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Notes on the state of Virginia
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Notes on the state of Virginia
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Virginia is bounded on the East by the Atlantic; on the North by a line of latitude, crossing the Eastern Shore through Watkins's Point, being about 37° 57' North latitude; from thence by a straight line to Cinquac, near the mouth of Patowmac; thence by the Patowmac, which is common to Virginia and Maryland, to the first fountain of its Northern branch; thence by a meridian line, passing through that fountain till it intersects a line running East and West, in latitude 39° 43' 42.4", which divides Maryland from Pennsylvania, and which was marked by Messrs. Mason and Dixon; thence by that line, and a continuation of it westwardly to the completion of 5 degrees of longitude from the Eastern boundary of Pennsylvania, in the same latitude, and thence by a meridian line to the Ohio: on the West by the Ohio and Missisipi, to latitude 36° 30' North; and on the South by the line of latitude last mentioned.



By admeasurements through nearly the whole of this last line, and supplying the unmeasured parts from good data, the Atlantic and Missisipi are found in this latitude to be 758 miles distant, equal to 13° 38' of longitude, reckoning 55 miles and 3,144 feet to the degree. This being our comprehension of longitude, that of our latitude, taken between this and Mason and Dixon's line, is 3° 13', 42.4", equal to 223.3 miles, supposing a degree of a great circle to be 69 m. 864 f., as computed by Cassini. These boundaries include an area somewhat triangular, of 121,525 square miles, whereof 79,650 lie westward of the Alleghaney mountains, and 57,034 westward of the meridian of the mouth of the Great Kanhaway. This State is therefore one-third larger than the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, which are reckoned at 88,357 square miles.

These limits result from—1. The ancient charters from the crown of England. 2. The grant of Maryland to the Lord Baltimore, and the subsequent determinations of the British Court as to the extent of that grant. 3. The grant of Pennsylvania to William Penn, and a compact between the General Assemblies of the Commonwealths of Virginia and Pennsylvania as to the extent of that grant. 4. The grant of Carolina, and actual location of its Northern boundary, by consent of both parties. 5. The treaty of Paris of 1763. 6. The confirmation of the charters of the neighboring States by the Convention of Virginia at the time of constituting their Commonwealth. 7. The cession made by Virginia to Congress of all the lands to which they had title on the North side of the Ohio.










   Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1853, by

J. W. RANDOLPH, In the Clerk's Office of the District Court in and for the Eastern District of V >.



Thomas Jeeferson left at his -death a printed copy of his Notes on Virginia, containing many manuscript notes, several plates and a map, intended apparently for a new edition of the work. As an edition had then been recently published, it was deemed best to delay any further publication until the book should become scarce. It is now nearly out of print, and a general desire is expressed for another edition. With a view of gratifying this wish, Mr. Jefferson's executor, Thomas Jefferson Kandolph, has transferred to the publisher the materials prepared by the author for the new edition.

In making this preparation the author used a copy of the first edition, and thus inadvertently repeated an error in the narrative preceding Logan's speech, which had been corrected in a later edition. An historical statement making the correction, deduced by the author from certain documents, and the documents themselves, will be found in Appendix No. IV. They are taken from a re-print of the work in 1825.


The manuscript notes of the present edition are numerous and interesting. Many are in foreign languages, and disclose the extensive erudition of the author. Professor Schele De Vere, the accomplished and learned incumbent of the Chair of Modern Languages of the University of Virginia, has been kind enough to translate the French, Spanish and Italian notes. These translations will be found in Appendix No. IV.

The circumstances under which the Notes on Virginia were written, are stated by the author in his preface. It may be well to add, that the foreigner of distinction to whom they were addressed was Mons. Barbe De Marbois, the Secretary of the French Legation in the United States, and that they were written while the author was confined to his room by an injury received from the falling of his horse.

The beauty of style, the accuracy of information, and the scientific research displayed in the Notes have made them a permanent part of our national literature. The publisher therefore conceives that in publishing a new edition of this admirable work, he is renewing a valuable contribution to that literature, and rendering a just tribute to the illustrious author.

September 13, 1853.



The following Notes were written in Virginia in the year 1781, and somewhat corrected and enlarged in the winter of 1782, in answer to Queries proposed to the Author, by a Foreigner of Distinction, then residing among us. The subjects are all treated imperfectly; some scarcely touched on. To apologize for this by developing the circumstances of the time and place of their composition, would be to open wounds which have already bled enough. To these circumstances some of their imperfections may with truth be ascribed; the great mass to the want of information and want of talents in the writer. He had a few copies printed, which he gave among his friends; and a translation of them has been lately published in France, but with such alterations as the laws of the press in that country rendered necessary. They are now offered to the public in their original form and language.

February 27, 1787.




An inspection of a map of Virginia will give a better idea of the geography of its rivers than any description in writing. Their navigation may be imperfectly noted.

Roanoke, so far as it lies within this State, is no where navigable but for canoes or light batteaux; and, even for these,

in such detached parcels as to have prevented the inhabitants from availing themselves of it at all.

James River and its waters afford navigation as follows:

The whole of Elizabeth River, the lowest of those which run into James River, is a harbor, and would contain upwards of 300 ships. The channel is from 150 to 200 fathom wide, and at common flood tide affords 18 feet water to Norfolk. The Strafford, a 60 gun ship, went there, lightening herself to cross the bar at Sowell's Point. The Fier Rodrigue, pierced for 64 guns, and carrying 50, went there without lightening. Craney Island, at the mouth of this river, commands its channel tolerably well.

Nansemond River is navigable to Sleepy Hole for vessels of 250 tons; to Suffolk for those of 100 tons ; and to Milner's for those of 25.

Pagan Creek affords 8 or 10 feet water to Smithfield, which admits vessels of 20 tons.

Ohickahominy has at its mouth a bar, on which is only 12 feet water at common flood tide. Vessels passing that, may go 8 miles up the river; those of 10 feet draught may go 4 miles further; and those of 6 tons burthen 20 miles further.

Appamattox may be navigated as far as Broadways by any vessel which has crossed Harrison's Bar in James River; it keeps 8 or 9 feet water a mile or two higher up to Fisher's Bar, and 4 feet on that and upwards to Petersburgh, where all navigation ceases.

James River itself affords harbor for vessels of any size in Hampton Road, but not in safety through the whole Winter; and there is navigable water for them as far as Mulberry Island. A 40 gun ship goes to James Town, and, lightening herself, may pass to Harrison's Bar, on which there is only 15 feet water. Vessels of 250 tons may go to Warwick; those of 125 go to Rocket's, a mile below Richmond ; from thence is about 7 feet water to Richmond; and about the centre of the town, 4 feet and a half, where the navigation is interrupted by falls, which, in a course of 6 miles, descend about 80 feet perpendicular; above these it is resumed in canoes and battcaux, and is prosecuted safely and advantageously to within 10 miles of the Blue Ridge; and even through the Blue Ridge a ton weight has been brought; and the expense would not be great, when compared with its object, to open a tolerable navigation up Jackson's River and Carpenter's Creek, to within 25 miles of Howard's Creek of Greenbriar, both of which have then water enough to float vessels into the Great Kanhaway. In some future state of population, I think it possible that its navigation may also be made to interlock with that of the Patowmac, and through that to communicate by a short portage with the Ohio. It is to be noted, that this river is called in the maps James River, only to its confluence with the Rivanna; thence to the Blue Ridge it is called the Fluvanna ; and thence to its source, Jackson's River. But, in common speech, it is called James River to its source.

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