Thomas Jefferson Net Worth at Death – Salary, Income, Earnings

Thomas Jefferson Net Worth 

Thomas Jefferson had a peak net worth of $240 million. Thomas Jefferson was a Founding Father of the United States who wrote the Declaration of Independence. As U.S. president, he completed the Louisiana Purchase. His main source of wealth comes from the land he inherited from his father. However, he died with a large sum of debt.

Thomas Jefferson was the primary draftsman of the United States Declaration of Independence, the country’s first secretary of state, and the country’s second vice president (under John Adams). Jefferson, as the third President of the United States, stabilized the American economy and defeated North African pirates during the Barbary War. By successfully negotiating the Louisiana Purchase, he was responsible for doubling the size of the United States. He was also the founder of the University of Virginia.

To calculate the net worth of Thomas Jefferson, subtract all his liabilities from his total assets. Investments, savings, cash deposits, and any equity he has in a house, car, or other similar asset are included in the total assets. All debts, such as personal loans and mortgages, are included in total liabilities.

Here’s the breakdown of his net worth:

Name: Thomas Jefferson
Net Worth: $240 million
Monthly Salary: $20 Thousand
Annual Income: $10 Million
Source of Wealth: American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect

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Early Life

Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, on the Shadwell plantation near Charlottesville, Virginia. Jefferson was born into one of Virginia’s most prominent planter families. His mother, Jane Randolph Jefferson, was a proud Randolph clan member, descended from English and Scottish royalty.

Peter Jefferson, his father, was a successful farmer as well as a skilled surveyor and cartographer who created the first accurate map of Virginia. Jefferson was the third child of ten siblings.

Jefferson enjoyed playing in the woods, practicing the violin, and reading as a child. At the age of nine, he began his formal education by studying Latin and Greek at a local private school run by Reverend William Douglas.

At the age of 14, he began studying classical languages, literature, and mathematics with Reverend James Maury, whom Jefferson later described as a “correct classical scholar.”

College of William and Mary

Jefferson left home in 1760, having learned everything he could from Maury, to attend the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia’s capital.

Despite being the second oldest college in America (after Harvard), William and Mary was not a particularly rigorous academic institution at the time. Jefferson was disappointed to learn that his classmates spent their time betting on horse races, playing cards, and courting women instead of studying.

Nonetheless, the serious and precocious Jefferson became acquainted with an older circle of scholars that included Professor William Small, Lieutenant Governor Francis Fauquier, and lawyer George Wythe, and it was from them that he received his true education.

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Becoming a Lawyer

After three years at William and Mary, Jefferson decided to study law under the eminent lawyer of the American colonies, John Wythe. There were no law schools at the time, so aspiring lawyers “read law” under the supervision of an established lawyer before taking the bar exam.

Wythe guided Jefferson through an unusually rigorous five-year course of study (more than double the typical duration); by the time Jefferson was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1767, he was already one of America’s most learned lawyers.

Monticello

In 1770, Jefferson began work on what would become his greatest labor of love: Monticello, his home atop a small rise in Virginia’s Piedmont region. His father had owned the land where the house was built since 1735.

In keeping with the interests of one of America’s greatest “Renaissance Men,” Jefferson himself drafted the blueprints for Monticello’s neoclassical mansion, outbuildings, and gardens, which ranged from botany and archaeology to music and birdwatching.

Monticello was more than just a house; it was also a working plantation where Jefferson held approximately 130 African Americans in slavery. They were responsible for caring for gardens and livestock, plowing fields, and working at the on-site textile factory.

Political Career

The start of Jefferson’s professional life coincided with significant changes in Great Britain’s 13 American colonies.

The end of the French and Indian War in 1763 left the United Kingdom in dire financial straits; in order to raise revenue, the Crown imposed a slew of new taxes on its American colonies. The Stamp Act of 1765, which imposed a tax on printed and paper goods, infuriated the colonists, inspiring the American revolutionary slogan, “No taxation without representation.”

On December 16, 1773, eight years later, colonists protesting a British tea tax dumped 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor in what became known as the Boston Tea Party. American militiamen clashed with British soldiers at the Battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775, the first battles of the Revolutionary War.

Jefferson was an early and ardent supporter of the cause of American independence from the United Kingdom. In 1768, he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses and became a member of the radical bloc led by Patrick Henry and George Washington.

Jefferson’s first major political work, A Summary View of the Rights of British America, was published in 1774, and it established him as one of the most eloquent advocates of the American cause.

Jefferson attended the Second Continental Congress in 1775, which established the Continental Army and named Jefferson’s fellow Virginian, George Washington, as its commander-in-chief. The majority of the Congress’s work, however, fell to Jefferson himself.

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Declaration of Independence

The Congress appointed a five-man committee (Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston) in June 1776 to draft a Declaration of Independence.

The committee then chose Jefferson to write the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, citing his “happy talent for composition and singular felicity of expression.” Jefferson spent the next 17 days crafting one of the most beautiful and powerful declarations of liberty and equality in world history.

The document began with a preamble stating the natural rights of all humans and then went on to list specific grievances against King George III that absolved the American colonies of all allegiance to the British Crown.

Although the version of the Declaration of Independence adopted on July 4, 1776, had undergone a series of revisions from Jefferson’s original draft, its immortal words remain largely his own: “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, among which are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Jefferson returned to Virginia after authoring the Declaration of Independence, where he served as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1776 to 1779. There, he attempted to change Virginia’s laws to reflect the American ideals outlined in the Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson was successful in overturning the doctrines of entail, which stated that only a property owner’s heirs could inherit his land, and primogeniture, which stated that in the absence of a will, a property owner’s oldest son inherited his entire estate.

Governor of Virginia

The Virginia legislature elected Jefferson as the state’s second governor on June 1, 1779. Jefferson’s two years as governor were the low point of his political career. Jefferson waffled and pleased no one, torn between the Continental Army’s desperate pleas for more men and supplies and Virginians’ strong desire to keep such resources for their own defense.

As the Revolutionary War moved into the South, Jefferson relocated the capital from Williamsburg to Richmond, only to be forced to evacuate that city when it was discovered that Richmond, rather than Williamsburg, was the target of British attack.

Jefferson was forced to flee his home at Monticello (located near Charlottesville, Virginia) on June 1, 1781, the day before the end of his second term as governor, narrowly escaping capture by British cavalry. Despite the fact that he had no choice but to flee, his political opponents later used this ignominious incident to accuse him of cowardice.

Jefferson declined a third term as governor and resigned on June 4, 1781. He returned to Monticello, claiming that he was retiring from public life for good, intending to spend the rest of his days as a gentleman farmer surrounded by the domestic pleasures of his family, his farm, and his books.

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Minister to France

Jefferson’s return to public life was prompted by a personal tragedy: the untimely death of his beloved wife, Martha, on September 6, 1782, at the age of 34.

Jefferson returned to Philadelphia in June 1783, after months of mourning, to lead the Virginia delegation to the Confederation Congress. In 1785, that body appointed Jefferson to replace Benjamin Franklin as the United States’ ambassador to France.

Although Jefferson admired many aspects of European culture, including its arts, architecture, literature, food, and wines, he found the contrast between the aristocracy’s grandeur and the masses’ poverty repugnant. In one letter, he wrote, “I find the general fate of humanity here most deplorable.”

In Europe, Jefferson rekindled his friendship with John Adams, the minister to the United Kingdom, and with Adams’ wife, Abigail Adams. Abigail, Jefferson’s educated and erudite correspondent on a wide range of subjects, was possibly the only woman he ever treated as an intellectual equal.

Jefferson’s official duties as minister primarily consisted of negotiating loans and trade agreements in Paris and Amsterdam with private citizens and government officials.

Jefferson returned to America at the end of 1789, having spent nearly five years in Paris, with a much greater appreciation for his homeland. As he put it in a letter to his good friend James Monroe, “My God! How little my countrymen realize what priceless blessings they have that no other people on the planet have.”

Secretary of State

When Jefferson arrived in Virginia in November 1789, he was greeted by George Washington, who informed him that Washington had been elected the first President of the United States of America and that he would appoint Jefferson as Secretary of State.

Washington’s most trusted advisor, aside from Jefferson, was Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton, a New Yorker and war hero a dozen years younger than Jefferson, had risen from humble beginnings, unlike Jefferson and Washington.

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Jefferson as Vice President

Despite Jefferson’s public ambivalence and previous claims that he was done with politics, the Republicans chose Jefferson to succeed George Washington as president in 1797.

Because candidates did not openly campaign for office at the time, Jefferson did little more than stay at home on his way to finishing a close second to then-Vice President John Adams in the electoral college, which made Jefferson the new vice president under the rules of the time.

Aside from presiding over the United States Senate, the vice president played no substantive role in government. Adams and Jefferson’s long friendship had cooled due to political differences (Adams was a Federalist), and Adams did not consult his vice president on any major decisions.

During his four years as vice president, Jefferson wrote A Manual of Parliamentary Practice, one of the most useful legislative proceedings guides ever written, and served as president of the American Philosophical Society.

Presidency

The presidency of John Adams exposed deep schisms in the Federalist Party between moderates like Adams and Washington and more extreme Federalists like Alexander Hamilton.

The Federalists refused to support Adams in the 1800 presidential election, allowing Republican candidates Jefferson and Aaron Burr to tie for first place with 73 electoral votes each. After a lengthy and contentious debate, the House of Representatives chose Jefferson to be the third President of the United States, with Burr as his Vice President.

Jefferson’s election in 1800 was a watershed moment in world history, marking the first peaceful transfer of power from one party to another in a modern republic.

On March 4, 1801, Jefferson delivered his inaugural address, speaking to the fundamental commonalities that united all Americans, regardless of political affiliation. He stated, “Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.” “We have called brethren of the same principle by various names. We are all Republicans and Federalists.”

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Accomplishments

President Jefferson accomplished a great deal during his first term in office, and he was extremely successful and productive.

In keeping with his Republican principles, Jefferson stripped the presidency of all European royalty trappings, reduced the size of the armed forces and government bureaucracy, and reduced the national debt from $80 million to $57 million in his first two years in office.

Nonetheless, Jefferson’s most significant achievements as president all involved bold assertions of national government power and surprisingly liberal interpretations of the United States Constitution.

Louisiana Purchase

The Louisiana Purchase was Jefferson’s most significant achievement as president. In 1803, he purchased land from cash-strapped Napoleonic France extending from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains for the bargain price of $15 million, effectively doubling the size of the country in a single stroke.

He then organized the fascinating Lewis and Clark Expedition to explore, map, and report on the new American territories.

Tripoli Pirates

Jefferson also put an end to the centuries-long problem of North African Tripoli pirates disrupting American shipping in the Mediterranean. During the Barbary War, Jefferson used new American warships to force the pirates to surrender.

Notably, both the Louisiana Purchase and the unofficial war against the Barbary pirates ran counter to Jefferson’s avowed Republican values. Both actions represented unprecedented increases in national government power, and neither was expressly authorized by the Constitution.

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Second Term as President

Although Jefferson was easily re-elected in 1804, his second term proved to be far more difficult and less productive than his first. He was largely unsuccessful in his efforts to impeach the many Federalist judges appointed by the Judiciary Act of 1801.

The war between Napoleonic France and Great Britain, however, posed the greatest challenges to Jefferson’s second term. By harassing American shipping, both Britain and France attempted to prevent American trade with the other power, and Britain in particular sought to impress American sailors into the British Navy.

In response, Jefferson enacted the Embargo Act of 1807, which effectively halted all trade with Europe. The move wreaked havoc on the American economy, with exports plummeting from $108 million to $22 million by the time he left office in 1809. After Jefferson left office, the embargo precipitated the War of 1812.

Post Presidency

After witnessing his close friend and successor James Madison’s inauguration on March 4, 1809, Jefferson returned to Virginia to live out the rest of his days as “The Sage of Monticello.”

Jefferson’s main hobby was constantly rebuilding, remodeling, and improving his home and estate at great expense.

“It may be said that Mr. Jefferson is the first American who has consulted the Fine Arts to know how he should shelter himself from the weather,” remarked a Frenchman, Marquis de Chastellux.

University of Virginia

Jefferson also devoted his later years to the establishment of the University of Virginia, the country’s first secular university. He designed the campus, which he envisioned as a “academic village,” and hand-picked renowned European scholars to serve as professors.

The University of Virginia opened its doors on March 7, 1825, one of Jefferson’s proudest days.

At the end of his life, Jefferson maintained an outpouring of correspondence. He rekindled a lively correspondence on politics, philosophy, and literature with John Adams, which ranks among the most extraordinary letter exchanges in history. Despite this, Jefferson’s retirement was marred by financial difficulties. To pay off his substantial debts from decades of living beyond his means, Jefferson sold his prized personal library to the national government, which became the foundation of the Library of Congress.

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Death

Jefferson died just hours before John Adams in Massachusetts on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

“Thomas Jefferson survives,” Adams said in his final moments, eternally true if not in the literal sense in which he meant them.

Thomas Jefferson’s Children

Jefferson practiced law in Virginia with great success from 1767 to 1774, trying many cases and winning the majority of them. During this time, he met and fell in love with Martha Wayles Skelton, a recent widow and one of Virginia’s wealthiest women.

On January 1, 1772, the couple married. Only two of Thomas and Martha Jefferson’s six children survived into adulthood: Martha, their firstborn, and Mary, their fourth. Only Martha’s father survived.

Jefferson’s six children with Martha were not the only ones he fathered.

Thomas Jefferson Quotes

On America’s fight for freedom: “The God who gave us life gave us liberty… ” “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is the natural manure.” “We are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty in a featherbed.” “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” 

 

On small government: “A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement [is desirable].” 

 

On “government by the people”: “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” “Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” “I have no ambition to govern men. It is a painful and thankless job.” “That government is the strongest of which every man feels himself a part.” 

 

On government’s weakness: “No government can be maintained without the principle of fear as well as of duty. Good men will obey the last, but bad ones the former only. If our government ever fails it will be from this weakness.” 

 

On public education: “The tax which will be paid for the purpose of education is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.” 

 

On slavery: “This abomination must have an end. And there is a superior bench reserved in Heaven for those who hasten it.” 

 

Other famous sayings: “We confide in our strength, without boasting of it; we respect that of others, without fearing it.” “It is the trade of lawyers to question everything, yield nothing, and talk by the hour.” “A mind always employed is always happy. … ” “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”

View our larger collection of the best Thomas Jefferson quotes.

Further Reading

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