Thomas Jefferson’s universality is best evinced in his NOTES ON THE STATE OF VIRGINIA, which he began writing in 1780 in answer to inquiries from the French government about conditions in Virginia. Then Governor of Virginia, Jefferson’s far-reaching interests ranged over all of what he called America’s empire of liberty. The NOTES are not restricted, therefore, to the boundaries of Virginia as they existed before 1781, including, in addition to the present commonwealth the territory now covered by the states of West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and part of Pennsylvania. The writing of the NOTES was made easier because Jefferson for some twenty years had collected colonial maps, legislative journals, newspapers, and explorers’ accounts. He had made and continued to make investigation of Virginia’s institutions, economy, flora, fauna, fossils, meteorological conditions, and Indian culture. No dry, statistical account, although containing plenty of facts, the NOTES deal with culture in its widest sense. They include so many of Jefferson’s comments about social phenomena that they comprise in capsule his political and social philosophy, his intellectual, scientific and ethnic beliefs.
The book, with 260 pages of text and appendices, is arranged arbitrarily by the queries of Francois Marbois, secretary of the French legation in Philadelphia. Jefferson’s essays in reply vary in length from one...
(The entire section is 1605 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Notes on the State of Virginia Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!