Emperor of Liberty

Emperor of Liberty: Thomas Jefferson's Foreign Policy

Francis D. Cogliano
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Emperor of Liberty
    Book Description:

    This book, the first in decades to closely examine Thomas Jefferson's foreign policy, offers a compelling reinterpretation of his attitudes and accomplishments as a statesman during America's early nationhood. Beginning with Jefferson's disastrous stint as wartime governor of Virginia during the American Revolution, and proceeding to his later experiences as a diplomat in France, Secretary of State, and U.S. Vice President, historian Francis Cogliano considers how these varied assignments shaped Jefferson's thinking about international relations. The author then addresses Jefferson's two terms as President-his goals, the means he employed to achieve them, and his final record as a statesman.Cogliano documents the evolution of Jefferson's attitudes toward the use of force and the disposition of state power. He argues that Jefferson, although idealistic in the ends he sought to achieve, was pragmatic in the means he employed. Contrary to received wisdom, Jefferson was comfortable using deadly force when he deemed it necessary and was consistent in his foreign policy ends-prioritizing defense of the American republic above all else. His failures as a statesman were, more often than not, the result of circumstances beyond his control, notably the weakness of the fledgling American republic in a world of warring empires.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18244-6
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. A Note on Sources
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction Three Emperors
    (pp. 1-10)

    In 1804 the American consul in St. Petersburg, Levett Harris, presented President Thomas Jefferson with a plaster copy of a bust of Tsar Alexander I.¹ Jefferson sent the image to his home, Monticello, on the outskirts of Charlottesville, Virginia, writing, “It will constitute one of the most valued ornaments of the retreat I am preparing for myself at my native home.” He displayed the statue in the parlor at Monticello, explaining to Harris that although, as a rule, he did not accept gifts (except books or pamphlets “of minor value”), he made an exception for the bust of the tsar....

  6. One According to the Judgment of a Good Man
    (pp. 11-41)

    On June 1, 1779, the Virginia House of Delegates met in Williamsburg to elect the commonwealth’s new governor. The popular outgoing governor, Patrick Henry, had served three one-year terms and was prohibited by the state’s constitution from standing for re-election. The assembly chose among three candidates: Thomas Nelson, Jr., John Page, and Thomas Jefferson. The three men had known each other for years—Page and Jefferson were boyhood friends—and were fervent supporters of the Revolution. On its first ballot the delegates gave Jefferson 55 votes, Page 38 votes, and Nelson 32 votes. A second ballot was necessary—as Jefferson...

  7. Two “To Compel the Pyratical States to Perpetual Peace”
    (pp. 42-75)

    On July 24, 1785, the schoonerMariaout of Boston, bound for Cádiz, was captured by an Algerian xebec, a small three-masted, fourteen-gun vessel, 3 miles off the southwest coast of Portugal. On July 30 the Algerians captured another American vessel, theDauphin,240 nautical miles northwest of St. Ubes (modern Setúbal), Portugal. TheDauphinwas bound for Philadelphia, its homeport. The Algerians transported the crew ofDauphin,Captain Richard O’Brien, his mate, Alexander Forsyth, and eleven seamen, along with two passengers, to captivity in Algiers. In the two incidents the Algerians had captured twenty-one Americans whom they intended to...

  8. Three “Mr. Jefferson Is a Decided Republican”
    (pp. 76-114)

    In August 1789 Thomas Jefferson received permission from Congress to return home on leave. He had been abroad for five years and intended to bring his two daughters to the United States and to attend to his personal affairs at Monticello. The Jefferson party, which included the minister, his daughters Patsy and Polly, and the enslaved siblings James and Sally Hemings, departed from Paris on September 26. Jefferson arranged to ship thirty-eight boxes and trunks filled with clothing, books, personal papers, prints and paintings, busts, and other effects to the United States. The Americans, delayed for ten days at Le...

  9. Four The Reign of the Witches
    (pp. 115-143)

    Thomas Jefferson left Philadelphia on January 5, 1794, and arrived at Monticello eleven days later. On the day Jefferson departed from the capital Horatio Gates, the former revolutionary general, wrote to express his dismay upon learning of his resignation. Gates deployed a nautical metaphor, writing, “If the best Seamen abandon the Ship in a Storm, she must Founder; and if all Human means are neglected, Providence will not Care for The Vessel; She must Perish!” Gates concluded by inviting Jefferson to visit him at his New York estate. Jefferson responded politely, acknowledging Gates’s good wishes and his invitation, which he...

  10. Five “Chastise Their Insolence”
    (pp. 144-171)

    Shortly before noon on March 4, 1801, Thomas Jefferson left Conrad and McMunn’s boardinghouse on New Jersey Avenue in Washington, DC, and walked to the Capitol to be sworn in as the third president of the United States. Jefferson, a month shy of his fifty-eighth birthday, was the first president to take the oath in the new capital. Washington was then often referred to as the Federal City, though the term was more an aspiration than a description. Barely three thousand people lived in the fledgling capital, a vast expanse carved out of the wilderness along the Virginia and Maryland...

  11. Six Empire of Liberty
    (pp. 172-203)

    July 4, 1803, marked the beginning of the twenty-eighth year in the life of the American republic. The president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, primary author of the document that had declared the nation independent, rose at dawn as usual. Shy by nature, he did not relish public celebrations. This champion of democracy and of the wisdom of the American people was not especially comfortable among the people whose virtues he extolled. Nor did he enjoy public speaking. Throughout his career in public service he had exercised his considerable political skills mainly by means of his pen rather than...

  12. Seven “They Expect the President to Act”
    (pp. 204-242)

    Romulus Ware was born a slave around 1767 at Pipe Creek near Frederick, Maryland. His mother was a mixed-race woman named Phillis, owned by a man named Norman Bruce. Ware’s father was a free white man, Andrew Ware. Andrew Ware and the enslaved woman, Phillis, had two children. These children, while raised by their mother on Bruce’s farm, were acknowledged as Ware’s children and took their father’s name. Upton Bruce, Norman Bruce’s son, who was just a few years older than the enslaved Romulus Ware, managed his father’s farm and eventually inherited his property, including Phillis and her children. Owing...

  13. Conclusion “Ne Plus Ultra”
    (pp. 243-246)

    After Jefferson left the White House, the British minister in Washington, David Erskine, opened discussions with the new secretary of state, Robert Smith. Erskine had received instructions from London to reach a settlement with the Americans. The Canning government stipulated several requirements for an agreement: American ports should be open to the British and closed to France; the United States must accept the Rule of 1756; and the Royal Navy should be permitted to seize American vessels trading with France. These conditions were unacceptable to the United States. Erskine quietly ignored these requirements and entered into talks based on the...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 247-292)
  15. Index
    (pp. 293-302)