Jefferson's Books at Washington University

  • Thomas Jefferson twice collected a library of books. The first (some 6,487 volumes) became the foundation for the Library of Congress after the British burned Washington in 1814. He immediately started buying books again (confessing to John Adams I cannot live without books) and collected 1,600 more before he died. Now it turns out that Washington University in St. Louis has discovered 74 volumes from Jefferson’s second collection. See The New York Times (21-Feb-2011).
JDN | 23-Feb-2011

Monticello was a working plantation, and Jefferson was eager to make it pay. His slaves may have been members of his family, but they were units of production as well. Everywhere on his plantation he sought to eliminate pockets of idleness. If a slave was too old or too sick to work in the fields, he or she was put to tending the vegetable gardens or to cooking in the quarters. When one of his former head men named Nace became ill, Jefferson ordered that he be entirely kept from labour until he recovers; nevertheless, Nace was to spend his days indoors shelling corn or making shoes or baskets. Jefferson was willing to prescribe lighter work for women who were pregnant or raising infant children because they were actually breeding more property; thus, said Jefferson, a child raised every 2 years is of more profit than the crop of the best laboring man. This is one of the times, he said, when providence has made our interest and our duties coincide perfectly.

Gordon S. Wood
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009)