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Collection Thomas Jefferson Papers, 1606 to 1827

1810 to 1827

The Early Republic, 1810-1827

  1. July 15, 1813

    John Adams writes Jefferson that it would be a shame for them to die without having explained themselves to each other. Adams and Jefferson correspond for about three years, during which they review the events of the Revolution and range over a variety of political and philosophical issues. During 1811-12, a mutual friend Dr. Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia had facilitated the reconciliation of Adams and Jefferson, who had been estranged for about a decade.

    [Benjamin Rush, half-length portrait, seated at desk, facing right] Engraving by James Barton Longacre, 1794-1869, from painting by Thomas Sully, 1783-1872. created/published [between 1800 and 1870].
  2. February 20, 1814

    Jefferson's bill for the establishment of free public education in Virginia is defeated in the state legislature.

  3. September 21, 1814

    Jefferson offers to sell his library of nearly 6,700 volumes to the federal government. The government's own library was lost in August when the British burned the Capitol in Washington, D.C. In January 1815, Congress purchases Jefferson's library for $23,950, and it is shipped to Washington by wagon in May. Jefferson's library becomes the foundation for the collections of the Library of Congress.
    Thomas Jefferson to James Madison September 24, 1814 | "Thomas Jefferson's Library," American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Memory (Library of Congress Exhibitions)

  4. January 9, 1816

    Jefferson writes Charles Thomson that an "acquaintance of fifty-two years...calls for an interchange of notice now and then, that we remain in existence, the monuments of another age...." More specifically, Jefferson tells his old friend of his work on what will become "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth," a volume of clippings he has been making from different language editions of the New Testament, creating a "paradigma" of what he considers the moral teachings of Jesus.

  5. March 4, 1817

    James Monroe is inaugurated as president.

  6. October 6, 1817

    The cornerstone is laid for Central College, which will later become the University of Virginia.

  7. February 4, 1818

    Jefferson writes an introduction for a collection of letters, confidential notes, and reports written while he was secretary of state. He has had them bound in three quarto volumes. His grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, who inherits his papers, gives them the name of "Anas," as a Greek plural of the suffix employed to form the term "Jeffersoniana."

  8. August 1-4, 1818

    Jefferson chairs a commission meeting at Rockfish Gap, Virginia to plan the University of Virginia. Jefferson writes the commissioners' report. On January 25, 1819, the Virginia state legislature charters the University.

  9. April 22, 1820

    Jefferson writes John Holmes, a Congressman from Maine, criticizing the Missouri Compromise which maintains the balance of free and slave states in the Union by admitting Maine with Missouri. In 1819, a bill to admit Missouri to the Union was before Congress when a New York representative proposed an amendment prohibiting slavery in the new state. Though this measure did not pass, Jefferson sees the debate surrounding the Compromise as an example of unprofitable northern interference in a southern institution. He has completely withdrawn from his earlier calls for abolition, viewing it as a problem so complex as to be intractable and therefore best left to the next generation to accomplish. Jefferson describes the Missouri Compromise as a "fire bell in the night" and the "knell of the Union."

  10. January-July 1821

    Jefferson works on and off on an autobiographical essay. He is seventy-seven.

  11. April 1824

    Jefferson prepares instructions for recruiting faculty in Europe for the University of Virginia.

  12. November 3-15, 1824

    Lafayette, visiting America, is fêted at the University of Virginia and visits Jefferson at Monticello.

  13. July 4, 1826

    Jefferson dies shortly after 12 noon, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. He is eighty-three years old. Several hours later John Adams dies in Massachusetts, and the nation is struck by this remarkable coincidence. The last letter Jefferson wrote to Adams was on March 23.

  14. January 27, 1827

    Monticello, its furnishings, and Jefferson's slaves are sold in an executor's sale. One hundred and thirty slaves are sold at auction. During his lifetime Jefferson distributed substantial property to his heirs; however, he died more than $100,000 in debt.