When Thomas Jefferson was the Minister of France
By Phin Upham
Most people know Thomas Jefferson as the third president of the United States of America, and an important (if not controversial) figure in American history. His estate is a national treasure, and his legacy lives on in the very documents our country’s democracy is founded upon. Jefferson was also known as a polymath, well versed in the arts and sciences with a thorough understanding of politics to keep him well-rounded.
What most people don’t know is that in addition to his time spent in congress and as second Vice President to this country, Jefferson added “minister to France” to his list of many titles. The Confederation Congress sent Jefferson, Adams and Franklin to Europe with the purpose of negotiating some trade agreements with England, Spain and France.
Jefferson had recently lost his wife, Martha, and deeply troubled to the point of depression. Those around him thought him suicidal for a time in his life. As a favor, and relying on his political acumen, the Americans chose him as one of a few to represent them.
While in France, his revolutionary ideals fit in perfectly with the attitude of pre-revolution Paris. He corresponded with many prominent thinkers on the revolutionary side, and became so controversial his mail was periodically read.
Jefferson left Paris in September of 1789, intending to return shortly after a brief stay at his home in America. He didn’t get the chance before the revolution broke out. He was a staunch supporter of the French Revolution, although he voice concern of the more bloody aspects of the fighting.