The Writings of Thomas Jefferson - Vol. 2

The Writings of Thomas Jefferson - Vol. 2

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The Writings of Thomas Jefferson - Vol. 2

The Writings of Thomas Jefferson - Vol. 2

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Excerpt

"Notes on Virginia" was written by Jefferson in answer to inquiries propounded to him by the Marquis de Barbé-Marbois, then Secretary of the French Legation in Philadelphia. Jefferson had 200 copies privately printed in Paris in 1784 (dated 1782) for distribution among his friends in Europe and America. No more authentic account could be given as to the origin of the "Notes on Virginia" than the account Jefferson gives us himself in his Autobiography. This account is as follows:

"Before I had left America, that is to say, in the year of 1781, I had received a letter from M. de Marbois, of the French legation in Philadelphia, informing me that he had been instructed by his government to obtain such statistical accounts of the different States of our Union, as might be useful for their information; and addressing to me a number of queries relative to the State of Virginia. I had always made it a practice, whenever an opportunity occurred, of obtaining any information of our country which might be of use to me in any station, public or private, to commit it to writing. These memoranda, were on loose papers, bundled up without order, and difficult of recurrence, when I had occasion for a particular one. I thought this a good occasion to embody their substance, which I did in the order of M. Marbois's queries, so as to answer his wish, and to arrange them for my own use. Some friends, to whom they were occasionally communicated, wished for copies; but their volume rendering this too laborious by hand, I proposed to get a few printed for their gratification. I was asked such a price, however, as exceeded the importance of the object. On my arrival at Paris, I found it could be done for a fourth of what I had been asked here. I, therefore, corrected and enlarged them, and had two hundred copies printed, under the title of 'Notes on Virginia.' I gave a very few copies to some particular persons in Europe, and sent the rest to my friends in America. An European copy, by the death of the owner, got into the hands of a bookseller, who engaged its translation, and, when ready for the press, communicated his intentions and manuscript to me, suggesting that I should correct it without asking any other permission for the publication. I never had seen so wretched an attempt at translation. Interverted, abridged, mutilated, and often reversing the sense of the original, I found it a blotch of errors from . . .

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