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Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) drafted the Declaration of Independence for the Continental Congress and later served as the third president of the United States. During the Revolution, he was elected governor of Virginia and, after the war, he was appointed minister to France. While in France, he associated with many of that country's most progressive intellectuals and observed the beginning of the French Revolution. He served as George Washington's Secretary of State until 1793 and was elected vice-president in 1796 and president in 1801.

Like James Madison, Jefferson grew disillusioned with the Hamiltonian orientation of Washington's administration. When elected vice-president in 1796, he spurned President John Adams's invitation to play a meaningful role in the administration and prepared, instead, his 1800 campaign for the presidency. Adams's signing of the Alien and Sedition Acts provided Jefferson with an important campaign issue. Jefferson drafted the Kentucky Resolutions condemning these acts and advancing a theory of states' rights that would resurface in the nullification crisis of the 1830s.

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