Volume 8 covers the period from February through October 1785. During this time Jefferson was appointed to replace Benjamin Franklin as American minister to France; Franklin returned to America; and John Adams went to London to take up his duties as minister to Great Britain. The efforts of the three commissioners to negotiate treaties of amity and commerce culminated, in September, in the completion and signing of a commercial treaty with Prussia.
This volume also includes the correspondence between Jefferson and Adams arranging for the mission of Thomas Barclay and John Lamb to negotiate treaties with the Barbary states and the official instructions and commissions presented to Barclay and Lamb.
Jefferson’s personal letters in this volume include the first letters exchanged with Abigail Adams, which give evidence of the warm affection and understanding, often touched with humor, existing between them; letters concerning the education and welfare of Jefferson’s nephews in Virginia; reports on the selection of Jean Antoine Houdon to make a statue of George Washington for the State of Virginia and the arrangements for his journey to America to execute that commission; a few friendly letters between Jefferson and Chastellux in which Jefferson gives his “idea of the characters of the several states. In the North they are cool. In the South they are fiery,” etc. Also included in this volume is a letter from Martha Jefferson to Eliza House Trist giving an account of her journey to Europe with her father and her first impressions of her life in Paris.
The letters of this period provide an account of the public and private lives of the foreign representatives of a new and struggling country in the oldest and most sophisticated capitals of Europe.