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PRESIDENTIAL SERIES > 5. AMERICAN SPHINX ~ CHAPTER 2 (106 - 138) (03/01/10 - 03/07/10) ~ No spoilers, please

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 28, 2010 09:26PM) (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Hello Everyone,

This begins the fifth week's reading in our new Presidential Series group discussion.

The complete table of contents is as follows:

Prologue. Jefferson Surge: America, 1992-1993 p.3
1. Philadelphia:1775-76 p.27
2. Paris: 1784-89 p.75
3. Monticello: 1794-97 p.139
4. Washington, D.C.: 1801-1804 p.200
5. Monticello: 1816-1826 p.273
Epilogue. The Future of an Illusion p.349
Appendix. A Note on the Sally Hemings Scandals p.363


The assignment for this week includes the following segments/pages:

Week Five - March 1st - March 7th -> 2. Paris: 1784-89 p.106 - 138
Sentimental Journeys - Madisonian Advice - Revolutions and Generations

We look forward to your participation; but remember this is a non spoiler thread.

We will open up threads for each week's reading. Please make sure to post in the particular thread dedicated to those specific chapters and page numbers to avoid spoilers.

This book was kicked off on February 1st. This will be the fifth week's assignment for this book.

We look forward to your participation. Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other noted on line booksellers do have copies of the book and shipment can be expedited. The book can also be obtained easily at your local library, or on your Kindle.

A special welcome to those who will be newcomers to this discussion and thank you to those who have actively contributed on the previous Presidential Series selection. We are glad to have you all.

~Bentley

TO ALWAYS SEE ALL WEEKS' THREADS SELECT VIEW ALL

Here also is the syllabus:

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/2...

American Sphinx The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph J. Ellis Joseph J. Ellis Joseph J. Ellis


message 2: by Joe (new)

Joe (blues) Martha Washington Jefferson Randolph

Martha was the daughter of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, and his wife Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson. She was born in Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia and was named in honor of her mother and name of Martha Washington, wife of George Washington. Her nickname was Patsy.

Tall and slim with angular features and red hair, she closely resembled her father, to whom she was devoted. From age 12 to 17, she lived in Paris while her father served as U.S. Minister to France. Jefferson enrolled her at Abbaye Royale de Panthemont, an exclusive convent school, after receiving assurances that Protestant students were exempt from religious instruction. Nevertheless, Patsy not only expressed a desire to convert to Catholicism, but also informed her father that she was thinking about becoming a nun. Jefferson quickly withdrew her from the school.



Source:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martha_J...


message 3: by Joe (new)

Joe (blues) Maria Cosway - Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia



Maria Cosway (pronounced Mariah) (1760 – January 5, 1838) was an Anglo-Italian painter and musician who entered Jefferson’s social circle during his tenure as U.S. Minister to France. Her portrait hangs in the midst of the portraits and silhouettes on display in Monticello’s sitting room even though she was not a family member of Thomas Jefferson. Her relationship with him elicited some of the most emotionally candid pieces of Jefferson’s voluminous correspondence. Jefferson’s correspondence with Cosway reveals that he was capable of developing a romantic attachment following the death of his wife, Martha.

Maria Hadfield Cosway was born in Italy to English parents in 1760 (her architect brother, George Hadfield, would eventually design Arlington House in Virginia). As a young girl in Florence, she acquired a Roman Catholic convent education and demonstrated artistic talent. Moving to England after the death of her father, she married the celebrated miniature-painter and art connoisseur Richard Cosway in 1781. Thomas Jefferson met the Cosways in August 1786 at the Halle aux Bleds in Paris. During the next month, Mrs. Cosway made enough of an impression on him that her departure for London prompted Jefferson to write the letter that has become known as the "Head and Heart Letter," dated October 12th and 13th, 1786. The bulk of the letter is a dialogue between Jefferson’s calculating reason (for which he is well known) and his spontaneous emotions (for which he is lesser known).

Giving vent to the sadness in his heart after the departure of a woman whose attributes set her "a chapter apart," Jefferson refers to himself as "the most wretched of all earthly beings." Responding to his head’s admonishment for allowing himself to become emotionally attached to Cosway, his heart defends itself as the guardian of morality and relational solace, in that "assuredly nobody will care for him who cares for nobody." However, Jefferson’s head voices the perspective that "the art of life is the art of avoiding pain, "and that effective security against such pain "is to retire within ourselves, and to suffice for our own happiness."

Though her husband’s extramarital affairs were no secret, Cosway was still a married woman. This fact, combined with dwindling encounters and perhaps an unknown event, contributed to a cooling of Jefferson’s interest. Thomas Jefferson returned to America in 1789, and Maria Cosway, following the death of her husband, eventually moved to Lodi, Italy, and established a convent school for girls. Cosway and Jefferson corresponded intermittently over the years, with letters coming first from Cosway. At her home in Lodi, Cosway possessed a portrait of Jefferson by John Trumbull that is now at the White House, presented by the Italian government on the occasion of the 1976 Bicentennial. Thomas Jefferson’s engraving of Maria Cosway is by Francesco Bartolozzi, from a painting by Richard Cosway.

Source:
http://wiki.monticello.org/mediawiki/...


message 4: by Joe (new)

Joe (blues) Maria Cosway - Self-Portrait: 1787




message 5: by Joe (last edited Mar 01, 2010 06:06AM) (new)

Joe (blues) Thomas Jefferson and Maria Cosway
It was a romance in which the statesman found his Head at war with his Heart
By Charles B. Van Pelt


Why is it that American history books contain so few romantic episodes? Aside from occasional references to John Rolfe and Pocahontas, or to Abraham Lincoln and Ann Rutledge, general histories have little to say about the love affairs experienced by our famous forefathers, or about the effect of such affairs on the course of the nation’s history.

As a case in point, consider Thomas Jefferson. It isn’t easy to think of the lofty, idealistic author of the Declaration of Independence as a lover, especially when most accounts of his life ignore his relationship with a pretty, blue-eyed blonde named Maria Cosway. Yet the Virginian did fall in love with a young married lady, write stirring love letters to her, even suffer a foolish accident while trying to act the gallant in her presence. This love affair could easily have changed Jefferson’s life so drastically that the American public would never have accepted him as a candidate for President of the United States.

Source:
American Heritage Magazine - August 1971 Volume 22, Issue 5
http://www.americanheritage.com/artic...


message 6: by Joe (last edited Mar 01, 2010 05:54AM) (new)

Joe (blues) Jefferson's Head-Heart Letter to Maria Cosway

In the spring of 1786, while serving as the US minister to France, Jefferson met — and probably fell in love with — a young, married Englishwoman named Maria Cosway. Just after Cosway left Paris in October, Jefferson composed this remarkable letter to her in which his head argued with his heart.

http://www.juntosociety.com/i_documen...


message 7: by Joe (new)

Joe (blues) Jefferson's Paris by Diana Ketchum

The decade before the French Revolution was a time of feverish investment and sumptuous building in Paris, and Jefferson arrived at the peak of the construction boom. Aristocratic properties were being subdivided to create the residential quarters of the Faubourg du Roule and Chaussée d’Antin, where Jefferson rented a stylish mansion. The Palais Royal had been expanded, and its gardens opened to the public. Construction was under way on the bridge at the Place de la Concorde and the churches of the Madeleine, the Panthéon, and St.-Sulpice. The guidebooks of the day document a profusion of new mansions, theaters, and private gardens, while the royal projects from earlier in the century—the Royal Mint, the Place de la Concorde, Claude Perrault’s east face of the Louvre—were still sights to dazzle the newcomer.

One of Jefferson’s most fateful Paris outings began as a visit to one such site. He met Maria Cosway on a tour of the celebrated dome of the Halle aux Bleds (the Grain Market) at the site of the present Bourse du Commerce at Les Halles. In August 1786 Jefferson had been invited by the American painter John Trumbull to view this four-year-old architectural marvel. Designed by Jacques Molinos and Jacques-Guillaume Legrand, the dome used a system of interlocking boards nicknamed “sticks and chips,” adapted from rural carpentry during the Renaissance. Jefferson was so intrigued by the flexibility and economy of this method, which provided large areas for windows, that he used it in several of his architectural schemes, including a proposed domed market hall for Richmond, Virginia.

That day, Jefferson was so intrigued by Maria Cosway that he canceled his dinner engagement with the Duchesse de La Rochefoucauld, telling an uncharacteristic lie, and a transparent one at that, about the weight of his diplomatic correspondence. When their tour of the Halle aux Bleds was over, he proposed an excursion of his own, sweeping Cosway and her party off to dinner at the Palais Royal and then to a fireworks display. History will never cease speculating about the nature of Jefferson’s attachment to this delicate blonde beauty. An artist and musician of considerable talent, the twenty-seven-year-old Maria maintained a marriage of convenience to the wealthy artist Richard Cosway, a successful society miniaturist, well known as a libertine and commonly described as resembling a monkey. Although many writers have treated the Jefferson-Cosway triangle, the most convincing account of it appears in Max Byrd’s 1993 novel Jefferson, a psycholigically astute portrait of the man during these years.

Source:
http://www.dianaketcham.com/blog.htm?...


message 8: by Joe (new)

Joe (blues) Some book recommendations...

Jefferson in Love: The Love Letters Between Thomas Jefferson and Maria Cosway

Jefferson in Love The Love Letters Between Thomas Jefferson and Maria Cosway by John P. Kaminski by John P. Kaminski

Divided Affections The Extraordinary Life of Maria Cosway: Celebrity Artist and Thomas Jefferson's Impossible Love

Divided Affections The Extraordinary Life of Maria Cosway Celebrity Artist and Thomas Jefferson's Impossible Love by Carol Burnell by Carol Burnell

The Paris Years of Thomas Jefferson

The Paris Years of Thomas Jefferson by William Howard Adams by William Howard Adams

Thomas Jefferson's Scrapbooks: Poems of Nation, Family and Romantic Love Collected by America's Third President

Thomas Jefferson's Scrapbooks Poems of Nation, Family and Romantic Love Collected by America's Third President by Jonathan Gross by Jonathan Gross


message 9: by Vincent (new)

Vincent (vpbrancato) | 1245 comments Hi Folks

Many thanks for the additional info and images of Maria Cosway. I think that his relationship with Mrs. Cosway was calculated similarly to my remarks below – pre prepared and held to avoid being a spoiler.

The Fates being what they are maybe Jefferson was snared here by his heart but in the end both seemed to make long term non-commitments – and what were their real choices with her being married etc.
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Sorry I have not been participating but the edition of the book that I have has a different page sequence and since I don’t want to be a spoiler I am waiting for the ends of the chapters. After the first chapter I had not much to add except that I liked his continuous singing.

I have really enjoyed all of Joe’s work moving thru the comments.

The Paris chapter was very interesting and very mind opening about Jefferson and life patterns at the time.

I am only hopeful that Jefferson did not lose his singing habit while in France. It may never be mentioned again – and then I will not know if he did not just continue – or if it is mentioned again with no reference to France I can still wonder if he abandoned this habit during his time in France.

I got the picture during this chapter of a rich fellow who certainly did not experience the normal daily life experience and saw many things in a self serving way.

His dependence upon Adams for the Dutch financing was enlightening – and that the Dutch would think that they could refinance etc. – Of course Jefferson’s attitude that we had to meet our obligations was critical but incongruous seemingly to his resistance to the Constitution that would better enable the country to accomplish this.

His attitude that slavery would die out was pretty self-serving – as was the attitude it was the job of the next generation of statesmen. And that he wanted to play down his comments on them for his fellow Virginians.

I also noted the leisure life that he lived – also his sickness thru a winter when Abigail Adams helped him to recover and I wondered that a poor or middle class man of the time might not struggle off to work and often succumb to his illness.

His dislike of debt and his indebtedness was also pretty self serving as he was himself a fellow who seemed to have lived beyond his means most if not all his life. Did he really resent getting the debts of his father-in-laws estate along with the estate?

I also saw his pro French attitude as opposed to his anti English posture pretty incongruous. It is true that we won our independence form the Brits who were our enemy but the very foundations of Britain’s Parliamentary Monarchy gave us much more in common with them than the French people in their revolution. Also I think that the comparisons of America to France and his looking at the French serf system seems to ignore that not only were Americans in America mostly by choice of themselves or their forefathers and that Americans could always go west and be land holders and independent and the French had no such opportunity.

This chapter was educational and interesting but the Jefferson seen in this chapter was not very impressive and I will say that like the others it was the previous work on the Declaration that carried him thru this period. (And maybe his colleagues Adams & Franklin)


message 10: by Joe (last edited Mar 01, 2010 02:12PM) (new)

Joe (blues) Vince wrote: "Hi Folks

Many thanks for the additional info and images of Maria Cosway. I think that his relationship with Mrs. Cosway was calculated similarly to my remarks below – pre prepared and held to a..."


Thank-you Vince for you kind words.

Also, to not confuse those reading the hard cover version of this book, each week we are reading 2 or 3 Chapter "sub-sections". Those sections are also in the hardcover, so you can easily follow along. This week we are reading Chapter 2 sections, Sentimental Journeys - Madisonian Advice - Revolutions and Generations

I have to run to a meeting... am looking forward to commenting further on your remarks...


message 11: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Maria Cosway was rather attractive..not so sure about Jefferson's daughter. That is so funny about her thinking that she might want to become a nun.


message 12: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig I think Ellis makes a good point that there was not a whole lot to do in France. He developed letters and reports for the U.S. and he looked into trade treaties. I sense he was not in the middle of things like London and the U.S. However, I think TJ loved France and soaked in the intellectual/salon life. Oh, and he loved to shop.


message 13: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
That is for sure Bryan...shopping was at the top of the list.


message 14: by Sera (new)

Sera | 145 comments Maria Cosway is one of the few times that I can actually say is a beautiful woman based upon the self-portrait of herself no less above. It's likely that Jefferson wasn't the only admirer.

Jefferson's time in Paris was a good one for him. However, his distance from America for those years made him a bit of outsider to that political scene when he returned home. It's also interesting to read how Jefferson viewed the French Revolution in that we begin to see how Jefferson viewed the rights of man to be connected to something dymanic and natural so that the need to spill some blood now and then to preserve those rights was necessary.


message 15: by Joe (new)

Joe (blues) Vince,

I got the impression that Jefferson continued his singing habit throughout his life. I think Ellis didn't need to repeat that in this chapter. What do you think?

And, I agree, Jefferson's personal insecurities and faults during this chapter are quite out in the open. It's like he was fitting in with everyone else... Giving him more of an avenue to be self-serving. French society back then probably did that to a lot of people. His attitude towards slavery and his problems with money were pushed to the side. Even his relationship with a married women is not frowned upon. Keeping his head high, and enjoying the good life. Living the high-life in France... he really enjoyed himself.

And about Jefferson's reliance on Franklin and Adams... I took all that as a combination of letting his older and more respected partners do their work, and working well together with them. But I will have to read up more about this in a more detailed text to get a better idea before finalizing my thoughts further.

Some really great comments, Vince. Thank-you for them.


message 16: by Joe (last edited Mar 02, 2010 12:23PM) (new)

Joe (blues) Sera wrote: "Maria Cosway is one of the few times that I can actually say is a beautiful woman based upon the self-portrait of herself no less above. It's likely that Jefferson wasn't the only admirer."

Sera...

She was beautiful.. But I wonder if, while she was painting herself, did she "air brush" any flaws.

Also, I wonder if the Constitutional Convention would have had a different outcome if Jefferson was in attendance. He was in support of a stronger central government while he was in Paris, (during the convention) and his Democratic views weren't matured quite yet. If he was at the Convention, I wonder if those views would have found him faster. Changing some minds and making the Constitution a bit different.


message 17: by Vincent (new)

Vincent (vpbrancato) | 1245 comments Joe wrote: "Sera wrote: "Maria Cosway is one of the few times that I can actually say is a beautiful woman based upon the self-portrait of herself no less above. It's likely that Jefferson wasn't the only adm..."

I agree with the question that Joe puts about Jefferson at the Constitutional convention. I think that the Constitution would have been different or maybe that Jefferson might havew tarnished his posture -

And that could have led to his not winning the presidency?

Who know but I think his presense at that convention would have made for some changes.


message 18: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig I remember Madison writing to TJ near the end to get his input. TJ thought the Constitution was fine, but he supported a bill of rights.


message 19: by Virginia (new)

Virginia (va-BBoomer) | 210 comments Lifestyles in France were certainly looser than in America, back then especially. Her being married but involved with various men must have been known 'around', but Maria's behavior didn't seem to be 'frowned upon'. Jefferson didn't have to deal with any condemnation either. No paparazzi in those days.


message 20: by Sera (new)

Sera | 145 comments I think that Bryan nailed it with his response - Jefferson's lack of presence in America while the Constitution was being written likely impacted the Bill of Rights not making it into the Constitution. It appears that Jefferson's political inclinations cooled during this period.


message 21: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Sera maybe his attentions were turned elsewhere...wink wink.


message 22: by Vincent (new)

Vincent (vpbrancato) | 1245 comments Joe wrote: "Vince,

I got the impression that Jefferson continued his singing habit throughout his life. I think Ellis didn't need to repeat that in this chapter. What do you think?

And, I agree, Jefferson's ..."



just a small comment on the singing - and we will see if Ellis mentions it going on - but if TJ was functioning in a less than normal way maybe he didn't sing -

this is very personal - I often sing going thru life and if I am not being myself for whatever reason - enviroment - meeting expectations that are not totally mine - I am not singing. (I sing very poorly and I hope that Jefferson sang better).

If yolu are not comfortable with yoru comportment can you sing?


message 23: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig The singing and I will add humming is confirmed by TJ's grandkids much later in life. He would do this around the house. He played the violin and loved music so it makes sense in that way.


message 24: by Sera (new)

Sera | 145 comments Indeed, Bentley, indeed :)


message 25: by Karol (new)

Karol Sera, you said, "
Jefferson's time in Paris was a good one for him. However, his distance from America for those years made him a bit of outsider to that political scene when he returned home. It's also interesting to read how Jefferson viewed the French Revolution in that we begin to see how Jefferson viewed the rights of man to be connected to something dynamic and natural so that the need to spill some blood now and then to preserve those rights was necessary."

This struck me as well. Although he may have been shocked by the mob violence, he didn't waver in his beliefs re. the inherent right of men to govern themselves.

This seems to tie in with what appears to have been halfhearted support of the new federal Constitution. Jefferson favored the states' rights to rule themselves. This apparently propelled him to be very concerned about a national Bill of Rights . . .


message 26: by Karol (new)

Karol Of course, I also found the relationship between Jefferson and Maria Cosway to be interesting. Infatuation and romance eventually eroded into written sparring and then a cooler friendship. Jefferson had obviously felt close to his wife Martha, too. This ability to have an intimate emotional relationship with women makes me wonder about his parenting - he certainly maintained both geographical and emotional distance from Patsy and Polly, or so it seems to me.


message 27: by Bryan (last edited Mar 07, 2010 08:04AM) (new)

Bryan Craig You bring up a good point, Kay. TJ spent a lot of time away from both his daughters. It probably had some affect on them. I get a sense they loved him as a good father. Here is a good source of family letters:

The Family Letters of Thomas Jefferson by Thomas Jefferson Thomas Jefferson Thomas Jefferson


message 28: by Karol (new)

Karol Thanks for that reference, Bryan! My feelings may in part be due to the different culture today - almost everyone goes to a local public or private school; sending children away to a boarding school is uncommon even among the wealthy. Perhaps back in Jefferson's day, that's what a good father had to do to ensure a quality education.


message 29: by Marje (last edited Apr 03, 2010 07:22PM) (new)

Marje | 12 comments What struck me in this chapter was Thomas Jefferson's jaw-droppingly unrealistic appraisal of the situation in revolutionary France. Even though he lived there and could have seen what was happening around him if he would have opened his eyes, he wrote to James Monroe in 1788 that within two or three years the country would enjoy a "tolerably free constitution ... without its having cost them a drop of blood."

In July of 1789, on the day after he told Tom Paine that the French Revolution was effectively over, Paris exploded in a series of riots and mob actions including the storming of the Bastille. In that same month, he wrote to John Jay that the violence was "an unfortunate but temporary aberration". Within a few weaks he became convinced that the future looked clear and bright again.

And later when told of the horrific atrocities, violence, and terror that was then sweeping through France, he delivered a lecture about the human cost that must be paid when history is on the march. It included these words: "rather than it should have failed, I would have seen half the earth desolated."

I find it difficult to square his willfull blindness to the explosive situation in France and his stunningly casual attitude to human suffering and bloodshed.... with the words he wrote in the Declaration of Independence and elsewhere.


message 30: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Marje, you raise some interesting points. I think that Jefferson was unrealistic to a large degree; yet as we say the pen is mightier than the sword so the words that he wrote in the Declaration of Independence live on and with them a very highly esteemed Jefferson.

Maybe as we are finding out Jefferson was a man of dichotomies and the fact that Ellis called him a Sphinx might be true on a variety of levels.

I do not think that he always showed good judgement in a great many things including his finances, but what he did do - the Declaration of Independence is outstanding and so lives on.

Remember he had lived through our own revolution so that this kind of scene might have already been very familiar to him.


message 31: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Hello Joe,

Could you check the other board. Thanks. Hope you will enjoy your Easter.

All best,

Bentley


message 32: by Marje (last edited Apr 04, 2010 05:26AM) (new)

Marje | 12 comments Yes, on the one hand we have a man who willfully ignored the reality around him when it did not square with his vision, yet on the other hand, when he put pen to paper, produced writings that have inspired people throughout the world...including his First Inaugural Address, in which we find this: "If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union, or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated, where reason is left free to combat it."

I'm thoroughly enjoying American Sphinx because it is presenting me with one of the most complex and enigmatic individuals I have ever encountered.

The book is aptly titled.

American Sphinx The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph J. Ellis Joseph J. Ellis


message 33: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Writing is his strong point, putting ideas to paper.

I think he saw the French Revolution through rosy glasses. But I think a few were surprised by the brutal turn of the revolution, though.


message 34: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Bryan wrote: "Writing is his strong point, putting ideas to paper.

I think he saw the French Revolution through rosy glasses. But I think a few were surprised by the brutal turn of the revolution, though."


Agreed.


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