Future President Thomas Jefferson is elected to the second Continental Congress on this day in 1775. Jefferson, a Virginia delegate, quickly established himself in the Continental Congress with the publication of his paper titled A Summary View of the Rights of British America. Throughout the next year, Jefferson published several more papers, most notably Drafts and Notes on the Virginia Constitution.
In June 1776, Congress put together a committee to draft the Declaration of Independence. After much discussion, the committee chose Jefferson to compose the document. At just 33 years old, Jefferson finished writing his draft of what is considered the most important document in the history of democracy in just a few days. After a few minor changes, the committee submitted the draft, titled A Declaration by the Representatives in General Congress Assembled, to Congress on June 28, 1776. After some debate, the document was formally adopted by Congress on July 4, 1776, under the new title, The Declaration of Independence.
In the following years, Jefferson drafted other historical documents including, in 1777, a bill establishing religious freedom that was formally enacted by Congress in 1786. He served as Virginia’s governor from 1779 to 1781, minister to France from 1784 to 1789 and the first U.S. secretary of state under President George Washington from 1790 to 1793.
Jefferson served as vice president under President John Adams from 1797 to 1801 and afterwards was elected the third president of the United States, a position he held for two terms from 1801 to 1809. After his presidency ended, Jefferson retired from public life to his home, Monticello, in Virginia. Jefferson died on July 4, 1826–50 years to the day after the signing of The Declaration of Independence. He was 83 years old.