Life of Thomas Jefferson

B. L. Rayner

Revised and Edited by
Eyler Robert Coates, Sr.

Table of Contents

Author's Preface

1. Early Years

2. After College

3. Beginning Public Life

4. Resistance to Tyranny

5. Asserting Colonial Rights

6. The Continental Congress

7. Instituting New Government

8. Declaration of Independence

9. Revolution and Reform

10. Revising Virginia's Legal Code

11. Ending the Slave Trade

12. Establishing Religious Freedom

13. Diffusion of Knowledge

14. Governor of Virginia

15. British Invasion of Virginia

16. "Notes on Virginia"

17. Returned to Congress

18. A Uniform System of Currency

19. Minister Plenipotentiary in Paris

20. Turmoil and Change in America

21. A New Federal Constitution

22. Travels in France

23. Revolution Brewing in France

24. Secretary of State

25. Administration of Foreign Affairs

26. Vice-President

27. President of the United States

28. The Revolution of 1800

29. The Louisiana Purchase

30. Foreign Policy and Naval Power

31. Second Term as President

32. Principles and Policies

33. Retirement from Public Life

34. Philosopher of Monticello

35. Observations on People & Life

36. At Home at Monticello

37. Reconciliation With John Adams

38. The University of Virginia

39. Nunc Dimittis, Domine

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Jefferson FAQ

Rayner's Life of Thomas Jefferson was published just eight years after Jefferson's death. It is a fervent story, filled with the republican spirit. It was intended to inspire the reader with a full appreciation of the distinguished deeds and writings of one of the great political leaders of this millennium by demonstrating how most of the major facets of America's new republican society originated in measures proposed by Thomas Jefferson. It has been much neglected of late, and rarely if ever cited in modern bibliographies of the biographies of Jefferson, perhaps because of its unabashed partisanship and certain deficiencies which this edition endeavors to correct. Nevertheless, it is an interesting, even exciting story that focuses on the role of republican principles in the life and thought of Jefferson. It details the struggles between the republican and anti-republican forces in the formation of our republic, and as such has a sense of immediacy that is often absent in modern biographies of Jefferson.

Rayner filled his biographical account with a large number of selections from the writings of Jefferson based on the then recently published 1829 edition of those writings by Jefferson's grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph. Mr. Randolph's edition is not held in very high regard by scholars because of the many editorial changes he made in the original documents -- a further reason, perhaps, why Rayner's Life has been mostly ignored. But Rayner's emphasis on Jefferson's writings for the historical information they contain makes his Life a good companion to Thomas Jefferson on Politics & Government, which focuses on Jefferson's writings for the political principles they contain. It puts those quotations in their historical context and thereby fosters a deeper and better understanding of the principles involved.

This edition of Rayner's Life presents the basic text by Rayner but with a large number of corrections and additions where needed, a complete modernization of the punctuation, the replacement of obsolete terms and of familiar words that were used in their archaic sense, as well as other revisions of dated references and incomplete bibliographic data. It relies on later, more accurate editions of Jefferson's writings where possible for the many quotations incorporated in the text. It is offered as a work in progress with the hope that historians and students of history will contribute additional corrections, revisions, or alternative points of view in the form of added notes and comments. The end result hoped for is a re-creation of Rayner's text that will retain the republican spirit and its focus on republican principles, while at the same time making that text conform to the findings of modern scholarly research and the highest standards of accuracy.

The text included on this site is complete, although additional notes and comments will be inserted from time to time as a result of further study of Rayner's text. The designation in the form, ME 12:345, refers to the location (vol:pg) of a quoted passage from Jefferson in the Memorial Edition of the Writings (Lipscomb & Bergh, eds., Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904).

The original edition of Rayner's Life of Thomas Jefferson was published by Lilly, Wait, Colman, & Holden, of Boston, in 1834.


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Students of History: Send your comments,
research conclusions, etc.:

Students of history are invited to contribute notes that will critique Rayner's text. Such notes will be appended to the text, with hypertext references and proper credit given to contributors where appropriate. History teachers are encouraged to assign portions of the text to their students to research and to critique Rayner's version of events and compare them to that of contemporary biographies. Such contributions may be posted as a note to specific portions of the text, and will include the contributor's name and other appropriate information. Please send all such materials to the editor, at the following email address:

Eyler Robert Coates, Sr.

General Comments Page


  • Thomas Jefferson on Politics & Government
      Jefferson's political philosophy in his own words. Includes over 2,700 excerpts from his writings and is a source for the most important of his quotations.

  • The Jeffersonian Perspective
      Commentary on today's social and political issues based on the writings of Thomas Jefferson.

  • The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth
      Jefferson's compilation of the moral philosophy of Jesus extracted textually from the Gospel accounts.

    Web Sites with Links to Life of Jefferson

    The On-Line Books Page | Free World
    "Abe World" -- The Life & Interests of Tom Gemmill
    Jefferson Glapski's American Revolution Page | Objectivism and Thomas Jefferson

    The Internet Public Library History -- 18th Century

    Send questions and suggestions to the following email address:

    Eyler Robert Coates, Sr.

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    © 1997 by Eyler Robert Coates, Sr.
    Any individual may make copies for personal use and non-commercial, free distribution in educational institutions. All other copying by written permission only.

    Installation began June 15, 1997.

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