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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;

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6006. NOTES ON VIRGINIA, History of.—
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6006. NOTES ON VIRGINIA, History of.—

Before I had left America, that is to say,
in the year 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


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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 beginning to end. I corrected
some of the most material, and, in that
form, it was printed in French. A London
bookseller, on seeing the translation, requested
me to permit him to print the English original.
I thought it best to do so, to let the world see
that it was not really so bad as the French
translation had made it appear. And this is
the true history of that publication.—
Autobiography. Washington ed. i, 61. Ford ed., i, 85.