Volume 4 covers five critical months in Jefferson’s governorship. From October 1780 through February 1781 he dealt with a dangerous invasion threat by General Leslie in October-November and the actual and devastating incursion of General Benedict Arnold up the James in January. The fullest records of these events and of Jefferson’s plan to capture Arnold at Portsmouth were furnished by the Governor himself and are printed in this volume.
During these months Jefferson also drew up plans for an ambitious enterprise, under the command of Virginia’s great frontier captain George Rogers Clark, against the British post at Detroit. Other important letters and papers, some of them not printed before, bear on Virginia’s troubled relations with the Cherokees.
The pressure of these primary defense problems was tremendous, and to them were added the scarcely less important and closely related fiscal problems of so far-flung a dominion, including mounting inflation. Nevertheless Jefferson found time to begin the amassing of data on his native state that resulted eventually in his classic work Notes on the State of Virginia. The earliest correspondence relating to this project and to Jefferson’s fruitful association with the American Philosophical Society will also be found in this volume.