Thomas Jefferson was an American Founding Father who was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and later served as the third president of the United States from 1801 to 1809. Previously, he had been elected the second vice president of the United States, serving under John Adams from 1797 to 1801. He was a proponent of democracy, republicanism, and individual rights motivating American colonists to break from Great Britain and form a new nation; he produced formative documents and decisions at both the state and national level.
Jefferson was mainly of English ancestry, born and educated in colonial Virginia. He graduated from the College of William & Mary and briefly practiced law, with the largest number of his cases concerning land ownership claims. During the American Revolution, he represented Virginia in the Continental Congress that adopted the Declaration, drafted the law for religious freedom as a Virginia legislator, and served as a wartime governor. He became the United States Minister to France in May 1785, and subsequently the nation's first Secretary of State in 1790–1793 under President George Washington.