Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on Early Career (the so-called “Autobiography”), 6 January–29 July 1821

Notes on Early Career (the so-called “Autobiography”)

[Ed. Note: During the first seven months of 1821, TJ composed a lengthy description of his early political life. He began writing on 6 January and returned to the work on at least sixteen subsequent days before finally laying down his pen in the summer. TJ did not provide the resulting ninety-three-page manuscript with a title. It was first published in 1829 as his “Memoir” (TJR description begins Thomas Jefferson Randolph, ed., Memoir, Correspondence, and Miscellanies, from the Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1829, 4 vols. description ends , 1:1–89). After Henry A. Washington’s edition of TJ’s writings appeared early in the 1850s, scholars have usually followed his lead and called it TJ’s “Autobiography,” which probably exaggerates his intentions for the work (HAW description begins Henry A. Washington, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 1853–54, 9 vols. description ends , 1:1–110). Covering the period from his birth in 1743 until his arrival at New York City in 1790 to take up his duties as George Washington’s secretary of state, the piece contains little introspection and focuses almost entirely on TJ’s public actions, goals, and achievements. It will be printed in its entirety at the date of its last entry, 29 July 1821.]

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  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Notes on Early Career (the so-called “Autobiography”) search