Volume 12: 7 August 1787 to 31 March 1788

© 1955 Princeton University Press

Cover of Volume 12, which displays the title and publisher of the volume, as well as the names of the contributing editors.


Volume 12 begins in the early part of August 1787 and continues through the end of March 1788, a time when Jefferson, as minister to France, was continuing his persistent efforts not only to secure the enforcement of the favorable trade regulations (especially for tobacco) already conceded to the United States but also to widen their scope to other imports from America.

In this volume, too, are letters from America with reports of the Federal Convention which met in Philadelphia in 1787 and adopted a proposed Constitution for the United States, the ensuing letters between Jefferson and his friends discussing the merits and defects of the proposed plan of government.

During this period, John Adams was arranging for his departure for America and Jefferson prepared to shoulder the responsibility—hitherto carried chiefly by Adams—of the American loans abroad. In order to have the benefit of Adams’ counsel on the subject, Jefferson hastily left Paris and spent most of March conferring with Adams and bankers in Amsterdam on the Dutch loans; these negotiations resulted in arrangements designed to sustain American credit in Europe down to the end of 1790, at which time it was expected that the new government would have become stabilized.

Among Jefferson’s personal but semi-official duties was the entertainment and instruction of young Americans travelling abroad. One of the most promising was Thomas Lee Shippen of Philadelphia, whom Jefferson presented at court. Young Shippen sent home to his father a graphic account of a day spent at Versailles with Jefferson (published in this volume for the first time), in which he wrote: “I observed that although Mr. Jefferson was the plainest man in the room, and the most destitute of ribbands crosses and other insignia of rank that he was most courted and attended to (even by the Courtiers themselves) of the whole Diplomatic corps.”

Jefferson’s personal letters in this volume—to Abigail Adams, Maria Cosway, John Trumbull, William Stephens Smith, Mme. de Bréhan, Peter Carr, Mme. de Corny, and others—present delightful pictures of his family and social life. The volume includes the first letters exchanged with the charming Angelica Schuyler Church, whom Jefferson met in the winter of 1787-1788.

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