tv Derek Baxter In Pursuit of Jefferson CSPAN July 8, 2022 6:29pm-7:24pm EDT
author of in pursuit of jefferson traveling through europe with the most perplexing founding father. >> and now for the men, event we are so thrilled to have derek baxter here with us today. he's the author of in pursuit of jefferson, traveling three years with the most perplexing founding father. joining us today from fairfax, virginia, where he lives with his wife and children. and in his words, they live quite a peaceful life there before deciding to follow thomas jefferson's travel advice across europe. so he's going to tell you a little bore bit more about the book and resource wealth to having me here. derek baxter, everybody. >> great! well, thank you. thank you and c-span. thank you everybody for watching. so yes, this book is about, it's about me following jefferson's travels across europe. and israeli, it was a chance to learn about a different side of jefferson that we don't often hear about. we all know about the younger jefferson who wrote the declaration of independence at the age of 33.
and we probably know something about jefferson as an older man when he was president. but this give me a chance to explore this different side of jefferson. it was when he was a middle aged, in the 1780's. so jefferson was just going into his 40s and he almost didn't travel to france at all. he had been asked twice to go over there to be ambassador from the united states and had declined it both times. but there were two events, two traumatic events that really changed his mind and changed his whole life in the early 17 80s that led him to take this trip. so one was he was governor of virginia for two years during the revolutionary war and it went up being a very difficult time. jefferson, you know, he's a brilliant guy but he is not a good wartime governor. there were many challenges. he had troubling calling the militia up. and the british want up over running the state and jefferson himself was almost captured at monticello. the dragons charged up the
mountain and came within a few minutes of catching him. and jefferson left the office and he was fiercely criticized by this incident and he was really strong by criticism you. was it, you know a, bit of a sensitive guy and he swore at that point that he was done with politics. you wrote that he's retired to his farm and his family and his fields and nothing would ever separate him from them again. but then the next year the, next event happened to, his wife myself died. so they had lived together here. wrote, it was ten years of unchecked happiness and when she passed away he was just devastated as you might imagine. he wrote that he was in a stoop of mind as did to the world now as his late wife was. so he was a very distressed and he even wrote to one friend hinting at suicide. so this is not the jefferson that you might think of. in fact, people didn't even know that he had written the declaration of independence for the most part.
this had been kind of kept secret. to make the documents seem like it was the work of the continental congress as a whole so. here we was, he was out of politics. his family life was ruined. and he really just wanted to get away at that point. so james madison knew this, his good friend and close political ally, and he arranged for congress to ask him for a third time to go to paris. and this time he accepted. and it was over there as you can see maybe from his painting that jefferson started enjoying himself again and started to kind of find the joy in life and here he is dressing in the french manner, he discovered the paris he, found so much to love. there he fell in love with the art galleries and the intellectual salons and the music and just all the culture that paris had to offer. and he really kind of came back
in a way. i think he not only got a new lease on life so to speak but he wound up learning so much when he was in europe and it was learning about a different top picks that he could then contrast with what was going on in america and come back to america with new ideas. so he wound up taking several trips across europe from paris. he was there. he spent five years as the ambassador, and he took three great trips away from the capitol were where he got to explore. so one was to the south of france and italy, one was to england and one was to the netherlands and germany. and he learned about a lot of different subjects here. kind of refined its political ideals and i think my theory is it was really his time in france that kind of put him back on track to rise through the political rank in the government and eventually become president. and it was towards the end of his stay in europe, it was in
1788, that two young americans came to him. these were friends, sons of friends of his back home, and they were playing a great trip around the continent. and who better to get advice from then jefferson, the ambassador? and a friend of their father. so jefferson, being a jefferson, you know, the ultimate overachiever, he didn't just give, you know, if you names here and there, you should go here and you know, check this out. instead he wrote a 5000 word letter to these two twentysomething guys. and he even gave it a title, he called it, hints to americans traveling in europe. so, he sketched out this itinerary, and for them to follow and give them a lot of ideas to go off of things to do. he also had a lot of insight
from his english trip that he could share about things to do over there. and he thought that it was important though that these young men not just go over europe and have a good time, although hopefully would enjoy the trip, it was really about learning. he gave them homework. and jefferson set out what he called 8 objects of attention that he thought were particularly important for americans to learn about. things like agriculture and landscape gardens and architecture and royal courts. so i have a question for you. here in the crowd, which of these different subject if, you can see them there, do you think that jefferson thought was particularly worth great attention for an american i mean there are several up there that he, subjects that he wanted to explore, that he was interested in, but he thought one in particular was really worth great attention. >> -- agriculture but i don't. >> agriculture. agriculture was one that was right up there. but not one for that particular court. anything else that he's known for? -- architecture. >> architecture, absolutely, absolutely. so we'll give you afterwards
this nice little in pursuit of jefferson bookmark for your reading pleasure. architecture was one that he really was a subject that he was fascinated by and something that he wanted to he, wanted people to explore. so this guy, you know, it absolutely spoke to me. and i think it came at an interesting point in my life. i saw a few parallels. i don't want to overdo the parallels but i was about the same age as jefferson was when i came across this travel county. it was about a decade ago. so i was pushing 40, about this image jefferson was. i'm from virginia so i was kind of seeing a, you know, a couple of things in common. but really i was just -- by the fact that jefferson who had been my hero growing up in virginia, you know, he wrote this guide. and he set out all these challenges. and so i was looking for something else to do in my life a, little bit of a midlife crisis if it were, and kind of thinking about you, know, what else did i want to do and? this idea of following this itinerary from start to finish and exploring the different
places and going to the sites and doing and learning about the subjects he said that. this just sounded great to me. so i started thinking about going out and doing it i. didn't want to quit my job. no i had a job. i didn't feel like i could just go off for a year or whatever and do this long trip. but i was starting to think, could i break into pieces, could i start to do the travels and find out what would happen, but i learned along the way? and so one subject i think was particularly interesting to me, which was how was i going to learn about wine? so in jefferson's travels, i'll go back into the map here, you can see in the map, you know, where that one class and one bottle is in bordeaux. you know, if you know anything about porto, it's one of the most exclusive wine regions in the world. so jefferson sense the traveler
there and his, and he makes a big deal out of it, and you know, i felt like, if i was going to follow these travelers i'd have to -- go to border. but the problem is you can't just waltz into bordeaux. these are very exclusive vineyards that don't let anybody off the street just, you know, they didn't incoming for tasty. you had to have an in. so are scratching my head and trying to forgot if i'm going to travel, how can i go to bordeaux in particular. when i crossed something else on the internet, which is that in all bordeaux, they have a marathon every year. but it's not just any marathon. you dress up in costume and you get to go into the different chateaux and they actually serve your wine, you know, these are vinyards that are producing 500 dollar bottles of wine. so my wife and i thought about it, wondered if this was kind of the and i was looking for, and finally we decided to go do it. so here we are, starting off this wine marathon so it was a strange way, a bit of a travel hack, to get into border and
the catch was we actually had to one run a marathon and we had to dress in costume. so that you know that i did it the theme of the marathon was history so. it seems like the perfect chance if i was ever going to dress as thomas jefferson this would be. i had to ask myself. i wanted to know more. so before the marathon, i did some research. i had to find out why was jefferson so fascinated by wine? so, you know, he's a very serious guy. you know, he's not joking around a lot. you know, one doesn't seem like that serious a topic for a founding father. but you put all of these different wine references in his travel got. in fact he told travelers, he listed 13 different types of one that he wanted them to find. so i learned about it. and so eventually, i'm going to read just a short passage from my book about why wine was important to jefferson. jefferson's travels into southern france as well as italy and germany formed part of his quest for the perfect bottle of wine. this wasn't just so he could lay out the best table in america, although he would do that too. until independence, americans
had drunk only rough, overly sweet madeira, forced on them by the english and their restrictive trade policies. now the wines of france were open to american imports. but which ones were the best? there were no printed guides. jefferson would have to make discoveries for himself. the grapes he selected might even be grown back in america. jefferson worried that the fastest growing drink in popularity back home was corn whiskey. he didn't want his beloved yeoman farmers going human form is going to bend. as the image of them sipping find affordable wines by the fire in that reading for ritual in the original latin and discussing democracy. so jefferson rambled through the vineyards, as he put it, talking to vinyards, observing wine making, and finding deals. he recorded how women clicked snails off the grapes and how many crafted vines. he bought vine cuttings to experiment with in his garden and bottles to sample at home.
these red happiest days of his life, he wrote later. after traveling his trip he would use his rankings of bordeaux to guide his purchases which made directly with the winery wherever possible. middlemen inevitably inevitably cheated the consumer he, wrote, adulterated in one, switching printers and vigils and prisons and strengthen party. only the store itself -- it would be suicidal for them to do otherwise he. would travel home from france with 363 bottles in tow, mostly white bordeaux. and that was just for his immediate years. the rest of his vast one collection was shipped in creates. so, we went off to the marathon and i'll read you a short passage from the end of the marathon. so i was thinking about a lot of things. this was my first jefferson travel experience. and i was looking for ways to make a connection between his time and ours and i was doing the race. i was thinking about the history of when jefferson was there and when these two young men followed hints and made it to bordeaux. one of the men, william short,
jefferson's private sector, actually wrote to him for bordeux. he says it's a bit of a crisis himself. he was wondering if he should stay in europe for his, the rest of his life or go back to america and follow politics. so there was a lot of history going on. but mostly by the end of the marathon, leon and i were just thinking about finishing. this was our first run. it was a hot day. we were drinking wine. we were in costume. so we were just hoping to survive. by now the small steps of a bordeaux, -- the throbbing 90s of the blistering on our feet. and even the mild one new buzz has -- called out the spectator select concert. her name is on her running the. but i wonder why she is garnering such attention? then i see that she's as bright red as a nice cabernet sauvignon? despite all the pageantry and why, it's still a marathon. our first. and doubts about this whole expedition creep in how did it bode for any plans of following
hints to americans if we fail on this inaugural leg? we walked briskly. i know we're north of six hours into the race, closing in on the seven hour limit. a tent with the flag proclaiming-kilometer 38 is a welcome sight. while on the home stretch, and it's time for the most famous stop on the journey. a table piled high with heaps of modeled oysters. there were stops along the way, where you get a gourmet food along with this wonderful wine. but you do have to be careful because there is a time limit and there is these three front-runners called the sweepers. so, if you fall behind the sweepers, they're running at the slowest pace you can do and still be in the marathon. if you get behind them you're too slow and they can kick you out. a man with a proud, white mustache and sun browned arms shucks the oyster at a snail's pace. i drink white so taryn poured from a plastic water bottle. this lush drink almost puts me in a trance, if only i could lie, down, stop running injuring
somewhere, preferably listening to sitar music. i reach my hand out for seconds. leon a with me from the edge of the tenth. i can't hear her but i smile weekly and take another swing. she looks upset, as if she had eaten a bed oyster and going to dramatically at a hill as, if to say, john hughes. i follow her finger. hi, christina distill talk cresting 100 feet away from, us there in the sweepers. behind, them a gaggle of runners practically cling to the trios, looking for pence. the sweepers and their acolytes disappear from hill, crushing the juice our dreams. we are about to be placed in a van and hauled back starting line. my hints test run a failure. on monday, i'll be back on the commuter train, getting to work for nine for another work of sameness. just like those bordeaux wines, i'll be confined in a classification that is impossible to break out of. my mind flashes back to
jefferson and these young men following his advice, i really going to be leaving them so soon? and how about william short wrote the letter to jefferson from bordeaux. consider carefully, jefferson counseled in a return letter, you'd be sorry to lose short as a secretary but the anyone had to find his own path to durable happiness. it won't be easy, it will certainly involve hard work. this is not a world in which heaven rains riches into any hand that will open itself, jefferson wrote. whichever of these courses you adopt, delay is loss of time. the sooner the race has begun, the sooner the prize will be obtained. i feel an almost electric jolt right through me, i'm not ready to abandon this race, this prize, this pursuit of happiness. without a word, lianna and i rush forward, revolutionary storming the barricades. we put pain out of mind. we charge up the hill, sweeping past the
sweepers. anna runners high, blisters and he'd forgotten, we clock are fast as-kilometer as the grand river comes into sight. my cape flies crisp in the wind, our hearts pound in unison, our minds dry and exhausted bodies behind them. go lianna, she's purple like merlot and determined. people clap. the clock takes seven hours, we crossed the line holding hands. we finish the marathon, now the hard journey begins. so, we decided to continue, as you can tell from that reading, we decided that first run, that test run was fun and enjoyable, we made connections and we set out. as i did the trips, we wound up combining about a trip a year doing part of this itinerary in europe and then we would come home to virginia and we look for smaller trips we can do in virginia, to see how jefferson put all this knowledge and put these projects into practice.
this is fernando franco, the viticulturist at the vineyard in virginia. i'm proud to see that -- sells barbers a wine here in virginia. he tried to grow wine after all these european experiences and learning, and he failed in virginia. one reason, there are several reasons why, but one was that the grapes weren't working, the grapes didn't take. it was because of this aphid we have in the u.s., for locks or laos that was attacking the roots of his vines. all the european grapes he brought over couldn't take hold here and produce good wine grapes. eventually, jefferson actually tried what could be a solution to it toward the end of his life. people started sending him grapes, a different kind of one grapes that grew here in america that hopefully people might know the name of those grapes. grapes here, and the hint is,
this store is named after this wine grape. of course, this skipper non weaver -- its description on grape. european grapes wouldn't grow in america but native grapes would, like the -- which jefferson, with maybe a little hyperbole, said had a very fine and a romantic flavor to it. and so he wasn't successful really ultimately but he did kind of kickstart what became the american one culture that we have today. but we continued on our trip, and i think the stop where we really learn to travel like jefferson was in amsterdam. this is a scene of a festival in amsterdam called kings day. it happens once a, year. it's a celebrated row house of orange. when jefferson went to amsterdam, he saw something a little similar. he also is
there for the celebration of the prince of orange's birthday and he had to wear orange, he bought an orange cockade to join in the celebrations. there were fireworks. amsterdam is the place that jefferson's travel guide starts. so, that's the perfect place to put his travel advice into practice. i think his travel tips are interesting, a lot of them stand up today. one thing he wrote in his guide, the first thing you should do when you go into a city, a place you've never been before, is to buy a map. which makes sense. and to buy a guidebook. he thought you should really try to get practical information. and then, the next stop is to go to the highest place you can find in the city, the highest point. so, perhaps, a church steeple or the city walls. the idea is to look down below you and get an aerial view of a place, kind of like you might through a google earth satellite photo today. then, his next piece of advice
was to go out there and, as he put it, gulp down culture. so, he generally recommended having your practical information, knowing how the city plan works, going out there and that finding certain sites that you know you want to see. he almost had a carpe diem message, he reminded the traveler that you might never be back at this place again. so if you have any questions or doubt as to whether you should see something, go out there and do it. because you don't want to be left with regrets. but he also said, on the other hand, look for some balance. because you can't possibly go to, say, a museum and see everything in it. he said that would burden the mind. so, see the things really have to be done trying to see absolutely everything in a place. when you've done all that, when you've seen the sites, jefferson really recommended meeting real people and getting to know a bit about the real life of the place here in. so, he said one place to do that is to go to public markets, that was an ideal place where
you could buy, something you can talk to people, you get to know a little bit about them. he also recommended going to taverns and inns, i love this, and actually drinking local. he said, don't order foreign wine, they're just going to adulterate it and mark it up, drink when everyone else is drinking. ultimately, jefferson thought the travel was a great way of learning and experiencing and seeing new things, there's also a good time for introspection. because you can contrast all these new things are experiencing with what you know about your own life. and he wrote a really interesting letter from the south of france to a friend back in paris, about how use an at an in and had everything -- to sue cases. he said had so few cares and at that time he was happy, he was just sitting in the room in his in we all his care is gone. travel can do that, it can give you a chance to reflect on everything you've seen and think about where you're going.
so, we continued on our travels. we did a number of them, my wife and i did some of them with our children, who are pretty young at the time. so, this is stowe gardens in england. landscape gardens, english gardens, were basically the only thing that jefferson liked about england. but he really did love them, he went to 19 different gardens, which we did as well. stowe was one of his favorites. jefferson took a lot of ideas back from the landscape gardens he saw, he looked at the follies, the small little temples they had, he got ideas about putting what he called eye catchers way off in the distance and kind of painting a tableau through landscaping. he would go back. he thought this was a great art, form a very important reform in the 18th century, especially for aristocrats with the states. it's almost like instagram today, you're kind of showing off the best side of things. he came back and had
ideas for monticello, the landscaping that he would do at monticello. which you can see today. he left the base of his mountain very wooded and wild, but if you go up to the mountain to the top you see pastures, rolling pastures. and you look at and see this vista of mountains, stretching out to the west. so, it was kind of telling a story, i think, of taming the land and america expanding. so, jefferson learned so much of that from his travels in england. another trip we took, which had to be the most popular for the family, certainly for the kids, was to italy. where jefferson wrote that he was on a continued feast through italy. we learned about the different kinds of agriculture and foods that interested him, that he recommended in his guide. one of which was pasta. here we are in the small town of grunion o, which is near naples, and jefferson asked the young man who is following his guide to
stop and get him a macaroni mold, which they did, so back home he could make macaroni. this is an artisinal pasta factory that had some very similar molds, like how they made passed in the old days. this is something jefferson became very popular, for popular has popularized passed in the presidents house. he wasn't the first president do this in america but he was the first president to do so. people were surprised by what they're eating. one guest that he thought the past was elongated onions, they don't know what to make of these new flavors. but he popularized a lot of italian dishes, even french dishes. he had a french chef in the presidents house who made, basically, a forerunner of french fries. another trip we took that was really fascinating was about science and natural history, another passion of jefferson's. everywhere he traveled, while he was on the road, he would take notes about the technology,
about the canal gates that he saw. he invented a new kind of plow when he looked out from his carriage window and saw a farmer laboring with what he thought was a very inefficient plow, so he just gets that a better design right there on the spot. he wrote that science never appears so beautiful as when applied to the uses of human life. he was always trying to find these practical applications for science. one of the main areas where he did that was through promoting fishing and whaling. so, as ambassador in paris, which he was, he had to promote american business interests, of which these were big industries for the u.s. and new england at the time. he studied fishing, he studied whaling, to try to find out the different migratory patterns of animals in the sea and better ways of fishing. so, here we are, here i am with a fish in a market in brittany,
at a fish auction. he came to what we talked about earlier, the subject that he thought was worth great attention. architecture. this it's tricky. any ideas with this picture might be a? is this a building you think you've ever, possibly, seen before? it's a bit of a trick question, because this is actually monticello. it's the forerunner of monticello, before jefferson traveled to paris he had a version of this built, not finished. and it is polite iain in form, but he took his design ideas from books, books by politico, the great renaissance architect. he hadn't seen any buildings like this before in person. it's certainly not a bad design, but it's nothing like the
monticello we all know if you've ever been there, if you've ever looked at the back of a nickel. you know that monticello has a dome, this is missing a lot. it's supposed to have a don't, it's flowing, it has all these portico, is it's kind of boxy. it was instead in europe that he really got his architectural ideas. this building looks, probably, a lot more like monticello, the monticello we know. this is the -- in paris, which was his favorite building over there. he wrote that he was violently smitten by it. this was a mansion that was built for a german prince and it happened that the construction happened the very same years that jefferson was in paris. so, he would go at their from his sham police a mansion. this was being built not too far from the eiffel tower on the left, thank you to come back from the champs and sit in the garden on a lawn chair and he would crane his neck and
look across to see this building being built. he wrote that you had come home at night with his neck hurting from looking at it all day long. but this is showing off a new form of architecture, french neo-classicism it's called today. a little different from the old classical farms that palladio. was playing with, instead, there's a real emphasis on humility, restraint. this was a building with three stories that was meant to look like it's just one story. so, jefferson took some of these ideas back, he certainly took the dome back, he took the idea of skylights back. and he loved this idea of modesty, in a way, of making a large building appear to be a cozy one story building. at monticello, the third story is hidden behind the balustrade and the second story has the windows very low in behind a balustrade. and the second we know that very low to the ground. it's a place for the four story
so it's a bit of a trick and makes monticello look much smaller than it really is. italy. this is a another thing that jefferson learned while he was in europe was about building materials. so, here i am in italy. this is an ancient marble quarry that the romans used, michelangelo got marble from, best marble in the world. jefferson asked these young men who were following his guide to stop in -- and execute a commission for him, give it to the workers for them so they can make a marble shimmy piece for monticello. so, he brought that back but when he discovered, of course, this is marvelous so expensive you can use much of it in your building. instead, what virginia was famous for was with red clay. jefferson realized that the signature look of his buildings would come from the bricks he used instead. so, here is an older picture of monticello, you can see some of the ideas that he brought back. between the building materials, between the roman buildings he saw, the
newer french buildings. he mix them altogether and he said it is a lot of creativity and come up with his own ideas for a building. throughout the travels, as i said, we went on these trips that were great adventures. even going to the top of -- was this madcap adventure, it was kind of dangerous. we are going around all these curves. we certainly experienced a lot. and we learned a lot when we went back home to virginia, to try to understand how to put his ideas in practice. excuse me. but what i learned more and more as the troops went on and i realized i had to deal with, in a really significant way as i contemplated jefferson, as i thought about these travels, was the issue of slavery. of course, i knew that jefferson, obviously, was a slave owner, it was a disappointing fact that i thought about before my trip. i don't particularly think that these journeys would be that focused on slavery.
jefferson took his european travels by himself or with a hired french servant. he had to enslaved people at different times with him in paris. james hemings for the entire day and sally hemings for part of, it but they didn't go on these trips with him. i was thinking, okay, this is certainly a very troubling side of jefferson, but not the main focus of his travels. as i went on, i realize that was wrong. slavery had everything to do with his travels. as i explored more and more of these objects i realized, well, no, the architectural ideas that he had that he came back home to put in place, he was not there building the buildings. they were largely built by enslaved people. the landscape gardens, the agricultural ideas he brought back also we're all going to be engaged in, carried out by enslaved people. it was very disappointing to see but an issue i realized i needed to
reckon with more than i had. including the very fact of jefferson's travels themselves. he had a salary as an ambassador, but it was really the planting of tobacco by enslaved people back in monticello and as other plantations that was funding his work. so, i felt like i had to pay more attention to everybody that lived on his mountain. jefferson enslaved over 600 people in his lifetime, he only freed ten. i think, disappointingly, focusing on this time of his life, it was a difficult time because it was during the 17 80s in france that he kind of retreated from his view, his role as an advocate for gradual emancipation. he had push for that in virginia in the congress. he started to step backwards when he was in paris, for a variety of reasons. for political reasons, for the debt that he was in. he was never quite that same, passionate advocate. in fact, he was quiet on the subject. instead,
because he realized he needed the money that enslaved people were giving him from their work in the fields. and even at times, when he sold them. in january, 1785, jefferson within his first year in paris, he found himself deeper in debt and needing money and he authorized his overseer back home to sell 31 people at auction. so, i start to view jefferson differently when i saw just how important slavery was to his entire life, and that i couldn't separate it out as that jefferson the architect was one thing, jefferson the slaveowner as different. they're all connected. i say to pay more attention to the lives of these other people at monticello and kind of went off script. i decided to put down, following jefferson's guide around europe, and started to focus more on the lives of some people in their own right, not just in their relationship to jefferson but how they lived their own life and white paths
to freedom they might have found to get off the mountain., so this is a picture of isaac granger, a tin maker and blacksmith at monticello. this is a story i explore more in my book, of peter faucet. he was a reverend, a very fascinating life i think. he was a hemings, his last name was faucet but his father, joseph faucet, a blacksmith, was the son of mary hemings who was the older sister to james hemings and sally hemings. he grew up as a member of the hemings family, didn't have to do the same manual labor that some other enslaved people did on the plantation. but jefferson died in 1826, peter was only 11. all of a sudden, his life completely changed. families were broken, up 130 people were auctioned after jefferson's death. joseph was actually one of the people that were freed,
but peter was not. he was told to a master, a very cruel master who forbade him to read, who whipped him. it was a time of suffering for this young man who left monticello. he had tried to escape and was caught and brought back. eventually, joseph faucet, with the help of some friends, was able to buy his son's freedom. the whole family moved to ohio, peter faucet became a reverend, he became a caterer and had a successful business. he worked with the underground railroad. years later, it was a 1900, he was 85 at this time, he was invited back to monticello. by this time, the jefferson had long since lost the house, the levy family, a jewish family that was very inspired by jefferson's commitment to religious freedom, they had bought it. and they welcomed
peter faucet back home. so they've left, auctioned off from monticello and he walked back in as an old man through the front steps. so, the journey has brought me to many different places in europe, in my mind, considering this man who had once been my hero but i now saw more critically. but at the end, i think it left me very enriched. definitely thinking that we do need to remember jefferson, along with all these other people at the mountain, on monticello mountain. it's a way of remembering this whole time period that we all share in our history as americans. and it still left me with many stories of jefferson that i still enjoyed and look, that despite all the problems thinking about him as well. his commitment of science and pushing that, public education, to religious freedom. so, i left, maybe, with a deeper understanding of
jefferson, understanding and more as a person than i had before.but very grateful that i went on the trip, which i've written about now in this book. in pursuit of jefferson, traveling through europe with the most perplexing founding father. it's a combination of my own travel with jefferson, with the history, it's probably about half an, half half travel, half history. you can find out more if you're interested at jefferson travels. com, that's my website. where i have also written a lot more about our journeys and have other pictures and other thoughts and some stuff that didn't make it into the book. so, if you have any, questions i'm happy to take them. >> -- what about the language capabilities of jefferson, as he went to the different countries? was he rather fluent in foreign languages? >> yeah, that's a great question. he thought he was a little more flynn and then he was. he loved languages and he loved french, he had a real problem speaking french with
conversational french when he got there. he read it fluently but he had trouble making himself be understood, so he sometimes would use an interpreter or a translator for his written documents. but, still he wears very well in french, he knew latin and greet. he wrote that he taught himself spanish by reading don ko today on the ocean, on the ship right over. i don't know if you can completely learn spanish from that book, but it's a great start. initially prize banish, he would tell young americans that has him for advice he had point them in the direction of spanish, nine others would be an important language for our country. so, he did pretty well overall, getting around. i think when you got in trouble was when he went to germany and all of a sudden he did know germany, he was at a loss. he tried all these languages that i mentioned, including latin. he would speak to people in latin, trying desperately to make himself be understood. but that was a bit of an uphill battle.
>> question, so, he brought back architecture. was the dome or less from a mosque, the ottoman empire influence? was that the idea from the dome? >> it's also very interesting questions. the romans had domes. he looked at classical architecture and he knew about domes from books, but the techniques were very difficult, in terms of having them be built here in america. it was a challenge to build with all that stone masonry, so heavy. so, jefferson came across, in paris, a wooden dome. it was covering this grain market that had interlocking wooden slats. he loved that idea. it's not there anymore, eventually it burned down, it was made of would. jefferson loved to be technique, so he studied that and got some
materials about that. he brought back those ideas. he came back to monticello with designs and he said he wanted a dome that workers here, who had never seen one before, could nonetheless follow these plans and build one. and he would of what he called his sky room. he wanted that room up top. he loved the geometry of it as well. so, he wound up having a dome, obviously, at monticello and then at the rotunda at the university of virginia, the school he founded. he put one there to, which is beautiful. it's obviously still there today. the uva rotunda. it has touches from throughout his travels, battalion marble for example. it's really, i think, one of his masterpieces. >> -- politics. when he went to europe, that was before the french revolution, he was back before the revolution. and he
really enjoyed the french, i'm not real familiar with jefferson but he liked the french. did that trip impact his politics a lot when he came back to the states and went on through the presidency? >> yes, yes, absolutely, yes. i talk about, that i have a whole chapter on jefferson at the lead up to the french revolution in the early days. i think this really propelled him into his politics. so, if you remember, back on the eight different subjects he set out for young americans, politics was one of them. by this, he meant how did common people live and how did the politics of the country effect down? he loved traveling around and trying to guess the politics or the political situation based on how people were living. when he went to germany, that was all whole collection of states. it wasn't unified. he would go through one that was more capitalistic, that had free market, maybe some
elements of democracy and -- prosperous to another one. where was just a complete autocracy and he wrote about how he saw beggars. he is interested in taking notes about how the form of government affected how people lived. then in france, it was really a case study because jefferson was there, louis the 16th was an absolute monarch but had run into major problems. he was deeply in debt because, in part, because of france's role in the american revolution. but for other reasons as well. jefferson was following all of this and was there for the very first year of the french revolution. so, this was more of a quote unquote moderate time, way before the guillotine. jefferson's friend, the marquis de lafayette, was one of the leaders and became the leader for a brief period of time. they were trying to establish a constitutional monarchy. and jefferson, in fact, thought that that was the best that france could do, could hope
for. he was very instrumental behind the scenes. in fact, jefferson drafted an early version of what became the universal declaration of human right. france's declaration, rather, of the rights of man, which also influenced the universal declaration. i say that, to correct myself. so he's behind the scenes, working with lafayette on, you know, promoting liberty and promoting the new national assembly to taking a greater role. so he came back to america very inspired. he thought that -- he didn't foresee the reign of terror and the bloodshed that would happen. he didn't know the wars, the revolutionary wars that would happen in the 17 90s. he just came back think that france is basically going to do what we just did. they're going to have a successful republic. and it took him a long time to stray from that. if he was a very strong proponent of what the french were doing. he clashed with hamilton in the cabinet. hamilton much more pro
british. but it was eventually i think jefferson and madison formed what they called the republican party, the democratic republican party, we often call it today, and it was inspired in part by what happened in france. and they were kind of sticking up for the french revolution and trying to keep us from aligning too closely with britain. so i think there's some parallels between the democratic republic 40 and lafayette's patriot party, which was also kind of moderate and democratic. so i think it did influence the ideals and i it helped give the momentum because he wanted to recreate what he thought lafayette and others were doing in the u.s. when he got here. [inaudible] >> -- of course presidency--. >> he really brought it back. yes. and that ultimately succeeded in when he was elected president, he called it the revolution of 1800.
he thought it was as important in its own way as a revolution of 1776. the first time a transfer of power obviously from one party to another but jefferson saw this is the voice of common people, farmers, urban artisans, very much carried on the work of the french revolution. he wrote that the french revolution was just the first chapter in the history of european liberty. we he thought it would spread to all the countries in europe. you it wound up taking a while. >> one last question you touched on. just out of curiosity, because i don't know very much about jefferson. but you said, you know, you must have it in your book about enslaved people and he wrote the declaration of independence, that all men are created equal. so did you look at any of that contrast there and how he felt out about that? as he aged in life? i can't remember. i know there was a lot of discussion between him and john adams as they got older. but is there a discussion on that?
because that's a real contradiction. >> yeah. >> when you really look at, it isn't it? >> it's a tremendous contradiction. and certainly it's one that jefferson didn't resolve in his lifetime at all. and as i said earlier, he was pushing to do more on slavery. he knew it was an evil. he wrote that it was a hideous institution. and he wrote that god will judge people like him that were slaveowners. so he knew we had to move on as a country from it. but he didn't find the means to do it for himself, for sure, and eventually, as i said, he had pushing more to ended earlier in his life, and he walked that back. he only talked about that in private and didn't -- not in public. but john adams, yes, they very famously rekindled their correspondence. they had become good friends and it was here in france, actually, adams, it was kind of an all-star lineup of diplomats when jefferson got there. benjamin franklin and john adams were already there as ambassadors, as ministers to
france to. -- joined them. adams and jefferson had worked together in the continental conference. congress. and they bonded even more. he with their whole family, he in paris, jefferson visited adams in england and they toured some of those english gardens together, so they were very close friends. they broke apart bitterly, you know, over the politics of the 17 90s. and then in their retirement, they rekindled the correspondence. they did not talk about slavery, almost never, in the letters. and i suspect it was because adams didn't bring it up, because he knew this was a painful subject, it was one that jefferson didn't have a good answer for. he didn't like confrontation, jefferson didn't. he was a wonderful, he was a magnificent letter writer. there are almost like poetry. and he was a wonderful conversationalist. but he would certainly shy away from one-on-one confident confrontations. adams, in a way, didn't let jefferson off the hook. he didn't push him on slavery in the correspondence. and
jefferson didn't act in his later years. some others did. including edward coles, a younger, a younger slave owner in virginia, who was an admirer of jefferson, who did actually free his slaves and bring them into freedom. so he had he, was able to take his convictions, you know, that way. jefferson had so many reasons he rationalized to himself. that, what have you, that he didn't follow suit on, that he didn't resolve that contradiction. but he did give us these words that obviously we are trying to live up to even today. >> so do you really think that his travels through europe that you've documented really impacted and let him in his politics and just changed our politics here today probably to some degree? >> i think they played some role. i don't want to save everything from his european travels, but i certainly think coming back inspired by france, a frank file, definitely wanting, you know, american
republicans you, know, those interested in liberty, to rally around france. that was definitely one of several but one free to you from running dry running quite for the democratic republicans. so i think that later. also i think his travels they certainly played a role into many other fields as well, to architecture. so we see all of this jeffersonian neoclassical architecture you, know, government buildings, banks, what have you so much of that is due to jefferson and his travels, even some landscape gardening ideas. not all of his ideas panned out i. didn't actually tell the story during my talk but one thing jefferson tried to do was to bring italian rice back to america he. found this wonderful variety of piedmont rice in the northwest of italy that he wanted to bring back so planters in the carolinas could
plant it. he thought it was superior. but it was illegal to bring it out of italy under the pain of death, even. but jefferson actually stuck to his pockets full of this race and smuggled it out and sent it to planters in south carolina who then said, thanks, but no thanks. you are just going to intermingled with what we have. so he kept experimenting. he kept trying. and he found a different kind of rice that he sent that actually didn't have to be granted water. he wrote one of those the greatest services he rounded to his company was bringing this new plant back. so i think so much of jefferson from a cultural side, from the political side, agricultural side, whatever, so much of it came from these travels. and i just encourage everyone to find a way to, you know, to do some traveling like that yourself, whether it's in your, you know, following this travels like i just set out or here closer to home. it's just, it's so valuable in terms of making your own discoveries and thinking critically about it.
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