J. Jefferson Looney is Editor of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, sponsored by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc., Charlottesville, Virginia. Hardbound, 737 pages.
Volume 5 includes 592 documents from 1 May 1812 to 10 March 1813. America declares war on Great Britain on 18 June 1812. Jefferson counsels domestic reconciliation while suggesting that America recruit British incendiaries to burn London if British ships attack American cities. He passes on to President James Madison a long and discouraging letter from Isaac A. Coles describing American military bungling in the Niagara Campaign. An unofficial proposal that Jefferson return to public life as secretary of state does not gain the retired statesman’s support. Jefferson remains accessible to the public, receives anonymous letters urging him to convert to Christianity, and settles a wager for one correspondent who asks if Jefferson ever met the British King. Jefferson gloomily observes that “the hand of age is upon me” and complains that his faculties are failing. He still has thirteen years to live.