The Papers of Thomas Jefferson - Vol. 7

The Papers of Thomas Jefferson - Vol. 7

The Papers of Thomas Jefferson - Vol. 7

The Papers of Thomas Jefferson - Vol. 7

Synopsis


The 526 documents printed in this volume run from 28 November 1813 to 30 September 1814. During this period Jefferson reviews the extant sources on the 1765 Stamp Act crisis to aid William Wirt, a Patrick Henry scholar; records his largely positive impressions of George Washington; and updates a reading list for law students that he had initially drawn up forty years earlier. In the spring of 1814 Jefferson becomes a trustee of the Albemarle Academy, the earliest direct ancestor of the University of Virginia. He is soon actively involved in planning for its establishment, helping to draft rules for governance of the academy's trustees and propose funding options, and he lays out an expansive vision for its future as an institution of higher learning. Jefferson also exchanges ideas on collegiate education with such respected scholars as Thomas Cooper and José Corrêa da Serra. Jefferson's wide-ranging correspondence includes a temperate response to a lengthy letter from Miles King urging the retired president to reflect on his personal religion, and a diplomatic but noncommittal reply to a proposal by Edward Coles that the author of the Declaration of Independence employ his prestige to help abolish slavery. Having learned of the British destruction late in August 1814 of the public buildings in Washington, Jefferson offers his massive book collection as a replacement for the Library of Congress. The nucleus for one of the world's great public libraries is formed early in 1815 when the nation purchases Jefferson's 6,707 volumes.

Excerpt

The 526 documents printed in this volume cover the period from 28 November 1813 to 30 September 1814. the War of 1812 continued its negative impact on the American economy, which was further strained in Jefferson’s neighborhood by a poor growing season. in a 23 February 1814 letter to William Short, Jefferson commented that the embargo, the blockade, and drought had caused him to suffer “more than any other individual.” He kept abreast of current events through correspondents at home and abroad as well as newspapers that provided regular updates from American battlefronts and from Europe, including accounts of Napoleon’s abdication in April 1814. Jefferson initially discounted reports of the destruction late in August 1814 of the public buildings in Washington D.C. When the reality could no longer be denied, he was quick to write his old friend, Samuel H. Smith, now federal commissioner of the revenue, enclosing a catalogue of his library and offering his massive book collection as a replacement for the Library of Congress. Ultimately, in January 1815 Congress bought Jefferson’s 6,707 books for $23,950, an acquisition that has served as the nucleus for one of the world’s great libraries.

During the months covered in this volume, Jefferson showed an interest in the documentation of history. in reviewing the extant sources on the 1765 Stamp Act crisis to aid William Wirt in preparing his biography of Patrick Henry, Jefferson observed that “It is truly unfortunate that those engaged in public affairs so rarely make notes of transactions passing within their knolege. hence history becomes fable instead of fact. the great outlines may be true, but the incidents and colouring are according to the faith or fancy of the writer.” At the behest of Walter Jones, Jefferson recorded his largely positive impressions of George Washington’s character. He also advised Joseph Delaplaine in his preparation of a series of biographies of famous Americans. Delaplaine was particularly anxious to locate suitable portraits of his subjects, and Jefferson went so far as to trace an image of Christopher Columbus for Delaplaine from the preface to a book in his possession, Theodor de Bry’s Americae Pars Quinta. in response to his friend John Minor’s request for a legal reading list, Jefferson transcribed and updated a document he had initially drawn up about 1773 for the namesake son of Bernard Moore. Jefferson’s recommendations included Eugene Aram’s 1759 defense at his murder trial, a speech printed elsewhere in this volume, which he . . .

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