The Thomas Jefferson Papers

The Thomas Jefferson Timeline: 1743 - 1827

The Early Republic, 1810-1827


July 15. John Adams writes Jefferson that it would be a shame for them to die without having explained themselves to each other. Adams and Jefferson correspond for about three years, during which they review the events of the Revolution and range over a variety of political and philosophical issues. During 1811-12, a mutual friend Dr. Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia had facilitated the reconciliation of Adams and Jefferson, who had been estranged for about a decade.


February 20. Jefferson's bill for the establishment of free public education in Virginia is defeated in the state legislature.

September 21. Jefferson offers to sell his library of nearly 6,700 volumes to the federal government. The government's own library was lost in August when the British burned the Capitol in Washington, D.C. In January 1815, Congress purchases Jefferson's library for $23,950, and it is shipped to Washington by wagon in May. Jefferson's library becomes the foundation for the collections of the Library of Congress.
Thomas Jefferson to James Madison September 24, 1814 | "Thomas Jefferson's Library," American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Memory (Library of Congress Exhibitions)


January 9. Jefferson writes Charles Thomson that an "acquaintance of fifty-two years...calls for an interchange of notice now and then, that we remain in existence, the monuments of another age...." More specifically, Jefferson tells his old friend of his work on what will become "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth," a volume of clippings he has been making from different language editions of the New Testament, creating a "paradigma" of what he considers the moral teachings of Jesus.


March 4. James Monroe is inaugurated as president.

October 6. The cornerstone is laid for Central College, which will later become the University of Virginia.


February 4. Jefferson writes an introduction for a collection of letters, confidential notes, and reports written while he was secretary of state. He has had them bound in three quarto volumes. His grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, who inherits his papers, gives them the name of "Anas," as a Greek plural of the suffix employed to form the term "Jeffersoniana."

August 1-4. Jefferson chairs a commission meeting at Rockfish Gap, Virginia to plan the University of Virginia. Jefferson writes the commissioners' report. On January 25, 1819, the Virginia state legislature charters the University.



April 22. Jefferson writes John Holmes, a Congressman from Maine, criticizing the Missouri Compromise which maintains the balance of free and slave states in the Union by admitting Maine with Missouri. In 1819, a bill to admit Missouri to the Union was before Congress when a New York representative proposed an amendment prohibiting slavery in the new state. Though this measure did not pass, Jefferson sees the debate surrounding the Compromise as an example of unprofitable northern interference in a southern institution. He has completely withdrawn from his earlier calls for abolition, viewing it as a problem so complex as to be intractable and therefore best left to the next generation to accomplish. Jefferson describes the Missouri Compromise as a "fire bell in the night" and the "knell of the Union."


January-July. Jefferson works on and off on an autobiographical essay. He is seventy-seven.


April. Jefferson prepares instructions for recruiting faculty in Europe for the University of Virginia.

November 3-15, Lafayette, visiting America, is fĂȘted at the University of Virginia and visits Jefferson at Monticello.


July 4. Jefferson dies shortly after 12 noon, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. He is eighty-three years old. Several hours later John Adams dies in Massachusetts, and the nation is struck by this remarkable coincidence. The last letter Jefferson wrote to Adams was on March 23.


January 27. Monticello, its furnishings, and Jefferson's slaves are sold in an executor's sale. One hundred and thirty slaves are sold at auction. During his lifetime Jefferson distributed substantial property to his heirs; however, he died more than $100,000 in debt.


Benjamin Rush

enlarge image icon [Benjamin Rush, half-length portrait, seated at desk, facing right] Engraving by James Barton Longacre, 1794-1869, from painting by Thomas Sully, 1783-1872. created/published [between 1800 and 1870].