An influential Founding Father, Jefferson envisioned America as a great "Empire of Liberty" that would promote republicanism.
Jefferson served as the wartime Governor of Virginia (1779–1781), barely escaping capture by the British in 1781. Many people disliked his tenure, and he did not win office again in Virginia. From mid-1784  through late 1789  Jefferson lived outside the United States. He served in Paris initially as a commissioner to help negotiate commercial treaties. In May 1785 he succeeded Benjamin Franklin as the U.S. Minister to France.
He was the first United States Secretary of State (1789–1793) under George Washington and advised him against a national bank and the Jay Treaty. He was the second Vice President (1797–1801) under John Adams. Winning on an anti-federalist platform, Jefferson took the oath of office and became President of the United States in 1801. As president he negotiated the Louisiana Purchase (1803), and sent the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804–1806) to explore the vast new territory and lands further west. Jefferson sponsored embargo laws that escalated tensions with Britain and France, leading to war with Britain in 1812 shortly after he left office.
He idealized the independent yeoman farmer as exemplar of republican virtues, distrusted cities and financiers, and favored states' rights and a limited federal government. Jefferson supported the separation of church and state and was the author of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1779, 1786). Jefferson's revolutionary view on individual religious freedom and protection from government authority have generated much interest with modern scholars. He was the eponym of Jeffersonian democracy and the co-founder and leader of the Democratic-Republican Party, which dominated American politics for 25 years.
Born into a prominent planter family, Jefferson owned hundreds of slaves throughout his life; he held views on the racial inferiority of Africans common for this period in time. While historians long discounted accounts that Jefferson had an intimate relationship with his slave Sally Hemings, it is now widely held that he did and had six children by her.