Here’s a confession. When I talk about NOTES ON THE STATE OF VIRGINIA, I sometimes refer to Jefferson’s “queries” as “cantos.” Like a poetic canto, which stands or falls on the music of its syllables, Jefferson’s queries must have enough tensile strength to contain his ideas, and space to
In these three queries, Jefferson attempts to distill the complex meteorological, demographic, and military features of Virginia into a series of data points. His prose—supplemented by graphical tables tracking everything from rainfall to carriage wheels—draws a fine grid over the natural and human activities of the Commonwealth.
Today is June 19. For those that don’t know, this is a holiday celebrated in some parts of America as Juneteenth. Also known as Freedom Day, it marks the day that the Union army arrived in Texas in 1865 and actually enforced the Emancipation Proclamation, more than two years