Thomas Jefferson: A Biography

By Nathan Schachner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 52 Louisiana Purchase

MONROE'S mission afforded Jefferson well-grounded cause for self- congratulation. 'This measure,' he wrote happily to his son-in-law, "has suppressed all further inflammatory proceedings meditated by the Federalists for instigating the Western country to force on a war between us & the owners of New Orleans. Their confidence in Monroe will tranquilise them on the subject. In the mean time we have the best grounded presumptions that the suspension of the right of deposit will be immediately removed."1

He had dexterously outwitted the opposition and at the same time placated his friends. He felt securely optimistic that somehow the French, if not the Spanish, could be made to see the light; and in the meantime, he had a breathing space to attend to certain matters closer at home. These were both public and personal.

Monroe's sailing turned his attention to those pitiful few of his old friends who were still alive in Europe. A sheaf of letters went in Monroe's bag, addressed to Maria Cosway, Madame de Tessé, Madame de Corny, Volney, Cathalan and others. They had fallen on evil days; and others, equally regarded, were dead. "Twenty seven years of revolutions and counter revolutions," mused Jefferson mournfully, "have swept off the whole of my friends & acquaintances in Paris, Madame de Corny & Mons. de la Fayette excepted." Madame de Corny, it was true, was alive, but she had been crippled by a fall and lived retired from the world of which she had once been such a gay ornament.2 Madame de Tessé was still his botanical correspondent par excellence, and to her he confided his intention when he finally retired--that ever receding date--to become a florist and plant flowers at Monticello, though his prior passion had been for trees.3

Maria Cosway, who once had been the unwitting cause of a famous struggle between Jefferson's head and heart, had finally emerged from her religious retirement and was back in Paris making etchings of paintings in the Louvre. A prospectus of them came to her old friend, the President of the United States. At the same time, she expressed concern over the treatment of the Catholic faith in America. Jefferson dutifully subscribed to the etchings, and reassured her about American Catholics. "All religions here are equally free," he replied, "and equally protected by the laws, and left to be supported by their own respective votaries. In some places the

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