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Notes on the State of Virginia by Thomas Jefferson - Book Review

Updated on May 12, 2011


In many ways Jefferson’s comments on the various aspects of Virginian culture reflect the standings of American culture as well. He discusses his attitudes on slavery, native tribes, and liberty within the new world. Although he reflects on each of these situations and agendas with a separate responses and opinions, Jefferson encompasses all of his values within his view of the native tribes. I being Native Central American I can relate and adhere to Jefferson’s views and admire them for the time frame he expressed them. These ideologies would later shape and reflect those of a modern United States, and it is within this context that his thoughts make historical significance to the Nation.

Jefferson basically begins his reflection of the Natives by examining there lifestyle, and while different, comparing them to the “whites” or the settlers of America. Jefferson makes this clear when he retorts, “That he is affectionate to his children, careful with them, and indulgent in the extreme: that his affections comprehend his other connections, weakening, as with us, from circle to circle, as they recede from the center: that his friendships are strong and faithful to the uttermost extremity: that his sensibility is keen, even the warriors warriors weeping most bitterly on the loss of his children, though in general they endeavour to appear superior to human events..etc” The “he” in this case being the native peoples, he describes them with compassion and understanding and makes many links to his own people. It is very clear then that although he does not agree with all of the native customs and practices, Jefferson can relate to the natives and wishes to find some sort of agreement of living among them.

Now in many ways one can simply deny his standing or conclusions on the native’s similarities to “civilized” people because he might have no personal account with any and therefore no credibility to speak about them. However he addresses this notion when he writes about Logan. Logan had his family killed by white settlers by mistake and was caught seeking vengeance on them. Logan wrote an appeal to the whites on the matter, which Jefferson quotes in his notes: “I appeal to any white man to say, if ever he entered Logan’s cabin hungry, and he gave him not meat; if ever he came cold and naked, and he clothed him not. During the course of the last long and bloody war, Logan remained idle in his cabin, an advocate for peace. Such was my love for the whites, that my countrymen pointed as they passed, and said, ‘Logan is the friend of the white men.’ I had even thought to have lived with you,” he goes on to talk about the unjust actions of Col. Cressap against his people and even still asks for peace, then concludes, “But do not harbour the thought that mine is the joy of fear. He will not turn on his heel to save his life. Who is there to mourn for Logan? Not one.” Through the actions of one man Jefferson shows the compassion and human nature of the natives and shows that they too are rightful citizens of the nation. Jefferson suggests equality among them and cannot see reason for otherwise.

He also makes a physical reference to the equality among races by showing and addressing a general difference. This was when Jefferson said, “With them it is disgraceful to be hairy on the body. They therefore pluck the hair as fast as it appears. But the traders who marry their women, and prevail on them to discontinue this practice, say, that nature is the same with them as with the whites. Nor, if the fact be true, is the consequence necessary which has been drawn from it.” He mentions this because one of the primary explanations for the natives inferiority is their lack of hair in a cold world. But it’s impossible since they among other races have less hair yet thrive in numbers.

Overall Jefferson brought to the table many ideas and thoughts on geography and expansion for virginia as well as thoughts on laws and governing for the state. But the more ideological premise for his writings laid on the principle of equality his wished to show to the people.

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