Jefferson's Books at Washington University

  • Thomas Jefferson twice collected a library of books. The first (some 6,487 volumes) became the foundation for the Library of Congress after the British burned Washington in 1814. He immediately started buying books again (confessing to John Adams I cannot live without books) and collected 1,600 more before he died. Now it turns out that Washington University in St. Louis has discovered 74 volumes from Jefferson’s second collection. See The New York Times (21-Feb-2011).
JDN | 23-Feb-2011

As in the case of his career as commander-in-chief, Washington’s most important act as president was his giving up the office. The significance of his retirement from the presidency is easily overlooked today, but his contemporaries knew what it meant. Most people assumed that Washington might be president as long as he lived, that he would be a kind of elected monarch like the king of Poland. Hence his retirement from the presidency enhanced his moral authority and set a precedent for future presidents.

Gordon S. Wood
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009)