This volume brings to a close Jefferson’s increasingly stormy tenure as Secretary of State. Against the background of the deadly yellow fever in Philadelphia, he copes with obstreperous French consuls and informs Edmond Charles Genet that the American government has requested his recall. After a brief visit to Monticello, where he continues preparations for his retirement, he resumes his official duties in Germantown and plays an important part in the historic definition of the maritime limits of the United States. Continuing his epochal duel with his great antagonist at the Treasury over the conduct of American foreign policy, Jefferson prevails upon President Washington and the Cabinet to inform Congress of the British refusal to carry out the disputed provisions of the Treaty of Paris at the same time that it is told of the Washington administration’s request for Genet’s recall. In a final effort to implement his policy of commercial retaliation against Great Britain, Jefferson submits to Congress in December his long-awaited Report on Commerce—nearly three years in the making—setting forth in great detail the various forms of discrimination that American trade suffers at the hands of the British. The early stages and final version of this influential state paper are presented in all their textual complexity. At last worn down by the daily drudgery of office, disappointed by President Washington’s tepid response to his criticisms of Alexander Hamilton’s fiscal policies, frustrated by the Treasury Secretary’s rising influence over American foreign policy, anxious to resume the personal management of his estates, and eager to enjoy uninterruptedly the pleasures of domestic life, Jefferson retires from office on the last day of 1793, determined never again to suffer the torments of public life.
The volume is also noteworthy for a supplement and three appendices. The supplement prints, summarizes, or notes some 270 documents for the period 1764-1793 that have come to light or been reclassified since the publication of the last supplement in Volume 15 (1958). In accordance with the design of the edition, the appendices account summarily for several hundred documents that were not intended for publication, summary, or even brief digest in the annotation in the State Department volumes. The final appendix describes and illustrates official papers—commissions, laws, passports, patents, and the like—that Jefferson signed ex officio as Secretary of State.