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 students of Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau are always reminding us, the age of reason was really an age of sentiment. In this too, Washington was a man of his age. When he established the first general decoration in the American Army, the Purple Heart, it was not (as it became in the twentieth century) an award available to all soldiers wounded in the line of duty. Only privates and noncomissioned officers could win the original Badge of Military Merit, a cloth-shaped heart sewn over the man’s actual heart, which allowed him to pass all guards and sentinels which officers are permitted to do. The symbol was not of heart’s blood shed, but of virtue proceeding from the heart. Limiting the award to nonofficers was meant to indicate that great virtue can be shown regardless of rank — that in Washington’s words, the road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is thus open to all.

Garry Wills
Cincinnatus: George Washington & the Enlightenment (1984)