Volume 14, from October 1788 through March 1789, continues and almost completes Jefferson’s stay in France as American minister there, and includes documents throwing light on the critical days of the eve of the French Revolution.
In bringing his mission in France to a climactic close, Jefferson discussed with Lafayette and others the drafting of a French Declaration of Rights and elaborated the newly developed but lifelong conviction that “the earth belongs to the living.” He conducted the delicate negotiations for a Consular Convention, and simultaneously confronted the whale-oil crisis brought on by British dumping and accentuated under the monopoly granted by France to the Nantucket whalemen of Dunkerque. He welcomed Gouverneur Morris to Paris, bent on private speculative ventures in American public funds, and reported to Jay and Washington on the approaching recall of De Moustier as minister to the United States.
This volume also contains the letters from America reporting on elections under the new Federal Government and the move for amendments to the Constitution, including Madison’s remarkable letter appraising Bills of Rights as “parchment barriers” affording little protection when most needed. It includes correspondence with Paine about his iron bridge and with Rumsey about his steamboat; with Congress and American merchants about the disastrous shortage of wheat in France; with booksellers in London, Amsterdam, and Strasbourg about new books.
Jefferson here plans a return to America in 1789 to look after his own affairs. He wanted to take his daughters back to their native land, in part because Martha for a time considered becoming a nun and in part because she was approaching marriageable age.
Reproduced in Volume 14 is a new portrait of Thomas Paine by Trumbull, lost for more than a century and recently identified; also the earliest and hitherto unpublished drawing of the first fossil skeleton ever to be mounted.