Thomas Jefferson inherited his father’s plantation, slaves, and livelihood. Peter Jefferson was a planter, surveyor, county justice, member of the colonial Virginia legislature, and a loyal citizen of the British Empire. Jefferson’s mother, Jane Randolph Jefferson, belonged to one of the colony’s most prominent families.

The intellectual and material character of his parents’ household at Shadwell shaped Thomas Jefferson in childhood and young adulthood. Peter and Jane Jefferson owned books, scientific and drafting instruments, fashionable furniture and table wares, over 7,200 acres of land, and 60 slaves. At Shadwell the young Jefferson learned the customs of an elite, slaveholding society while developing a great curiosity about the wider world.