The Papers of Thomas Jefferson - Vol. 8

The Papers of Thomas Jefferson - Vol. 8

The Papers of Thomas Jefferson - Vol. 8

The Papers of Thomas Jefferson - Vol. 8

Synopsis


Volume Eight of the project documenting Thomas Jefferson's last years presents 591 documents dated from 1 October 1814 to 31 August 1815. Jefferson is overjoyed by American victories late in the War of 1812 and highly interested in the treaty negotiations that ultimately end the conflict. Following Congress's decision to purchase his library, he oversees the counting, packing, and transportation of his books to Washington. Jefferson uses most of the funds from the sale to pay old debts but spends some of the proceeds on new titles. He resigns from the presidency of the American Philosophical Society, revises draft chapters of Louis H. Girardin's history of Virginia, and advises William Wirt on revolutionary-era Stamp Act resolutions. Jefferson criticizes those who discuss politics from the pulpit, and he drafts a bill to transform the Albemarle Academy into Central College. Monticello visitors Francis W. Gilmer, Francis C. Gray, and George Ticknor describe the mountaintop and its inhabitants, and Gray's visit leads to an exchange with Jefferson about how many generations of white interbreeding it takes to clear Negro blood. Finally, although death takes his nephew Peter Carr and brother Randolph Jefferson, the marriage of his grandson Thomas Jefferson Randolph is a continuing source of great happiness.

Excerpt

The 591 documents in this volume cover the period from 1 October 1814 to 31 August 1815. As usual, Thomas Jefferson both followed closely the events of the day and attended diligently to the needs of his farms, friends, and family. He was overjoyed by American victories on land and at sea during the last year of the War of 1812, optimistic about the nation’s prospects, and highly interested in the negotiations leading to the Treaty of Ghent that closed the contest. Napoleon’s return to power in France early in 1815 and defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in June were also a source of much reflection. Jefferson resigned the presidency of the American Philosophical Society in November 1814, continued to circulate his ideas about finance, supported David Bailie Warden’s consular pretensions, and occasionally provided recommendations for federal employment. Most of his time, however, was spent on issues a bit closer to home.

Following Congress’s decision to purchase Jefferson’s library in January 1815, he oversaw the counting, packing, and transportation of his books to Washington, D.C. He used most of the funds from the sale to pay old debts. Famously remarking to John Adams that “I cannot live without books,” Jefferson also spent some of the proceeds from his library acquiring replacement titles, both in the United States and Europe. in preparation for the payment of his wartime taxes, he drew up extensive lists of his possessions: real estate, manufactories, slaves, and household furnishings, among other items. Inventions and literary matters were still a source of diversion and, occasionally, exasperation. Jefferson engaged in the controversy over the originality of Walter Janes’s loom, complained about patent abuses, corresponded with Horatio G. Spafford about his improved wheel-carriage, and received information from William Thornton about lining cisterns and a new type of filter. He continued to be stymied in his attempt to secure the early publication of a manuscript by Destutt de Tracy, revised draft chapters of Louis H. Girardin’s continuation of John Daly Burk’s and Skelton Jones’s History of Virginia, and provided information to William Wirt on Virginia’s and Rhode Island’s Stamp Act resolutions. of particular interest is Jefferson’s vindication in a letter to Girardin of the bill of attainder he drew up in 1778 against the renegade Josiah Philips.

The third president’s religious beliefs remained a topic of interest to many of his contemporaries. Several writers questioned him on the . . .

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