The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 16

Papers of Thomas Jefferson

Book 16
Princeton University Press
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This volume brings Jefferson back to the U.S. from France, to become the first American Secretary of State, and marks the beginning of Jefferson's work in the Cabinet with Alexander Hamilton.
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Aaron Burr fells Alexander Hamilton in a duel in July, but Jefferson, caring little for either adversary or for disruptive partisan warfare, gives the event only limited notice. He contends with the problem of filling the offices necessary for the establishment of Orleans Territory on October 1. He is constrained by his lack of knowledge about potential officeholders. Meanwhile, a delegation with a memorial from disgruntled Louisianians travels to Washington. In August, the U.S. Mediterranean squadron bombards Tripoli. The United States has uneasy relationships around its periphery. Jefferson compiles information on British "aggressions" in American ports and waters, and drafts a bill to allow federal judges and state governors to call on military assistance when British commanders spurn civil authority. Another bill seeks to prevent merchant ships from arming for trade with Haiti. Contested claims to West Florida, access to the Gulf of Mexico, tensions along the Texas-Louisiana boundary, and unresolved maritime claims exacerbate relations with Spain. Jefferson continues his policy of pushing Native American nations to give up their lands east of the Mississippi River. Yellow fever has devastating effects in New Orleans. Abigail Adams terminates the brief revival of their correspondence, musing that "Affection still lingers in the Bosom, even after esteem has taken its flight." In November, Jefferson delivers his annual message to Congress. He also commences systematic records to manage his guest lists for official dinners.
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Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jun 5, 2018
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Pages
735
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ISBN
9780691185224
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Historical
Biography & Autobiography / Presidents & Heads of State
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Volume 18, covering part of the final session of the First Congress, shows Jefferson as Secretary of State continuing his effective collaboration with James Madison in seeking commercial reciprocity with Great Britain by threatening--and almost achieving--a retaliatory navigation bill. During these few weeks Jefferson produced a remarkable series of official reports on Gouverneur Morris' abortive mission to England, on the first case of British impressment of American seamen to be noticed officially, on the interrelated problems of Mediterranean trade and the American captives in Algiers, and on the French protest against the tonnage acts. All of these state papers reflected the consistency of Jefferson's aim to bolster the independence of the United States, to promote national unity, and even, as his report on the Algerine captives indicates, to lay the foundations for American maritime power.

This volume reveals Jefferson's continuing interest in a unified system of weights and measures, his effort to create a mint, and his concern over executive proceedings in the Northwest Territory. It contains also his suggestions for the President's annual message and his first encounter, at the hands of Noah Webster, with Federalist ridicule of his interest in science. Despite his heavy official duties and the confusion into which his household was thrown when 78 crates of books, wines, and furniture arrived from France, Jefferson never failed to write his promised weekly letter to his daughters and son-in-law under the alternating plan which obligated each of them to write only once every three weeks. The record of this time of extraordinary pressure shows that Jefferson retained his usual equanimity except when, after a full two months, he failed to receive any scrap of writing from the little family at Monticello.

Volume 19, covering the final critical weeks of the First Congress, reveals Washington and Jefferson in the closest and most confidential relationship that existed at any time during their official careers. It opens with the proclamation announcing the exact location of the Federal District, an unexplained choice made in the utmost secrecy by the President in consultation with the Secretary of State some weeks before Washington toured the upper Potomac in an ostensible journey to inspect rival sites and to encourage competition for the location of the national capital. It includes the politically related question of the chartering of the Bank of the United States, on which Jefferson delivered his famous opinion challenging its constitutionality.

But the conflict with Hamilton over the Bank, important as it was, did not bring the two men on the public stage as contestants. Instead, the first focusing of public attention on the breach in the administration occurred with the publication of Jefferson's report on the whale and cod fisheries. This widely disseminated report is here presented in a context showing that, after Hamilton declined to cooperate in reciprocating the favors France had granted to American trade, Jefferson deliberately and publicly challenged the Hamiltonian opposition. In unusually blunt language, his report called for commercial retaliation against Great Britain, thus causing a sensation both in the ... ministry.


This volume shows Jefferson's concern over the growing discontent in the South and West over fiscal and other policies of the national government, his resistance to interested promotion of consular appointments in business circles, his grappling with the political and constitutional questions concerning the admission of Kentucky and Vermont, his involvement in the political consequences of the death of Franklin that affected even the proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, his cautious relationship with Tench Coxe as a source of statistical information which the Secretary of the Treasury failed to supply, and his report to Washington on a judicial appointment that brought on both embarrassment and constitutional questions. Once Congress had dispersed, Jefferson was able to turn his attention to long-neglected private concerns and to the correspondence that gave him most satisfaction, that with the family at Monticello.

This volume documents exhaustively for the first time Edmond Charles Genet's dramatic challenges to American neutrality and Jefferson's diplomatic and political responses. After welcoming Genet's arrival as the harbinger of closer relations between the American and French republics, Jefferson becomes increasingly distressed by the French minister's defiance of the Washington administration's ban on the outfitting of French privateers in American ports, the enlistment of American citizens in French service, and the exercise of admiralty jurisdiction by French consuls in American ports. Although the Supreme Court declines to advise the executive branch on neutrality questions that Jefferson prepares with the President and the Cabinet, he helps to formulate a set of neutrality rules to meet Genet's challenge.Unable to convince the impetuous French envoy to adopt a more moderate course, Jefferson works in the Cabinet to bring about Genet's recall so as to preserve friendly relations with France and minimize political damage to the Republican party, in which he takes a more active role to prevent the Federalists from capitalizing on Genet's defiance of the President. Grappling with the threat of war with Spain, Jefferson involves himself equivocally in a diplomatically explosive plan by Genet to liberate Louisiana from Spanish rule. In this volume Jefferson also plays a decisive role in resolving a dispute over the design of the Capitol and plans agricultural improvements at Monticello in preparation for his retirement to private life.
Were Thomas Jefferson alive to read this book, he would recognize every sentence, every elegant turn of phrase, every lofty, beautifully expressed idea. Indeed, every word in the book is his. In an astonishing feat of editing, Eric S. Petersen has culled the entirety of Thomas Jefferson’s published works to fashion thirty-four original essays on themes ranging from patriotism and liberty to hope, humility, and gratitude. The result is a lucid, inspiring distillation of the wisdom of one of America’s greatest political thinkers.

From his personal motto—“Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God”—to his resounding discourse on “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson defined the essential truth of the American spirit. In the essays that Petersen has crafted from letters, speeches, and public documents, Jefferson’s unique moral philosophy and vision shine through. Among the hundreds of magnificent sentences gathered in this volume, here are Jefferson’s pronouncements on

Gratitude: “I have but one system of ethics for men and for nations—
to be grateful, to be faithful to all engagements and under all circumstances, to be open and generous.”

Religion: “A concern purely between our God and our consciences.”

America’s national character: “It is part of the American character to consider nothing as desperate; to surmount every difficulty with resolution and contrivance.”

Public debt: “We shall all consider ourselves unauthorized to saddle posterity with our debts, and morally bound to pay them ourselves.”

War: “I abhor war and view it as the greatest scourge of mankind.”

In stately measured cadences, these thirty-four essays provide timeless guidance on leading a spiritually fulfilling life. Light and Liberty is a triumphant work of supreme eloquence, as uplifting today as when Jefferson first set these immortal sentences on paper.
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