Literature Study GuidesNotes On The State Of Virginia

Notes on the State of Virginia | Study Guide

Thomas Jefferson

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Course Hero. "Notes on the State of Virginia Study Guide." Course Hero. 29 Mar. 2019. Web. 7 July 2020. <>.

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Course Hero. "Notes on the State of Virginia Study Guide." March 29, 2019. Accessed July 7, 2020.


Course Hero, "Notes on the State of Virginia Study Guide," March 29, 2019, accessed July 7, 2020,



Thomas Jefferson

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At a Glance

  • When Jefferson started work on Notes on the State of Virginia, the American Revolutionary War (1775–83) was still in progress, and he was nearing the end of his term as governor of Virginia (1779–81).
  • The first version appeared in 1781, with several revisions before its final publication in 1785.
  • He compiled his Notes in response to a detailed list of questions sent to him by François, marquis de Barbé-Marbois (1745-1835), secretary of the French legation (embassy) to the United States. Jefferson slightly reordered Barbé-Marbois's queries in the final publication.
  • In addition to his factual survey of geographical boundaries, natural resources, flora (plants), and fauna (animals), Jefferson includes commentary on a broad range of issues, including slavery, religious freedom, Virginia's government, and public education.
  • Jefferson was cautious about the circulation of Notes because he feared his critics might object to his views opposing slavery and supporting religious freedom. Yet the work was generally well-received, going through 18 editions by the time of the author's death in 1826.
  • Today Jefferson's work is regarded as a remarkable revelation of the author's keen focus on his own land and the eloquent expression of his political, economic, and philosophical views.

About the Title

Notes on the State of Virginia bears a modest title because it implies a series of random or fragmentary observations. In reality, however, Jefferson covers a wide range of data and issues, including questions of natural resources, laws, and hotly contested topics such as slavery and religious freedom. The word state may be understood to have a double meaning: "the geographic entity of Virginia" and "the state, or status, of its politics and economy."


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