Thomas Jefferson character jug produced by Sebastian Originals of Encino, California, circa 1973. Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was the third president of the United States, a leader of the patriot faction in Colonial America and an apostle of agrarian democracy. Except for minor alterations, the historic Declaration of Independence was wholly the work of Jefferson. In 1785 he succeeded Benjamin Franklin as minister to France, remaining to witness the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789. On his return he became secretary of state under George Washington. First elected vice-president in 1796, Jefferson was elected president in 1800, serving two terms. He doubled the size of the United States with the Louisiana Purchase and organized the Lewis and Clark Expedition.