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

The Revolutionary leaders never intended to create an original and peculiar indigenous culture. Despite all their talk of American exceptionalism and American virtue in contrast with European corruption, they were seeking not to cut themselves off from Europe’s cultural heritage but to embrace it and in fact to fulfill it. It is a mistake to view America’s post-Revolutionary emulation of Europe as a legacy of helpless dependence passed on from colonial days. Americans imitated European styles and forms not because in their naïveté they could nothing else but because they wanted to.... Their revolution was very much an international affair, an attempt to fulfill the cosmopolitan dreams of the Enlightenment.

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