Volume 6 covers the period from March to November 1813. Although freed from the cares of government, during the War of 1812 Thomas Jefferson is unable to disassociate himself from politics entirely. He recommends that gunboats be used to protect the Chesapeake Bay and writes three long letters to John Wayles Eppes urging the rapid repayment of the national dept and reining in of the American banking system. Despite his concern that the British naval blockade and the worst drought in half a century would ravage his personal finances, Jefferson remains active and healthy. He makes three trips to his beloved Poplar Forest estate, regularly entertains visitors at Monticello, and happily supervises the education of his grandchildren and other relations. The amount and diversity of Jefferson’s correspondence also show no sign of abating. Exchanges with John Waldo and John Wilson reveal his well-developed ideas about the improvement of English orthography. In a letter to Isaac McPherson, he argues passionately for limits on government-sanctioned intellectual property rights. Jefferson provides a penetrating and much-quoted study of Meriwether Lewis’s life and career for use in the 1814 published journal of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Consulting their most intense period of communication in retirement, 31 of the 516 documents in this volume are letters exchanged by Jefferson and John Adams. While steering clear, from the most part, of recent political controversies, the two statesmen engage in wide-ranging discussions of government, philosophy, literature, and religion, amplifying their worldviews and their hopes and fears for the nation they had done so much to create.
J. Jefferson Looney is Editor of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, sponsored by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc., Charlottesville, Virginia. Hardbound, 705 pages.