Volume 10: 22 June to 31 December 1786

© 1954 Princeton University Press

Cover of Volume 10, which displays the title and publisher of the volume, as well as the names of the contributing editors.


Volume 10 continues the story of Jefferson’s services as minister to France and as a leading spokesman in Europe for American principles and culture. During the latter half of 1786 the thirteen states, bound together by Articles of Confederation, were engaged in slow but important negotiations regarding piracy in the Mediterranean, Americans held captive by Algiers, debts to European bankers and former officers in Washington’s armies, a treaty with Prussia, navigation of the Mississippi River, and trade with France.

Marauding Barbary pirates and clamoring European creditors pressed hard on American prestige and solvency and imposed great demands on the patience and resourcefulness of Jefferson and his colleague in London, John Adams. The efforts of these two future Presidents form an interesting chapter in American diplomatic history. They continually urged Congress to meet the obligations incurred during the Revolution, and even as complex negotiations were carried on for the release of captured Americans, Jefferson attempted to organize the Atlantic community in a concerted move against the depredations of the Barbary States.

Along with his official duties Jefferson took a friendly interest in the welfare of Americans in Europe and Europeans in America, and neglected no opportunity to cultivate respect and affection for the United States. He was particularly keen to insure accuracy (and favorable treatment) in French writings on America, and he wrote extensive revisions for Démeunier’s articles in the Encyclopédie Mèthodique.

Jefferson’s untiring intellectual curiosity was stimulated by the many opportunities of Paris. A connoisseur of wines and books, an amateur naturalist, a patriotic historian, Jefferson also wrote to his many correspondents about harpsichords, maps, prosody, air currents, sculpture, prize money, and kings. He met the charming Maria Cosway, and, his right wrist dislocated, wrote with his left hand a remarkable letter explaining to her how his Head rebuked his Heart for “imprudently engaging [its] affections under circumstances that must cost [it] a great deal of pain.”

Julian P. Boyd, Editor
Mina R. Bryan and Fredrick Aandahl, Associate Editors