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Thomas Jefferson Travels : Selected Writings, 1784-1789
Acclaimed travel and adventure expert Anthony Brandt illuminates Jefferson's inspiring voice, restless imagination and penetrating intelligence, drawing on his voluminous travel diaries and personal correspondence to reveal the man himself and the world in which he played such a vital role.
Powerfully written in Jefferson's own words, the book traces his journeys throughout Europe during his five-year residency in Paris, where he replaced Benjamin Franklin as U.S. Minister to France. His insightful, sophisticated impressions give readers a new perspective on European life in the 18th century. "This is a man whose mind grew wings," Brandt writes, presenting Jefferson as a man no longer possible to idolize, but impossible not to like.
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April 17, 2006
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Excerpt from Thomas Jefferson Travels by Anthony Brandt
JEFFERSON HAD WANTED TO TAKE THE TRADITIONAL GRAND TOUR OF EUROPE as a young man, but circumstances had prevented it. He was 41 when he finally set out, in July 1784, for Paris. His wife had died two years earlier, two of his five children had died, and he would lose another child shortly after he left for Paris. With him he took his oldest daughter, Martha, who was better known as Patsy, and he left his two youngest behind in the care of his sister, Elizabeth Eppes.
His assignment was to join Benjamin Franklin and John Adams in Paris to help negotiate favorable trade agreements with the European powers, most particularly with France but with others as well. He was replacing John Jay, who returned home to take charge of foreign affairs for the newborn American republic. Within a little over a year Adams and Franklin would both depart, too, Adams for London, Franklin for Philadelphia, leaving Jefferson alone in Paris.
Before Jefferson left America he toured the New England states to ground himself in the issues that affected New England trade with Europe and the West Indies, making one of those detailed, thorough studies of the situation he became known for. We know little about this tour except that he stopped in New Haven and visited with Ezra Stiles, then President of Yale University, who wrote in his diary that Jefferson was "a most ingenuous Naturalist and Philosopher, a truly scientific and learned Man, and every way excellent," and added that "Govr. Jefferson has seen many of the great Bones dug up on the Ohio. He has a thighbone Three Feet long and a tooth weighing sixteen pounds." Shortly after this visit Jefferson wrote Stiles and asked him to forward any information he might come across about paleontology. Stiles later sent Jefferson an honorary Yale degree.