Volume 11, which covers the period from 1 January to 6 August 1787, continues the account of Jefferson’s mission as minister to France.
From February through June 1787 Jefferson made his first major tour on the continent of Europe, and the record of this journey to southern France and northern Italy is contained in the delightful “Notes of a Tour . . .” in this volume. Perhaps Jefferson is here revealed most clearly, for he traveled incognito, alone, separated from family and countrymen, and was completely free to do as he wished and seek out the people he wanted to see—scholars, merchants, abbés, peasants, farmers. The trip was essentially a tour to study the social, economic, and agricultural aspects of the region, and Jefferson was interested in all he saw, from Roman antiquities and the beauties of the countryside to the production of rice and wine and cheese; from the numerous mechanical devices and gadgets which intrigued him (for many of which he made drawings which are reproduced here) to the workings of a canal.
Shortly after his return from the southern tour, Jefferson’s daughter Polly journeyed from Virginia to join her parent, and the account of this experience, much of it charmingly conveyed in letters from Abigail Adams, with whom she stayed in London while further transport was being arranged, is another picture of Jefferson’s unofficial life.
In his official capacity, Jefferson continued his negotiations to represent his country’s best interest. Included in Volume 11 are letters and documents on his recommendation of Droz’s new method of coinage; on the final success of Thomas Barclay’s negotiations for a treaty with Morocco, and on the many vicissitudes which beset him, including his arrest and imprisonment in Bordeaux, an incident which Jefferson rightly felt could be most detrimental to the reputation of his country; on Jefferson’s consultation with a young Brazilian revolutionary and his attempt to interest Congress in helping Brazil in her revolutions against Portugal; and on the reports continually made to Jefferson by Madison and Monroe and others, which kept him in touch with such important developments at home as Shays’ Rebellion and the forthcoming Federal Convention.