For a Kinder, Gentler Society
Thomas Jefferson: Diplomatic Correspondence, Paris, 1784-1789
  • Brett F. Woods
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Thomas Jefferson: Diplomatic Correspondence, Paris, 1784-1789.
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Philosopher, diplomat, politician, inventor, writer, architect, even gardener, from a historical perspective Thomas Jefferson emerges as an extraordinary individual. This is the first time an editor has focused principally on his comments regarding his time while serving as minister to France from 1784 to 1789. He was clearly many things to many people, but precisely because of these multifaceted endeavors, he has become so deeply entwined in the tapestry of America's grand democratic experiment that the quest to picture him clearly and objectively in his own life and times remains arguably elusive.

The most comprehensive portrait of the American founding fathers can be seen in their personal letters and journal entries. Jefferson is certainly no exception, and those he wrote during his service as American minister to France - through many of the most critical episodes in both French and American history - are of singular importance. The format of the letters has been preserved whenever possible and, collectively, they provide a unique glimpse into the character and thought processes of Jefferson the diplomat.


About the Author

Brett F. Woods is a professor of history for the American Public University System. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Essex, England.

He has written widely on political, military, and diplomatic history, with his work appearing in numerous academic and mainstream publications including the Canadian Journal of History, the Asian Studies Review, the California Literary Review, and the Richmond Review (London). He is a regular contributor to ABC-CLIO’s military and political history reference collections and maintains an active research agenda, primarily directed to the Anglo-American colonial experience and British imperial studies.

Dr. Woods has published five books with Algora: Thomas Jefferson: Diplomatic Correspondence, Paris, 1784–1789 (2016); Abraham Lincoln: Letters to His Generals, 1861–1865 (2013); Thomas Jefferson: Thoughts on War and Revolution (2009), Neutral Ground: A Political History of Espionage Fiction (2007), and Letters from France: The Private Diplomatic Correspondence of Benjamin Franklin, 1776–1785 (2006).

His associations have included The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, the American Historical Association; and the North American Conference on British Studies, among others.

About the Book

While Thomas Jefferson is responsible for a voluminous body of literature, this is the first time an editor has focused principally on his correspondence while serving as minister to France. The format of the selected letters, as Jefferson...

While Thomas Jefferson is responsible for a voluminous body of literature, this is the first time an editor has focused principally on his correspondence while serving as minister to France. The format of the selected letters, as Jefferson wrote them, is preserved whenever possible, and they are presented for the interest of a general readership as well as for students of military, diplomatic, or political history.

The addressees are identified, particularly those who have been lost to history, and, where indicated, explanatory notes are provided to assist the reader in placing the correspondence in its particular historical, political, or conceptual context. Readers are encouraged to arrive at their own conclusions as to the intention of a specific piece of correspondence.

After serving as a member Virginia House of Burgesses, the Continental Congress, and as governor of Virginia, in 1784, Thomas Jefferson was again called into public service: to France, first as trade commissioner and then as Benjamin Franklin's successor as minister. To be sure, he emerged as an excellent ambassador, for he had the same capacity to combine symbolic and practical representation that made Franklin's stay in France such an important episode in Franco-American relations. In a court almost paralyzed by ceremony and bored with excesses in dress and ornamentation, Jefferson's republican asceticism, his directness and apparent candor, lent him a distinction and significance which no amount of modishness could have gained for him.

By design, Dr. Woods has elected to approach Jefferson's time in France from more of a documentary perspective, an interesting journey, to say the least. For whether he is writing to peers such as James Madison, Patrick Henry, and George Washington; to French associates such as the Marquis de Lafayette and Hector St. John de Crevecoeur; or even to his more social acquaintances such as Maria Cosway and Abigail Adams, Jefferson writes with, at times, surprising candor. And whether the subject might be an impassioned argument against Federalism, addressing the detail of international trade agreements, or even commenting on botany and agricultural issues, his words reflect remarkable clarity, insight, and eloquence.

As the text presents, in their entirety, the original written correspondence which succeeding generations of historians have repeatedly cited as the basis for their interpretation of events or conclusions of fact, Thomas Jefferson: Diplomatic Correspondence, Paris, 1784-1789 moves a step further, emerging as both a comprehensive reference resource and a unique supplement to the existing literature.


More Information
While some recent Jefferson books – American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson (Ellis); Thomas Jefferson (Bernstein); and The Road to Monticello: The Life and Mind of Thomas Jefferson (Hayes); among others – offer various examinations of selected aspects of Jefferson’s life, his actual correspondence is usually treated as brief excerpts that may be cited out of context, or incorrectly interpreted by the reader. In Thomas Jefferson: Diplomatic...
While some recent Jefferson books – American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson (Ellis); Thomas Jefferson (Bernstein); and The Road to Monticello: The Life and Mind of Thomas Jefferson (Hayes); among others – offer various examinations of selected aspects of Jefferson’s life, his actual correspondence is usually treated as brief excerpts that may be cited out of context, or incorrectly interpreted by the reader. In Thomas Jefferson: Diplomatic Correspondence, Paris, 1784-1789, the formatting of the complete letters, as Jefferson wrote them, has been preserved whenever possible, while the editor’s efforts have been directed to refining the presentation, identifying the addressees (many of whom have been lost to history) and, where indicated, providing explanatory notes so as to assist the reader in placing the correspondence in its particular historical, political, or conceptual context.

Pages 480
Year: 2016
BISAC: HIS036030 HISTORY / United States / Revolutionary Period (1775-1800)
BISAC: BIO011000 BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Presidents & Heads of State
Soft Cover
ISBN: 978-1-62894-222-4
Price: USD 24.95
Hard Cover
ISBN: 978-1-62894-223-1
Price: USD 34.95
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ISBN: 978-1-62894-224-8
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