Last Updated on October 25, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 244
Context: Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States (1801-1809), was a gentleman and scholar of thorough legal and diplomatic training. After helping to draft the Declaration of Independence, he became Governor of Virginia (1779-1781) and United States Minister to France (1785-1789). He founded the Democratic-Republican party and as its candidate succeeded John Adams as President. After a full public life he retired to his estate at Monticello in Virginia and died, as did John Adams, July 4, 1826. Notes on the State of Virginia was written at the request of M. de Marbois, of the French legation in Philadelphia, who had been requested by his government to obtain statistical accounts of the different states of the Union. Discussing the manners and customs of his native state, Jefferson boldly condemns the institution of slavery as corrupting to both master and slave, encouraging sloth in one and servility in the other. Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure, he asks,
. . . when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever; that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events; that it may become probable by supernatural interference!
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