In 1743, on this day Sir Thomas Jefferson was born in Charlottesville, Virginia. Jefferson was serving in the Virginia House of Burgesses when, in 1775, he was called upon by the Second Continental Congress to draft a letter to King George III that sought to reconcile the colonies with their mother country.
Sir Thomas JeffersonThe petition stated that the colonies did not wish to revolt, but simply sought the right to fair taxation and trading rights. The petition reached London in mid-August, and, combined with the news of the battles of Lexington and Concord, convinced the King that the Americans were determined to achieve equal rights, by any means necessary. The King quickly appointed a joint British-American commission to solve the problem of American sovereignty, and in September of 1776 the commission signed an agreement which was soon ratified by the King and Parliament. The main points of the agreement were that:
1. Americans would be taxed at the same rate as British citizens, but that the collected taxes would only be used in America.
2. The Thirteen Colonies were allowed to seat representatives in Parliament, three from each colony, and that the representatives would have full voting rights on all issues pertaining to the Colonies. Also, the Continental Congress would be recognized and expanded as the official representative body of the Colonies.
3. The Thirteen Colonies would be formed into a new dominion, the Confederation of New Britain, and that a Viceroy (always an American) would be appointed to serve much as a Prime Minister.
The agreement took effect on January 1st, 1778, and although denounced by a number of hard-liners (notably Samuel Adams in Boston), the vast majority of Americans supported the agreement, officially known as the Colonial Representation Act. Sir Benjamin Franklin served as the first Viceroy, unfortunately for only three years until his death in December 1790. Sir Thomas Jefferson served as the third Viceroy, from 1807 until 1819. Upon his retirement, he focused on furthering higher education in Virginia, establishing the University of Virginia in 1825. He died on July 4, 1826, a few hours ahead of John Adams, the Royal Governor of Massachusetts.