Though Jefferson says his catalogue is “far from being complete or correct,” this part of Notes presents an impressive compendium of historical, legal, and political language that details the character of the Commonwealth.
In these sections of Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson concludes his meditation on American liberty with a pecuniary focus that seems strange at first. These four queries are about money.
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
This is the eighth installment of a year-long journey through Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia.
Query XV: The colleges and public establishments, the roads, buildings, &c.
Query XVI: The measures taken with regard to the estates and possessions of the rebels, commonly called Tories
We’ve reached the section of Notes I dread the most. It’s also the query I’ve spent more time contemplating than any other. Here, at the center of the book, he makes his infamous case for slavery in his time.
In these queries, Jefferson continues enumerating the features of Virginian civilization: its marine vessels (X), the activities of Native American tribes (XI), the locations of urban centers (XII), and the nature of civic power in the Commonwealth (XIII).
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.
This is the fourth installment of a year-long journey through Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia. You can read previous installments here, here and here. ** Query VI: “Productions mineral, vegetable and animal” A notice of the mines and other subterraneous riches; its trees, plants, fruits, &c.
This is the third installment of a year-long journey through Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia. You can read previous installments here and here. ** Query IV: A notice of its mountains Query V: Its cascades and caverns I walked into Queries IV and V thinking Jefferson
This is the second installment of a year-long journey through Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia. Here’s the first installment. ** Query II: A notice of its rivers, rivulets, and how far they are navigable Query III: A notice of the best Seaports of the State, and