In 1784 Thomas Jefferson moved to the sophisticated and exhilarating city of Paris, where he spent the next five years as minister from the new United States of America. These were formative years for France, for the United States, and for Jefferson’s cultural and intellectual development. This engaging book recreates in word and illustration the atmosphere and personalities of prerevolutionary Paris, and it reveals the profound impact they had on one of America’s first transatlantic citizens.
William Howard Adams discusses how the provincial Virginian became a cosmopolitan connoisseur in the rarefied intellectual, political, scientific, and artistic circles of the city. He describes Jefferson’s relationships with such luminaries as Lafayette, Condorcet, Lavoisier, Baron Grimm, La Rochefoucauld, John and Abigail Adams, Gouverneur Morris, and J.-L. David, as well as his involvement with the English painter Maria Cosway. His alleged affair with his slave Sally Hemings is critically examined in the context of all available evidence.
Adams’s principal focus is on Jefferson’s role as the preeminent American envoy in Europe after the departure of Franklin, his participation in the cultural and political life of the city, and his private intrigues to help his friends bring the Bourbon monarchy to heel. Finally, he places the author of the Declaration of Independence in the middle of his second revolution and chronicles the dramatic events leading up to the upheaval of 1788-1789.
The book is richly illustrated with art of the period and with specially commissioned photographs of Parisian sites by Adelaide de Menil.