The opinion universally entertained of the extraordinary abilities of Thomas Jefferson, and the signal evidence given by his country, of a profound sense of his patriotic services, and of veneration for his memory, have induced the Editor, who is both his Executor and the Legatee of his Manuscript Papers, to believe that an extensive publication from them would be particularly acceptable to the American people.
The Memoir, contained in the first volume, commences with circumstantial notices of his earliest life; and is continued to his arrival in New York, in March, 1790, when he entered on the duties of the Department of State, of which he had been just appointed Secretary.
From the aspect of the Memoir, it may be presumed that parts of it, at least, had been written for his own and his family's use only; and in a style without the finish of his revising pen. There is, however, no part of it, minute and personal as it may be, which the Reader would wish to have been passed over by the Editor; whilst not a few parts of that description will, by some, be regarded with a particular interest.
The contents of the Memoir, succeeding the biographical pages, may be designated as follows:
I. General facts and anecdotes relating to the origin and early stages of the contest with Great Britain.
II. Historical circumstances relating to the Confederation of the States.
III. Facts and anecdotes, local and general, preliminary to the Declaration of Independence.
IV. An exact account of the circumstances attending that memorable act, in its preparation and its progress through Congress; with a copy from the original draught, in the hand-writing of the; and a parallel column, in the same hand, showing the alterations made in the draught by Congress.
The Memoir will be considered not a little enriched by the Debates in Congress, on the great question of Independence, as they were taken down by Mr. Jefferson at the time, and which, though in a compressed form, present the substance of what passed on that memorable occasion. This portion of the work derives peculiar value from its perfect authenticity, being all in the hand-writing of that distinguished member of the body; from the certainty that this is the first disclosure to the world of those Debates; and from the probability, or rather certainty, that a like knowledge of them is not to be expected from any other source. The same remarks are applicable to the Debates in the same Congress, preserved in the same manner, on two of the original Articles of Confederation. The first is the Article fixing the rate of assessing the quotas of supply to the common Treasury: the second is the Article which declares, "that in determining questions, each Colony shall have one vote." The Debates on both are not only interesting in themselves, but curious, also, in relation to like discussions of the same subjects on subsequent occasions.
V. Views of the connections and transactions of the United States with foreign nations, at different periods; particularly, a narrative, with many details, personal and political, of the causes and early course of the French Revolution, as exhibited to the observation of the , during his diplomatic residence at Paris. The narrative, with the intermingled reflections on the character and consequences of that Revolution, fills a considerable space in the Memoir, and forms a very important part of it.
VI. Within the body of the Memoir, or referred to as an appendix, are other papers which were thought well entitled to the place they occupy. Among them, are, 1. A paper drawn up in the year 1774, as "Instructions to our Delegates in Congress." Though heretofore in print, it will be new to most readers; and will be regarded by all, as the most ample and precise enumeration of British violations that had then appeared, or, perhaps, that has since been presented in a form at once so compact