About this Collection
The papers of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), diplomat, architect, scientist, and third president of the United States, held in the Library of Congress Manuscript Division, consist of approximately 27,000 items, making it the largest collection of original Jefferson documents in the world. Dating from the early 1760s through his death in 1826, the Thomas Jefferson Papers consist mainly of his correspondence, but they also include his drafts of the Declaration of Independence, drafts of Virginia laws; his fragmentary autobiography; the small memorandum books he used to record his spending; the pages on which for many years he daily recorded the weather; many charts, lists, tables, and drawings recording his scientific and other observations; notes; maps; recipes; ciphers; locks of hair; wool samples; and more.
The collection documents Jefferson’s whole life, both public and personal--as a delegate to the second Continental Congress, Virginia legislator and governor, diplomat and residence in France, secretary of state, and president. The purchase of Louisiana, the expedition of Lewis and Clark, the building of Washington, D.C. as the national capital, and Jefferson’s profound engagement with science and technology are all documented here. Jefferson’s family life at Monticello is reflected in correspondence with his daughters, Martha (Patsy) Jefferson Randolph (1776-1836) and Mary (Maria) Jefferson Eppes (1778-1804), and his grandchildren, and in household accounts kept by his wife, Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson (1748-1782). Some aspects of the lives of Jefferson’s slaves, including members of the Hemings family of Monticello, including James Hemings (1765-1821), a brother of Sally Hemings, who trained as a French chef in Paris, can be traced in these papers. The twenty-one volumes of legal and legislative records from colonial Virginia, 1606-1737, that Jefferson collected, are divided between this collection and one held by the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress.
Notable correspondents include Abigail Adams, John Adams, Joel Barlow, Aaron Burr, François Jean de Chastellux, José Francisco Correia da Serra, Maria Cosway, Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours, Alexander Hamilton, Jean Antoine Houdon, Alexander von Humboldt, Tadeusz Kościuszko, the Marquis de Lafayette, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Pierre Charles L'Enfant, Meriwether Lewis, James Madison, James Monroe, Charles Willson Peale, Joseph Priestley, David Rittenhouse, Benjamin Rush, William Short, Samuel Harrison Smith, J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, William Thornton, John Trumbull, Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes, C.-F. Volney, Caspar Wistar, and George Washington.
Description of Series
The Thomas Jefferson Papers are divided into ten series as follows:
Some of Jefferson’s papers are supplemented on this website by transcriptions from the published editions listed below and from others supplied by Manuscript Division specialist Gerard Gawalt (since retired). There are some discrepancies with dates and other text between documents in the published editions and the manuscript images. This is because in some cases editors transcribed a different draft than the one the Library of Congress owns. In other cases archivists at the Library of Congress and editors of the published editions arrived at different interpretations of dates, correspondents, or other data. The published editions listed below were the source of the transcriptions used on the Library’s Web site. They were chosen because they are out of copyright or otherwise in the public domain. For citations to the modern editions of Jefferson’s papers, see the bibliography in Related Resources.
Special thanks to Gerard W. Gawalt, Specialist in Early American History, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (retired), for providing transcriptions of Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson's Household Accounts in Series 7 and for authoring the accompanying essay. He provided transcriptions of correspondence between Jefferson and William Short, as well as many other transcriptions used throughout this online collection.