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In 1752, he began attending a local school run by a Scottish Presbyterian minister.
At age nine, he started studying the natural world as well as three languages: Latin, Greek, and French. He was taught from 1758 to 1760 by Reverend James Maury near Gordonsville, Virginia, where he studied history, science, and the classics while boarding with Maury's family.
During the American Revolution, he represented Virginia in the Continental Congress that adopted the Declaration, drafted the law for religious freedom as a Virginia legislator, and he served as a wartime governor (1779–1781).
He became the United States Minister to France in May 1785, and subsequently the nation's first Secretary of State in 1790–1793 under President George Washington.
As a result of peace negotiations with France, his administration reduced military forces. Jefferson's second term was beset with difficulties at home, including the trial of former Vice President Aaron Burr. In 1803, Jefferson began a controversial process of Indian tribe removal to the newly organized Louisiana Territory, and he signed the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves in 1807.
He graduated from the College of William & Mary and briefly practiced law, at times defending slaves seeking their freedom.
He had intended to pay off some of his large debt, but he resumed collecting for his personal library, writing to John Adams, "I cannot live without books." He pursued reforms to slavery.
He introduced legislation in 1769 allowing masters to take control over the emancipation of slaves, taking discretion away from the royal Governor and General Court.
Jefferson improved his French and Greek and his skill at the violin. He read the law under Professor George Wythe's tutelage to obtain his law license, while working as a law clerk in Wythe's office.
The British burned the Library of Congress that year; he then sold more than 6,000 books to the Library for ,950.