Jefferson the Virginian

Dumas Malone

My Copies



volume 1 of "Jefferson And His Time"


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The Heritage of a Virginian

I: Jeffersons and Randolphs, 1679–1745

  • Jefferson was born in Virginia, back when that was the frontier
  • He hardly left Virginia before age 40; Virginian was his primary identity
  • Jefferson descended from minor Virginian aristocrats on both sides, primarily his mother's (the Randolph clan). He was not self-made. His maternal grandfather in particular (Captain Isham Randolph) was extremely well off for the time and area.

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II: The Services of Peter Jefferson, 1746–1757

Thomas Jefferson's father was a surveyor and planter in what was then Albemarle County, Virginia. He maintained two estates: one called "Snowdon" across from the courthouse on the south fork of the James River (the "Fluvanna"), and one on the north fork (the "Rivanna") near the Southwest Mountains called "Shadwell." He was a prominent surveyor, responsible (with Fly) for mapping the Virginia-North Carolina border, and later compiling the most reliable 18th century map of Virginia (known as the "Fry-Jefferson Map of Virginia").

He had two sons, to each of whom he left an estate when he died early at 50. Thomas Jefferson, being older, had the first pick and chose Shadwell (which became Monticello, near Charlottesville and the University of Virginia (that he founded)). He was also left a basic library and a few slaves.

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The Road to Enlightenment

III: Schooldays in Albemarle, 1757–1760

Thomas Jefferson's early education was primarily at the hands of various nearby clergy, with whom he boarded and who tutored him. The most notable of these was the Reverent James Maury, who was responsible for his fluency in classical languages (Greek and Latin) and with classical texts. His distinctive later ideas about religion were original to his later life, not something he learned in youth.

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IV: At the College, 1760–1762

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V: Williamsburg: Introduction to the Law, 1762–1765

VI: The School of Manners, 1762–1765

VII: Listening at the Capitol, 1765–1766

VIII: Disciple of Enlightenment