Volume 5: 25 February to 20 May 1781

© 1952 Princeton University Press

Cover of Volume 5, which displays the title and publisher of the volume, as well as the names of the contributing editors.


Volume 5 covers only three months of the final part of Jefferson’s governorship. From late February to late May 1781, Jefferson continued to deal with the complex problems of supporting Greene’s army in the south, to cope with the threat from Indians in the southwest, to support George Rogers Clark’s intended campaign against Detroit, to aid Lafayette and Steuben in a final attempt to capture Benedict Arnold at Portsmouth, and to lay the foundations for the triumph of American arms at Yorktown.

A legislative investigation of the war office, conflicting ambitions among military officers, the pursuit of private interests in conflict with the aims of a great cause, and accelerating inflation are familiar themes.

A series of disastrous events brought Virginia almost to the verge of panic, but Jefferson himself never lost faith. To meet emergencies he exceeded the limited powers of his office more than once; his willingness to assume more authority was limited only by his determination not to jeopardize those very liberties for which the war was being waged. These documents provide continuing evidence of a man who never forgot that the war was being fought in the “holy cause of Liberty” and who “never unequal, never inadequate . . . sustained himself, his office, and his cause.”

Julian P. Boyd, Editor
Lyman H. Butterfield and Mina R. Bryan, Associate Editors