Thomas Jefferson And Maria Cosway

It was a romance in which the statesman found his Head at war with his Heart

Why is it that American history books contain so few romantic episodes? Aside from occasional references to John Rolfe and Pocahontas, or to Abraham Lincoln and Ann Rutledge, general histories have little to say about the love affairs experienced by our famous forefathers, or about the effect of such affairs on the course of the nation’s history. Read more »

"Consensus Politics,” 1800–1805

The idea goes back to the very beginnings of our national history. Then as now, it was built upon human relationships, and these—as Mr. Jefferson found to his sorrow—make a fragile foundation.

We hear a great deal these days, during an intensely political Presidency, about “consensus politics,” but it is no novelty of modern times. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that Thomas Jefferson was its inventor and master practitioner. Time has all but canonized this Founding Father, so that few associate him with either guile, ruthlessness, or skill in political maneuver. Yet he had all three, and he knew how to use them.

Verdicts Of History IV: “a Scandalous, Malicious, And Seditious Libel”

Is it libel to say that the President of the United States tried to seduce his neighbor’s wife—even if he did? Thomas Jefferson tried to gag the venomous editor of upstate New York’s Wasp; Alexander Hamilton argued brilliantly in defense of journalistic candor.

“At a Court of general Sessions of the Peace, holden at Claverack, in and for the county of Columbia, it is presented that Harry Croswell, late of the city of Hudson, in the county of Columbia aforesaid, Printer, being a malicious and seditious man, and of a depraved mind and wicked and diabolical disposition, and also deceitfully, wickedly and maliciously devising, contriving and intending, Thomas Jefferson, Esquire, President of the United States of America, to detract from, scandalize, traduce, and vilify, and to represent him, the said Thomas Jefferson, as unwortRead more »

The Question Is: How Lost Was Zebulon Pike?

In a strange message to the intriguing General Wilkinson, the soldier-explorer seemed to predict his own geographical befuddlement and his capture by the Spanish.

In the deepening snows of a high mountain valley, about where Salida, Colorado, now stands, a band of sixteen men were gathered on the day before Christmas, 1806. Earlier they had been separated into straggling parties to forage and explore, but now they were united. Earlier they had been wretchedly hungry, but now they had been so fortunate as to kill several buffalo cows.

Thomas Jefferson Gourmet

Back from France with an epicure’s knowledge of haute cuisine , our third President served the most lavish dinners in White House history

I dined a large company once or twice a week, Jefferson dined a dozen every day,” remarked the frugal New Englander John Adams in recalling early hospitality in the “President’s House” in Washington. “I held levees once a week. Jefferson’s whole eight years was a levee.” Other guests than Adams also left letters and memoirs recalling Jefferson’s dinner parties, the most elegant and agreeable they had ever known. And Thomas Jefferson himself recorded in his account books enormous monthly expenditures for food and for choice wines. Read more »

How to Get Elected

The American system of choosing a President has not worked out badly, far as it may be from the Founding Fathers’ vision of a natural aristocracy

“Elections, my dear Sir,” wrote John Adams to Thomas Jefferson after perusing a copy of the new Constitution, “Elections to offices which are great objects of Ambition, I look at with terror.” One can imagine the shudder with which both men, could they stand amid the bustle of a modern presidential campaign, would regard that quadrennial “carnival of buncombe.”

Nature’s God And The Founding Fathers

Jefferson and Madison led a revolutionary fight for complete separation of church and state. Their reasons probed the basic relation between religion and democracy

From his pulpit in Christ Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Dr. James Abercrombie looked out at a congregation that included the first President of the United States. He had good reason to feel some nervousness on this particular Sunday morning, for he was about to perform an act of ecclesiastical daring. He was about to scold George Washington, in public, for his religious behavior.

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“I Gave Him Barks and Saltpeter...”

Medicine was primitive and their knowledge of it limited, but in their hazardous journey to the Pacific, Lewis and Clark lost only one patient

On February 23, 1803, Thomas Jefferson wrote the following letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, professor of the Institute of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the foremost American physician of his day: Dear Sir: I wish to mention to you in confidence that I have obtained authority from Congress to undertake the long desired object of exploring the Missouri & whatever river, heading with that, leads into the Western ocean.

Jack Jouett’s Ride

His feat was more daring than Paul Revere’s, but Virginia’s hero had, alas, no Longfellow

If you mean to be a historical figure, it is a good idea to get in touch with a leading literary figure—a Longfellow, a Homer, a Virgil. Paul Revere, Odysseus, Aeneas—they all took this precaution. Poor Captain Jack Jouett didn’t. And as a result this six-foot-four, two-hundred-pound giant from Virginia, who saved the leaders of the American Revolution from a disheartening and possibly disastrous reverse, has been left out of practically all the history books. Read more »

Builders For A Golden Age

Among his many other achievements, Jefferson was one of the leading architects of his day, responsible for the introduction of the Greek Revival style into America.

Architecture was not the least of Thomas Jefferson’s formidable talents. In his designs there was much of the monumental dignity of the classical models which all his life he sought to emulate. Could not America revive the glory that was Greece and Rome? In the early years of the Republic, his aspirations—and those of the men he so profoundly influenced—were focused increasingly on the sprawling tract of Maryland farm country where a national capital would one day rise.Read more »