Disillusionment in Eden
These mountains are the Eden of the United States....
Jefferson to the Comte de Volney, April 9, 1797 1
The most mysterious of all periods in Jefferson's life was his three‐ year retirement at Monticello, from his arrival in early January 1794 to his departure for Philadelphia as vice-president-elect in February 1797. Henry Randall wrote long ago that many believed his declarations on his retirement "were pure pretences—unfelt—and only designed to play off a stale game to deceive the public, while he was busy as a spider secretly weaving his political webs; setting on foot political machinations to favor his own progress to the Presidency ... dictating all the secret arrangements of his party." 2 This faithful biographer denied it all, holding that zeal for office was not characteristic of the time, and that Washington himself had no affection even for the presidency. The old suspicion has come down to us, however, especially in the biography of Nathan Schachner, who described Jefferson's renunciation of politics as largely "pretense." 3
There can be no question that Jefferson really believed in the finality of his retirement, as the barrage of letters he sent to his friends trumpeting this finality attests, though the very thoroughness with which he burned his bridges is evidence of his own recognition of the seductive power of politics which had so often in the past enticed him back. He abandoned newspaper subscriptions, and let his letters, which normally poured out in a daily stream, shrink to a mere trickle. To the new Secretary of State, his friend Edmund Randolph, he wrote wryly and with just a hint of shame on February 3, 1794, "I