We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

It's ironic that the man who penned these words was a man who owned over 600 enslaved men, women and children during his 83-year lifetime. And Thomas Jefferson takes a lot of heat for this. Yet, the words he wrote and the Declaration of Independence that contained them would create a new nation and that nation would form a new government and create a new type of society in which equality would, over time, become more and more of a reality for all Americans.

Thomas Jefferson devoted 33 of his 83 years to public life as Governor of Virginia, Minister to France, Secretary of State, Vice President, and finally third President of the United States. As President, Jefferson oversaw the Louisiana Purchase that almost doubled the size of the United States and extended its borders as far north as Montana, and he sent Lewis and Clark to explore and map the new lands.

Jefferson was a self-taught architect who designed and built Monticello and his personal retreat at Poplar Forest. As the owner of a 5,000 acre plantation, Jefferson practiced innovative agricultural techniques and was the first to try wine-making in Virginia. As an inventor, Jefferson invented a cipher wheel to scramble his messages at the State Department. He also invented the swivel chair, and was one of the inventors of a polygraph device to copy letters.

Jefferson founded the University of Virginia and personally observed its construction from atop Monticello six miles away. Virginia's first public university was established independent of religious doctrine with eight schools devoted to science, medicine, law, mathematics, language, and philosophy.

Among all of his accomplishments, Jefferson most wanted to be remembered as the author of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and as the founder of the University of Virginia.

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello offers tours of the manor home, grounds and gardens as well as a Slavery at Monticello tour. There is a shuttle and a walking trail up to Monticello that passes by Jefferson's gravesite. The visitor center features a film, cafe, and a large museum shop that stocks garden supplies including wonderful 'Monticello' seed collections, Virginia wines, home furnishings and accessories, jewelry, books and holiday items.

Pictured at the top: Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.

mulberry row gardens

Mulberry Row was the hub of Jefferson's 5,000 acre plantation at Monticello and the home of the enslaved community that served the Jefferson family.