Jeffersonian moment: feudalism and reform in Virginia, 1774‐1786
Clinkman, Daniel Edward
In his autobiography, Thomas Jefferson argued that his goal in the American Revolution had been to eliminate “feudal and unnatural distinctions” in colonial American society as part of the struggle for independence. This thesis focuses on Jefferson’s years as a revolutionary legislator in the new state of Virginia, and argues that while he was correct in labelling Virginia a feudal society, his reforms were insufficient to the scale of social reformation that he identified. Material addressed includes Jefferson’s synthesis of British feudal and mercantile history that he constructed during the early years of the revolution, his proposed constitution for the state of Virginia, and his legislative reforms to the judiciary, landownership, the established church, education, citizenship, and slavery.