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Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826) to John Page re: insights on England after visit: "that nation hates us"

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02529 Author/Creator: Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826) Place Written: Paris Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 1786/05/04 Pagination: 4 p. 23 x 18 cm

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02529 Author/Creator: Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826) Place Written: Paris Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 1786/05/04 Pagination: 4 p. 23 x 18 cm

Summary of Content: Written while serving as U.S. Minister to France. Jefferson encloses a pamphlet (apparently Notes on the State of Virginia; not included), thanks Page for a steady stream of political news from America and records his observations upon returning from a visit to England. Jefferson comments that Notes on the State of Virginia "were written in haste & for his [i.e., Francois Barbe-Marbois] private inspection." based on his visit to England, Jefferson makes general observations on English farming, gardening, architecture and manufacture. Jefferson finds most disturbing the hatred of America which is "much more deeply rooted at present than during the war." He closes by observing how he saw in England "the application of the principle of the steam-engine to gristmills" and his wish that America would be more frugal so as to import fewer foreign luxuries. Severe ink bleedthrough.

Background Information: Thomas Jefferson's life was filled with many paradoxes and contradictions. He was a great admirer of urban culture, yet he also denounced cities as sinkholes of corruption. He extolled the ...yeoman farmer who labored in the earth, yet devoted much of his own life to scientific investigation, politics, and architecture. But the central contradiction of Jefferson's life involved slavery.
Jefferson described slavery as an abomination and a curse that "nursed" the children of masters "in tyranny." His words in the Declaration of Independence were among the most important ideological forces undermining slavery, and yet Jefferson was also a life-long owner of enslaved people who harbored "suspicions" of racial inferiority.
In this letter, written three years before the outbreak of the French Revolution, Jefferson offers a vivid description of the differences between France and England, making his own pro-French views clear, despite his praise for England's mechanical ingenuity.
This letter offers a carefully-crafted expression of the revolutionary era's ideal of republican virtue. In this letter, Jefferson praises frugality and simplicity; yet he would die deeply in debt, debts acquired partly from the construction of his home at Monticello, and the purchase of books, wines, and other expensive luxuries.
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Full Transcript: Paris May 4, 1786
Dear Sir
Your two favours of Mar. 15 and Aug. 23. 1785 by Monsieur de la Croix came to hand on the 15th. of November. His return gives me an opportunity ...of sending you a copy of the Nautical almanacs for 1786.7.8.9. There is no late and interesting publication here or I would send it by the same conveiance. With these almanacs I pack a copy of some notes I wrote for Monsr de Marbois in the year 1781 of which I had a few printed here. They were written in haste & for his private inspection. A few friends having asked copies, I found it cheaper to print than to write them. One of these got into the hands of a bookseller who getting a bad translation of them made, obliged me to consent that they should appear on condition of their being translated by a better hand. I apprehend therefore they will get further than I intended: tho' as yet they are in few hands. They will offer nothing new to you not even as an oblation of my friendship for you which is as old almost as we are ourselves. Mannei brought me your favor of Apr. 28. I thank you much for your communications. Nothing can be more be more grateful at such a distance. It is unfortunate [struck] that most people [struck] think the occurrences passing daily under their eyes, are either known to all the [2] world, or not worth being known. They therefore do not give them place in their letters. I hope you will be so good as to continue your friendly information. The proceedings of our public bodies, the progress of the public mind on interesting questions, the casualties which happen among our private friends, and whatever is interesting to yourself and family will always be anxiously received by me. There is one circumstance in the work you were concerned in which has not yet come to my knowledge. To wit, How far Westward from Fort Pitt does the Western boundary of Pennsylvania pass, and where does it strike the Ohio? The proposition you mention from M. Anderson on the purchase of tobacco, I would have made use of, but that I have engaged the abuses of the tobacco trade on a more general scale. I confess their redress does not appear with any certainty: but till I see all hope of removing the evil by the roots, I cannot propose to prune it's branches. I returned but three or four days ago from a two months trip to England. I traversed that country much, and own both town & country fell short of my expectations. Comparing it with this, I found a much greater proportion of barrens, a soil in other parts not naturally so good as this, not better cultivated, but better manured, & therefore more productive. This [3] proceeds from the practice of long leases there, and short ones here. The labouring people here are poorer than in England. They pay about one half their produce in ___ the English in general about a third. The gardening in that country is the article in which it Surpasses all the earth. I mean their pleasure gardening. This indeed went far beyond my ideas. The city of London, tho' handsomer than Paris, is not as handsome as Philadelphia. The architecture is in the most wretched stile I ever saw, not meaning to except America where it is bad, nor even Virginia where it is worse than any other part of America, which I have seen. The mechanical arts in London are carried to a wonderful perfection. But of them I need not speak, because of them my countrymen have unfortunately too many samples before their eyes. I consider the extravagance which has seised them as a more baneful evil than toryism was during the war. It is ___ more is as the example is set by the best and most amiable characters [inserted: among us] who would make frugality the basis of his religious system, and go this the land preaching it up as the only road to salvation, I would join his school tho' not generally disposed to seek my religion out of the dictates of my own [inserted: reason] & feelings of my own heart [4] these things have been more deeply impressed on my mind by what I have heard & seen in England. That nation hates us, their ministers hate [inseted: us] and their king more than all other men. They have the impudence to avow this, tho' they acknolege our trade important to them, but they say we cannot prevent our countrymen from bringing that into their laps. A conviction of this determines them to make no terms of commerce with us. They say they will pocket our carrying trade as well as their own. Our overtures of commercial arrangement have been heated with a derision which show their firm persuasion that we shall never unite to suppress their commerce or even to impede it. I think their hostility towards us is much more deeply rooted at present than during the war.
In the arts the most striking thing I saw there, now, was the application of the principle of the steam-engine to grist mills. I saw 8. pr of stones which are worked by steam, and they are set up 30 pair in the same house a hundred bushels of coal a day are consumed at present. I do not know in what proportion the consumption will be increased by the additional gees. Be so good as to present my respects to Mrs. Page & your family, to W. Lewis,I returned but three or four days ago from a two months trip to England. I traversed that country much, and own both town & country fell short of my expectations. Comparing it with this, I found a much greater proportion of barrens, a soil in other parts not naturally so good as this, not better cultivated, but better manured, & therefore more productive. This proceeds from the practice of long leases there, and short ones here. The labouring people here are poorer than in England. They pay about one half their produce in [rent]. The English in general about a third. The gardening in that country is the article in which it Surpasses all the earth. I mean their pleasure gardening. This indeed went far beyond my ideas. The city of London, tho' handsomer than Paris, is not as handsome as Philadelphia. The architecture is in the most wretched stile I ever saw, not meaning to except America where it is bad, nor even Virginia where it is worse than in any other part of America, which I have seen. The mechanical arts in London are carried to a wonderful perfection. But of this I need not speak, because of them my countrymen have unfortunately too many samples before their eyes. I consider the extravagance which has seised them as a more baneful evil than toryism was during the war. It is the more so as the example is set by the best and most amiable characters among us. Would a missionary appear who would make frugality the basis of his religious system, and go thro the land preaching it up as the only road to salvation, I would join his school tho' not generally disposed to seek my religion out of the dictates of my own reason & feelings of my own heart. These things have been more deeply impressed on my mind by what I have heard & seen in England. That nation hates us, their ministers hate us and their king more than all other men. They have the impudence to avow this, tho' they acknolege our trade important to them. but they say we cannot prevent our countrymen from bringing that into their laps. a conviction of this determines them to make no terms of commerce with us. They say they will pocket our carrying trade as well as their own. Our overtures of commercial arrangement have been treated with a derision which shew their firm persuasion that we shall never unite to suppress their commerce or even to impede it. I think their hostility towards us is much more deeply rooted at present than during the war. In the arts the most striking thing I saw there, new, was the application of the principle of the steam-engine to grist mills. I saw 8. pr of stones which are worked by steam, and they are to set up 30 pair in the same house a hundred bushels of coal a day are consumed at present. F. Willis & their families and to accept yourself assurances of the sincere regard with which I am Dr Sir your affectionate friend & servt.
Th: Jefferson
P.S. Mannei is still here as I will publish a book on the subject of America.

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People: Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826
Page, John, 1744-1808

Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Subjects: PresidentGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyDiplomacyLiterature and Language ArtsGovernment and CivicsFranceTravelAgriculture and Animal HusbandryArchitectureIndustryRevolutionary WarSteamMillInventionScience and TechnologyCommerceEconomicsPolitics

Sub Era: Creating a New Government

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