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Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) is considered one of the most important Founding Fathers of the United States of America for the central role he played in drafting the Declaration of Independence. During the American Revolution, Jefferson was elected governor of Virginia and, after the war, he was appointed minister to France. He also served as the nation's first secretary of state, its second vice president, and its third president.

As chairman of the committee to draft the Declaration, Jefferson wrote the historic document in solitude. Several of his phrasings drew from the recently drafted Declaration of Rights in the Virginia constitution, composed by Jefferson's fellow planter George Mason. Jefferson was also strongly influenced by English philosopher John Locke, who argued that humans were born in a state of nature and enjoyed certain natural (Jefferson would call them "inalienable") rights that no government could take away from them. The Declaration announced a break with the English Empire, voicing the frustrations and aspirations of four-fifths of the American population while formally disavowing a long-held allegiance to the British government. It listed American grievances not against the Parliament or government ministers, but against the king, the embodiment of the British state. Besides omitting Jefferson's criticisms of the British people and his blaming of King George III for the Atlantic slave trade, the Continental Congress also added two references to God. A deist, Jefferson authored the pivotal Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom in early 1786 and considered religion a private matter in which the public had no to right to intervene.

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