Why did Jefferson write so much about the trees, plants, and animals of Virginia in query 6 of Notes on the State of Virginia?
To some extent, Jefferson is following the established tradition of colonial histories, which would often go into considerable detail regarding native flora and fauna. But more importantly, what Jefferson's trying to do is give the impression that the structural basis of Virginian society is not so much legally imposed upon, as derived from, the surrounding landscape. In that sense, Jefferson is arguing that the political, legal, and social institutions of the Commonwealth—including, notoriously, slavery—are a perfectly natural outgrowth of the native environment. In other words, the structures of Virginian society are natural, not artificial.
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