Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History

By Fawn M. Brodie | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVIII

The Revolutionary
Goes Home

We return like foreigners, and, like them, require a considerable residence here to become Americanized.

Jefferson to William Short 1

When Jefferson arrived in Virginia, at that moment as much a French patriot as an American, he had no idea how conservative was the country to which he had returned. Nor how rural. If he had suffered from culture shock during his first months in Paris in 1785, there was a more profound reverse shock upon return. "I was astonished at the change," he wrote. "No more like the same people; their notions, their habits and manners, the course of their commerce, so totally changed, that I, who stood in those of 1784, found myself not at all qualified to speak their sentiments, or forward their views in 1790." 2 Letters from Madison had kept him somewhat informed of the conservative trend, and in letters to Washington he had openly deplored the absence of a Bill of Rights in the new constitution. He disliked also the fact that an American president could succeed himself indefinitely, fearing a drift toward the tradition of a "president for life," and ultimately a monarchy. So sensitive was he on this subject that he saw monarchists where they did not exist, suspecting even John Adams, and soon was plunged into a political turmoil he did not court and was tempera‐ mentally ill equipped to handle.

What he first faced, however, was the decision whether to return to

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