Jefferson and France: An Essay on Politics and Political Ideas

Jefferson and France: An Essay on Politics and Political Ideas

Jefferson and France: An Essay on Politics and Political Ideas

Jefferson and France: An Essay on Politics and Political Ideas

Excerpt

Few qualities of Thomas Jefferson have been so noticed through the years as his attachment to France and everything French. Occasionally, it has won approbation. Vernon L. Parrington, for example, pointed out that the spirit of revolutionary France supported the program of social idealism that Jefferson put into effect as President. On the other hand, Jefferson's enemies in every generation have traced most of his failures to the baleful influence of France. It is not surprising that his young contemporary, William Cullen Bryant, should have accepted his elders' judgments of Jefferson's Francophilism when in 1808 he identified him as "Napoleon's slave" and "willing vassal of imperious France."

In the last two generations, there has been increasing recognition from scholars that Jefferson's philosophy was largely formed before he had visited France, and that if it had any special origins, Locke or Kames must receive credit or blame, not Rousseau or Condorcet. Instead of a woolly minded dev-

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