John Adams was the second President of the United States, serving from 1797-1801. He had previously served as a foreign minister to Britain and as vice president under George Washington from 1789-1797. He was the last of the Federalist presidents, and suffered from a difficult tenure in office, plagued by the XYZ Affair and the ensuing controversy over the Alien and Sedition Acts. Toward the close of his life, he maintained a lengthy correspondence with Jefferson despite previous political differences.
John Quincy Adams was the sixth President of the United States, serving from 1825-1829. Son to John Adams and Abigail Adams, he was a longstanding Congressman from Massachusetts and later Secretary of State under James Monroe. After stepping down from executive office upon his defeat at the hands of Andrew Jackson in the 1828 presidential election, Adams returned for a second tenure in the legislative branch, serving from 1831 until his death in 1848.
Henry Adams was the great-grandson of John Adams, the grandson of John Quincy Adams, and the son of Charles Francis Adams, who served as United States Ambassador to Britain during the Civil War. A historian of the highest repute, Adams' main project was a nine volume history of the United States in the period from 1800-1817, which covered the Presidential administrations of Jefferson and James Madison.
Marie-Antoinette, wife of the fated French monarch, Louis XVI, was known for her opposition to reforms in favor of the lower classes. In the mayhem caused by the French Revolution and the ensuing Reign of Terror, she was executed by guillotine ten months after her deposed husband, on October 16, 1793.
Benedict Arnold was a leading general for the American cause during the early stages of the Revolutionary War. After marrying a woman from a loyalist family, he switched allegiances, and fought on behalf of the British for the remainder of the war. Arnold spent the final twenty years of his life ailing and in disgrace in England.
Napoleon Bonaparte was a prominent French general during the late eighteenth century who rose to power after a coup d'etat in 1799. In the ensuing decade, Napoleon launched an ambitious offensive with the goal of European, and ultimately world, domination. He nearly succeeded in bringing the European continent to its knees, but his hold gradually began to loosen as his grasp continued to expand. Ultimately, he was deposed and imprisoned, only to return in a second, desperate attempt for power in 1815. Ultimately, after one hundred days of struggle, Bonaparte was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in present- day Belgium. Napoleon spent the last several years of his life imprisoned on the island of St. Helena, off the coast of West Africa, where he died in 1821. (See the SparkNote on Napoleon Bonaparte)
Baron de Botetourt was royal governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, presiding over the House of Burgesses from 1768-1770.
Rebecca Burwell was an early love of Jefferson's, whom he met while a student at the College of William and Mary. When she spurned him for a younger rival, he was left despondent.
Aaron Burr was a powerful Democratic-Republican politician from New York who served as Vice President under Jefferson from 1801-1805. After assassinating Alexander Hamilton in a duel, Burr fled south, where he conspired in an elaborate secessionist plot in the Louisiana Territory. Eventually, Jefferson caught wind of the plot and brought Burr to trial for treason. Burr was later cleared of all charges by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, and fled to Europe, returning shortly thereafter to live out the rest of his life in obscurity as a provincial New York State attorney.
John C. Calhoun, a longtime Congressman from South Carolina, was a staunch advocate of states rights through nullification as outlined by Jefferson in the Kentucky Resolutions. After serving as vice president under Andrew Jackson, Calhoun returned to legislative office, where he continued to fight for southern interests against the increasing encroachment of the federal government.
James Thompson Callender was a muckraking journalist who impugned the character of John Adams during the presidential election campaign of 1800, and was summarily imprisoned under the terms of the Sedition Act. After being spurned for a desired appointment by Jefferson, Callender propagated rumors of Jefferson's affair with Sally Hemings in the national press.
King Carlos IV of Spain reigned weakly as monarch from 1788-1808, when he was deposed by Joseph Bonaparte, brother to French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (See the SparkNote on Napoleon Bonaparte). Carlos IV spent the brief remainder of his life in exile.
Dabney Carr was a member of the House of Burgesses and a childhood friend of Jefferson's. He later married Jefferson's sister Martha. After Carr's premature death at the age of thirty, Jefferson assumed the care of his six children.
Cincinnatus was a noted Roman citizen of the fifth century B.C.E. who twice abandoned the administration of his farm to take power of the republic during times of political turmoil. In both instances, he relinquished his power once the crisis had been resolved.
William Claiborne was named by Jefferson as the first governor of the Louisiana Territory. He was above suspicion but also largely oblivious with regard to Aaron Burr's secessionist plot. Later Claiborne was elected senator from Louisiana, but died before taking office.
William Clark was the Clark part of Lewis and Clark, the two men who made an extensive exploration of the Louisiana Territory under the guidance of Sacajawea and the somewhat underhanded encouragement of Jefferson in the aftermath of the Louisiana Purchase.
Henry Clay was a prominent Whig senator from Kentucky who ran unsuccessfully for President on three occasions. He was a supporter of internal improvements per his American System, and is well known as "the Great Compromiser" for his role in the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850.
George Clinton was governor of New York state in the early nineteenth century, and assumed Aaron Burr's place as Vice President on the Democratic-Republican ticket in the election of 1804. He served as Vice President under Jefferson from 1805-1809, and later under James Madison from 1809-1812, after standing against Madison in the election of 1808.
Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer who made several voyages to the Western Hemisphere under the auspices of the Spanish monarchs King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in the late fifteenth century. Contrary to popular belief, Columbus never reached the American continent, instead arriving only in various Caribbean islands, which he believed up until his death to have been islands off the coast of India.
Lord Cornwallis was a statesman and soldier who led the British campaign against rebellious American colonials and French supporters in the Revolutionary War. After his defeat at Yorktown in 1782, Cornwallis continued to function in the service of the crown, seeing action in Ireland and later India, where he died in 1805 after being named governor general there.
Maria Cosway was an English painter raised in Italy, who had a brief dalliance with Jefferson during his time in Paris as American minister to France. She later returned to England with her husband, only to abandon him and their child when she ran off to the European continent with an Italian castrato. A sporadic correspondence with Jefferson in later years ultimately proved insubstantial and unsustainable.
Jefferson Davis was a two-term senator from Mississippi who resigned his seat in the face of the impending southern secession. Mere weeks later, in 1861, he was named President of the Confederate States of America, a position he held throughout the Civil War (See the Civil War SparkNote). Reluctant to give up his post in the aftermath of the Confederate surrender at Appomattox, Davis was treated leniently during Reconstruction, and lived to the ripe old age of eighty- one.
Stephen Douglas was a senator from Illinois who rose quickly up the ranks of the Democratic Party. He proposed the controversial Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and defended his doctrine of popular sovereignty in a series of debates with Abraham Lincoln in 1858 (See the SparkNote on Abraham Lincoln). Although he defeated Lincoln in the Senate race, he later lost the presidential election to Lincoln in 1860. Undeterred from fighting for what he believed to be right, Douglas joined forces with Lincoln in an attempt to preserve the Union, but died just after the outset of the Civil War in 1861 (See the Civil War SparkNote).
The Earl of Dunmore served as royal governor in both New York and Virginia. He was the last British peer to serve over the House of Burgesses, fleeing Virginia upon their final dissolution. He launched several attacks against natives and colonists alike, but was transferred out of the Americas at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. He later served as royal governor in the Bahamas.
Queen Elizabeth I acceded to the throne of England in 1558, upon the death of her sister, Queen Mary I. She never married, and ruled for 45 years as the Virgin Queen, securing Anglicanism as the official state religion while fending off competing empires, establishing England as a colonial power in the Americas and elsewhere. (See the SparkNote on Queen Elizabeth I)
Ralph Waldo Emerson was a New England transcendentalist who came out of the Unitarian religious tradition and went on to establish his own doctrines of divinity and spirituality in works such as Nature and The Conduct of Life/.
Benjamin Franklin was an author, inventor and scientist, in addition to being one of the foremost statesmen of his day. His Autobiography remains a renowned work of American letters. He spent his later years as a diplomat in England and France on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and later the United States.
Frederick the Great was king of Prussia in the middle stages of the eighteenth century, and advanced Prussian fortunes to the point where they became the foremost power in Europe. Allied with Britain during the Seven Years War, Frederick the Great was later generous to the United States in forging a trade alliance.
Albert Gallatin, born in Geneva, served as Secretary of Treasury under Jefferson and later under James Madison. His adept fiscal policies helped significantly reduce the national debt. He later served as minister to France during the administration of James Monroe. Gallatin was at times suspected of treason because of his foreign birth, which precluded him from a potential run at the Vice Presidency in 1824.
Edmund Genet was French ambassador to the United States during the early 1790s, and conspired to reclaim Florida for France and Spain by recruiting Americans to enlist in combat against British forces. He eventually fell out of political favor with President Washington and was recalled, later claiming asylum in the United States and marrying a daughter of George Clinton.
King George III served as monarch of Britain from 1760 until his death in 1820. He was plagued by mental afflictions throughout his tumultuous reign. After gaining a victory in the Seven Years War, his empire lost ground to the Americans in the Revolutionary War. Later the English forces under King George III enjoyed success after many trials against the French expansion headed by Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.
Elbridge Gerry was an important member of the Second Continental Congress, later serving as governor of Massachusetts and Vice President under James Madison from 1813-1814. He died while in office.
Alexander Hamilton was an influential political figure from New York, who served as the first Secretary of Treasury under George Washington. His ambitious fiscal plan and strong value on centralized government characterized the Federalist philosophy. After successfully blocking Aaron Burr's candidacy for governor of New York State, Hamilton was challenged to a duel, which he accepted, only to be shot and killed on a plain at Weehawken, New Jersey on July 11, 1804.
John Hancock was the president of the First and Second Continental Congresses, and the chief signer of the Declaration of Independence (See the Declaration of Independence SparkNote). He later served nine terms as governor of Massachusetts.
William Henry Harrison was the ninth President of the United States, serving an abbreviated one-month term in 1841, cut short by his death from pneumonia. Harrison was previously involved in the secessionist plot of Aaron Burr, and gained honor for his role in both the Battle of Tippecanoe and the War of 1812.
Betty Hemings was the slave mistress of John Wayles. She gave birth to as many as six children by Wayles, including Sally Hemings, who was later cast as Jefferson's own slave mistress.
Beverly Hemings was born in 1798 to Sally Hemings, and has long been alleged to be a son of Thomas Jefferson. Circumstantial evidence strongly suggests this to be so. Hemings ran away from Monticello in 1822 with Jefferson's tacit approval, and later settled in Washington as a white man.
Eston Hemings was born in 1808 to Sally Hemings. Recent genetic evidence strongly suggests the paternity of Jefferson. Hemings was freed under the terms of Jefferson's will in 1826, and enjoyed a successful career as a popular musician in Ohio and Wisconsin thereafter.
Harriet Hemings was born in 1801 to Sally Hemings and has long been alleged to be a daughter of Thomas Jefferson. Circumstantial evidence strongly suggests this to be so. Hemings left Monticello in 1822 with the support of Jefferson. Thereafter, she lived in Washington, D.C., passing and marrying into a white family.
James Hemings was born to Betty Hemings and John Wayles, and was elder brother to Sally Hemings. He traveled to France with Jefferson, and became a noted chef during his tenure in Paris. Hemings was freed by Jefferson in 1796 but floundered into alcoholism as a free man, committing suicide only five years later.
Madison Hemings was born in 1805 to Sally Hemings and has long been alleged to be a son of Thomas Jefferson. Circumstantial evidence strongly suggests this to be so. Hemings was freed under the terms of Jefferson's will in 1826, and later moved to Ohio to work as a carpenter and farmer. In 1873, shortly before his death, he went on record with a local news reporter, claiming to be the unacknowledged son of Jefferson. This claim was widely discredited for over a century, and has only recently been recognized as a potentially valid testimony.
Sally Hemings was born to Betty Hemings and John Wayles, and was the younger sister of James Hemings. As a teenager, she accompanied Maria Jefferson to France in 1787, and later enjoyed a privileged position as Jefferson's personal attendant at Monticello. Suspected by many to have been Jefferson's longtime secret mistress, circumstantial evidence points strongly to this possibility. Significantly, as a result of her parentage, she was also the unrecognized half-sister of Jefferson's wife, Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson. Hemings herself may have borne as many as six of Jefferson's unacknowledged children. Although not freed under the terms of Jefferson's will in 1826, she was retained by his white heirs and freed shortly thereafter.
Patrick Henry was a leading member of the Virginia cotillion who pushed for independence in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War. He later served two separate tenures as governor of Virginia, and played a key role in regaining the Great Lakes Region for Virginia from the conflicting claims of Britain via the Quebec Act.
Martha Wayles Skelton was the daughter of John Wayles, and had initially married Bathurst Skelton. After being widowed, she was introduced to Jefferson, whom she married after a brief courtship on New Year's Day, 1772. In just over a decade of marriage she suffered from frequent ill health, and bore several sickly children who died in infancy. She herself died in 1782, leaving Jefferson a lifelong widower in the company of their two daughters, Patsy and Polly.
Martha Washington Jefferson, known as Patsy to her family, was the eldest surviving daughter of Jefferson and Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson, born September 27, 1772. She was married to Thomas Mann Randolph at Monticello upon returning from France, and bore twelve children. She served as hostess at the President's House during Jefferson's administrations, and later helped the family gather itself after Jefferson's death and their disinheritance.
Maria Jefferson, known as Polly to her family, was the youngest surviving daughter of Jefferson and Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson, born August 1, 1778. As a child, she traveled to France to join her father and sister, and upon returning to the United States, married John Eppes. She died from the complications of childbirth at the age of twenty-four.
Jane Randolph Jefferson was married to Peter Jefferson, and gave birth to their eldest son Thomas Jefferson in 1743. After the death of her husband, she worked together with Jefferson to maintain the Shadwell estate, and later Monticello. Family relations were tense until her death in 1776, mere months before Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence (See the Declaration of Independence SparkNote).
Peter Jefferson was a Tidewater youth who moved west to the Piedmont Frontier of Virginia. Most famously, he was the father of Thomas Jefferson, but also amassed an impressive resume of political accomplishments in his own right, surveying the border between Virginia and North Carolina and serving multiple terms in the House of Burgesses.
Touissaint L'Ouverture was the leader of a slave insurrection on Santo Domingo, and an instrumental force behind the establishment of an independent Haiti. Nevertheless, he was eventually captured and imprisoned under orders from Napoleon Bonaparte, and he died in a dungeon in the Jura Mountains of France in 1803.
Marquis de Lafayette served in the aid of George Washington during the Revolutionary War, and gained wide esteem for his heroism. He later played an instrumental role both in the French Revolution and the eventual restoration of the monarchy. In addition to being a close friend of Jefferson's in both America and France, he is noted for his tricolor design on the French flag.
Richard Henry Lee was a longtime member of the House of Burgesses who played a key role in initiating the composition of the Declaration of Independence at the Second Continental Congress. He later opposed the Constitution, but was instrumental in establishing the Bill of Rights.
Meriwether Lewis was the Lewis part of Lewis and Clark, the two men who made an extensive exploration of the Louisiana Territory under the guidance of Sacajawea and the somewhat underhanded encouragement of Jefferson in the aftermath of the Louisiana Purchase. He later became disillusioned with his role in the territorial expansion and died an alcoholic on the western frontier in an apparent suicide.
Abraham Lincoln was the sixteenth President of the United States, serving from 1861-1865. Extending his executive privilege at all costs to preserve the integrity of the fragmented Union, Lincoln issued the noted Emancipation Proclamation on New Year's Day, 1863. After being re- elected in 1864, Lincoln presided over the conclusion of the Civil War (See the Civil War SparkNote), only to be assassinated days later by Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth. (See the SparkNote on Abraham Lincoln)
Robert Livingston was a chief foreign minister during Jefferson's first administration. Alongside James Monroe and Charles Pinckney, he brokered the Louisiana Purchase for the United States together with Talleyrand and Napoleon Bonaparte of France (See the SparkNote on Napoleon Bonaparte).
King Louis XIV, known as "the Sun King," reigned over France from 1643- 1715. During his rule as absolute monarch, a series of costly European wars damaged France's economic prospects even as he lived in lavish court style in the newly erected palace at Versailles.
King Louis XVI reigned over France from 1774-1792. He was the last in a long line of consecutive Bourbon monarchs, and was famously married to Marie- Antoinette. His rule was disrupted amidst the French Revolution which saw him deposed, imprisoned, and ultimately beheaded, stripped of his title as Citizen Capet.
Dolly Madison was born of Quaker parents, and left her religion after being widowed to marry James Madison. She played hostess at the President's House during the administrations of both Jefferson and Madison.
James Madison was the fourth President of the United States, serving from 1809- 1817. He worked with Jefferson on drafting a code of laws for the Virginia Assembly, and later played a crucial role in the composition and ratification of the Constitution. He authored the Virginia Resolutions, a milder companion to Jefferson's Kentucky Resolutions, and served as Secretary of State under Jefferson from 1801-1809. During his own Presidency, Madison presided over America's role in the War of 1812, known to opponents as "Mr. Madison's War."
John Marshall was the fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, serving from 1801-1835. His most significant decisions, including Marbury v. Madison and McCullough v. Maryland, tended to advance Marshall's Federalist agenda. For his value of judicial review and a strong central government, Marshall was in constant conflict with Jefferson during Jefferson's administrations. In addition, Marshall was frequently drawn to scandals, implicated in the XYZ Affair, and later clearing Aaron Burr of treason charges in the midst of Burr's failed secessionist plot.
James Maury was an Anglican clergyman who served as the teenage Jefferson's tutor for two years. He also taught Dabney Carr and, later, James Monroe.
James Monroe was the fifth President of the United States, serving from 1817-1825. Fresh out of college, he saw action in the Revolutionary War, and later studied law under Jefferson. During Jefferson's administrations, he served as a foreign minister, playing a key role in the negotiation of the Louisiana Purchase. Under President Madison, Monroe served as Secretary of State. During his own administrations, Monroe's crucial actions were to sign the Missouri Compromise and issue the Monroe Doctrine under advice from John Quincy Adams.
Lord North served as Prime Minister of Parliament from 1770-1782. His close relationship with King George III ensured his longevity in office, but was not enough to withstand the damage to his reputation as a result of losses in the Revolutionary War.
Thomas Paine was a political theorist, best known for his work Common Sense, which furthered momentum behind the Revolutionary War movement in America. He later took an active role in the French Revolution and opposed the growth of the Federalist Party in the United States. In his later years, Paine was severely ostracized, and died an impecunious outcast from society.
Charles Wilson Peale was best known as a painter of heroes from the Revolutionary War era. In addition, he founded the first major museum in the United States, the Peale Museum at Baltimore.
Charles Pinckney was a foreign minister during Jefferson's first administration. Previously implicated in the XYZ Affair, he redeemed himself alongside Robert Livingston and James Monroe in brokering the Louisiana Purchase for the United States.
Josiah Quincy was a longtime member of Congress from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He was a staunch Federalist minority leader during Jefferson's administrations, and a vocal opponent of the Embargo Act. He had a tangential relation to the Essex Junto, propagators of a New England secessionist plot. Later he served as president of Harvard University and was a founder of the Harvard Law School.
Sir Walter Ralegh was by turns a court favorite and enemy of Queen Elizabeth I. He made extensive explorations in North and South America, and was imprisoned for various intrigues during the late sixteenth century. He was eventually executed under the reign of King James I and VI of England and Scotland.
Peyton Randolph, brother of John Randolph, was a cousin to Jefferson who served as a longtime member and later speaker of the House of Burgesses. Like John Hancock, he served tenures as president of the First and Second Continental Congresses, but died before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War.
John Randolph, brother of Peyton Randolph, was a cousin to Jefferson who remained a loyalist in the months leading up to the Revolutionary War, and eventually relocated to England in the interest of his own personal safety.
Thomas Jefferson Randolph was the eldest son of Martha Washington Jefferson and Thomas Mann Randolph, and the eldest grandson of Jefferson. He was the designated primary heir to Jefferson's estate, but lost his birthright upon the lottery and auction of Jefferson's holdings that took place in 1827.
Thomas Mann Randolph was married to Martha Washington Jefferson at Monticello, shortly after her return from France in 1789. Although Jefferson fully approved of the match, Randolph was constantly plagued by feelings of inadequacy in his new family, and degenerated into alcoholism in later life.
Ronald Reagan is the fortieth President of the United States, having served from 1981-89. He was noted for his fiscally conservative brand of Republicanism, and was the first President to serve two full consecutive terms since Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the thirty-second President of the United States, serving from 1933-1945. He was a bastion of the Democratic Party, and was elected to office an unprecedented four times running. His liberal social policies and overarching government programs provided relief to many during the hardships caused by the Great Depression.
Sacajawea was a Shoshone native who guided Lewis and Clark in their western expedition through the Louisiana Territory beginning in 1804. She recently won newfound fame via her placement on the new dollar coins minted by the United States federal government.
Bathurst Skelton was a lawyer and first husband to Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson. He died shortly after their marriage, leaving considerable holdings to his childless widow.
Roger B. Taney was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1835-1864. He issued the landmark Dred Scott decision in 1857, and fiercely opposed Lincoln's extension of executive privilege during the Civil War.
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand was a longtime French diplomat and chief adviser to Napoleon Bonaparte in the early nineteenth century. He was embroiled in the midst of the XYZ Affair, and later served as the chief broker on behalf of France during the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
Henry David Thoreau was a prominent New England transcendentalist and a close associate of Ralph Waldo Emerson. He is known for his values of self-reliance and nonconformity, and wrote several tracts on life in nature, including, most famously, Walden.
Harry S. Truman was the thirty-third President of the United States, serving from 1945-1953. He succeeded Franklin Delano Roosevelt in office, and presided over the conclusion of World War II as well as the unfolding of the Korean War.
George Washington was the first President of the United States, serving from 1789-1797. He served as commander-in-chief of the American forces during the Revolutionary War, and later advanced a Federalist agenda from executive office with the primary support of John Adams and Alexander Hamilton.
John Wayles was father to Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson, and one of the most prominent landowners and speculators in the Commonwealth of Virginia. He amassed holdings and debts in equal proportions, and passed this dubious inheritance to Jefferson, his son-in-law. Wayles also fathered several children by his slave mistress, Betty Hemings. Among their offspring was Sally Hemings, later styled as Jefferson's own mistress.
James Wilkinson, a hero of the Revolutionary War, served as deputy governor of the Louisiana Territory under the command of William Claiborne. He played a significant role in Aaron Burr's secessionist plot, but was cleared of wrongdoing after revealing the scheme to Jefferson. He later served an unremarkable tenure in the War of 1812.
Woodrow Wilson was the twenty-eighth President of the United States, serving from 1913-1921. He is also noted for serving as president of Princeton University. Wilson advanced the fortunes of the Democratic Party, which had been in disarray for nearly half-a-century in the aftermath of the Civil War (See the Civil War SparkNote). After avoiding involvement in World War I for several years, Wilson finally committed the United States to the Allied cause, and later spearheaded the negotiations over the Treaty of Versailles (See the World War I SparkNote). His efforts to advance the League of Nations were frustrated by congressional opposition, and he died shortly after leaving office.
George Wythe served as law tutor to the young Jefferson, and later worked as a law professor at the College of William and Mary. He was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and assisted Jefferson in preparing a new code of laws for the Virginia Assembly. In 1806, Wythe was poisoned to death by his nephew after a complicated inheritance scheme involving Wythe's slave mistress and their son came to light.