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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 Author; and a parallel column, in the same hand, shewing 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 Author, during his diplomatic residence at Paris. The narrative, with the intermingled reflections on the character and consequences of that Revolution, fill a considerable space in the Memoir, and form 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 and so complete. 2. A Penal code, being part of a Revised Code of Laws, prepared by appointment of the Legislature of Virginia, in 1776, with reference to the Republican form of Government, and to the principles of humanity congenial therewith, and with the improving spirit of the age. Annexed to the several articles, are explanatory and other remarks of the Author, worthy of being preserved by the aid of the press. 3. A historical and critical review of the repeal of the laws establishing the Church in Virginia ; which was followed by the “ Act for establishing religious freedom." This act, it is well known, was always held by Mr. Jefferson to be one of his best efforts in the cause of liberty, to which he was devoted : and it is certainly the strongest legal barrier that could be erected against a connection between Church and State, so fatal in its tendency to the purity of both. 4. An elaborate paper concerning a Money Unit, prepared in the year 1784, and which laid the foundation of the system adopted by Congress, for a coinage and money of account. For other particulars, not here noted, the Reader is referred to the volume itself.
The termination of the Memoir, at the date mentioned, by the Author, may be explained by the laborious tasks assumed or not declined by him, on his return to private life ; which, with his great age, did not permit him to reduce his materials into a state proper to be embodied in such a work.
The other volumes contain, I. Letters from 1775, to his death, addressed to a very great variety of individuals; and comprising a range of information, and in many instances, regular essays, on subjects of History, Politics, Science, Morals and Religion. The letters to him are omitted except in a very few instances, where it was supposed their publication would be generally acceptable, from the important character of the communication, or the general interest in the views of the writer; or where the whole or a part of a letter had been filed for the better understanding of the answer.
In these cases, such letters are inserted in the body of the work, or in an appendix, as their importance, and connection with the subject discussed by the Author, rendered advisable. And where inferences from the tenor of the answer, might in any way affect the correspondent, his name does not appear in the copy filed. The historical parts of the letters, and the entire publication, have the rare value of coming from one of the chief actors himself, and of being written, not for the public eye, but in the freedom and confidence of private friendship.
II. Notes of conversations, whilst Secretary of State, with President Washington, and others high in office; and memoranda of Cabinet Councils, committed to paper on the spot, and filed; the whole, with the explanatory and miscellaneous additions, shewing the views and tendencies of parties, from the year 1789 to 1800.
Appended to the publication, is a 'Fac simile' of the rough draught of the Declaration of Independence, in which will be seen the erasures, interlineations and additions of Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams, two of the appointed Committee, in the hand writing of each.
The Editor, though he cannot be insensible to the genius, the learning, the philosophic inspiration, the generous devotion to virtue, and the love of country, displayed in the writings now committed to the press, is restrained, not less by his incompetency, than by. his relation to the Author, from dwelling on themes which belong to an eloquence that can do justice to the names of illustrious benefactors to their country and to their fellow men.
Albemarle, Va. January, 1829.
The Fac simile of the rough draught of the Declaration of Independence, was not engraved in time, to be inserted in its appropriate place in this volume. It is, therefore, appended to a subsequent one.
The notes inclosed in brackets, are by the Editor. In one instance only, (page 29 of this volume) this mark of distinction has been accidentally omitted.
A list of the principal errata, will be found at the close of the last volume.