Volume 7: 2 March 1784 to 25 February 1785

© 1953 Princeton University Press

Cover of Volume 7, which displays the title and publisher of the volume, as well as the names of the contributing editors.


Volume 7 brings to a climax Jefferson’s legislative career and includes documents of the highest importance. An entire section is devoted to his famous Notes on Coinage, which resulted in the adoption of the dollar as the money unit. These documents show that in 1784 Jefferson thought of applying the decimal system to weights and measures, and perhaps to time.

This volume includes his report on the establishment of a land office for disposing of lands in the national domain in order to discharge the national debt, his instructions for the American ministers abroad, his report on the national debt and circular appeal to the states. Jefferson also found time in these last busy days in Congress to write various letters about the habits of moose, to influence George Washington to force abandonment of the principle of hereditary membership in the Society of the Cincinnati, to discuss the potentialities of balloons, to advise a brilliant young Dutch traveler, van Hogendorp, about commerce, tobacco culture, finance, and other matters.

Before embarking for Europe as minister, Jefferson systematically studied American trade; the resultant documents, here assembled and printed in their entirety for the first time, not only represent an early use of the questionnaire as a means of accumulating facts, but also stand as a model of what the thoughtful diplomat should do to prepare himself as a representative of his country. As minister, Jefferson drafted a “General Form” or model for treaties of amity and commerce. The various stages of this text are presented, showing how he endeavored to reform the language as well as the principles of treaties and introduce humanitarian measures for prisoners of war and non-combatants.

Jefferson’s letters from abroad include his reports on French manners and customs, and his correspondence with Chastellux shows how his interest in that distinguished traveler’s comments on America caused them to be published. Among letters from his American friends one important communication from James Madison, never before correctly printed, proves that the Father of the Constitution altered his uncomplimentary references to Lafayette nearly half a century later.