Cover image for Empire of liberty : the statecraft of Thomas Jefferson
Empire of liberty : the statecraft of Thomas Jefferson
Tucker, Robert W.
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Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1990.
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xvi, 360 pages : maps ; 22 cm
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E332.45 .T83 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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None of the founding fathers seems more elusive than Thomas Jefferson. A Virginian nationalist, a slave-holding philosophe, an aristocratic democrat, a provincial cosmopolitan, a pacific imperialist--the paradoxes loom as meaningful and portentous as America itself. Indeed, they represent the deep contradictions of his policies as well as personality, laid bare here in a provocative study of Jefferson's statecraft.
Empire of Liberty takes a new look at the public life, thought, and ambiguous legacy of one of America's most revered statesmen, offering new insight into the meaning of Jefferson in the American experience. Robert Tucker and David Hendrickson vividly portray a complex man driven by his passion for liberty and his longing for a vast empire. They explore how Jefferson developed a new approach to diplomacy in the course of his bitter debates with Alexander Hamilton. This new diplomacy joined a policy of territorial and commercial expansion with a dread of war and a reliance on economic sanctions. It was with such an outlook that Jefferson met the two great crises of his presidency: the threat to American security posed by the French acquisition of Louisiana and the restrictions on American commerce prompted by the death struggle between Britain and France. The policy produced paradoxical success in the Louisiana crisis but led to complete failure in the form of the Embargo. Taken to escape the alternatives of national humiliation and war, the Embargo led first to humiliation and then, ultimately, to war. The system of war that Jefferson had hoped after hope to reform by the Embargo was not reformed. In the end, Jefferson came close to embracing measures which called into question almost every principle of government he professed to believe.
Empire of Liberty examines Jefferson's legacy for American foreign policy in the light of several critical themes which continue to be highly significant today: the struggle between isolationists and interventionists, the historic ambivalence over the nation's role as a crusader for liberty, and the relationship between democracy and peace. Written by two distinguished scholars, this book provides invaluable insight into the classic ideas of American diplomacy.

Author Notes

Robert Tucker is Professor Emeritus of American Diplomacy at the School for Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University
David Hendrickson is Associate Professor of Political Science at Colorado College

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

America's diplomatic headache during the revolutionary tumult from 1789 to 1815 was how to keep out of France and Britain's way while pursuing the happiness of trading across the seas and expanding into other people's lands. Here is a dense analysis of the problem, a bent Tucker and Hendrickson previously displayed in their acclaimed history of the independence crisis, The Fall of the First British Empire (1982). As all are taught, the sagacious first secretary of state and third president thundered against tyranny and touted the fledgling U.S. as the best haven since antiquity for the free exercise of reason. This stance, as applied to foreign affairs, argue the authors, is the key to Jefferson's big success--the acquisition of Louisiana--and to his big failure, the hugely unpopular embargo of 1808, prelude to the war with England four years later. These events arose from a moral imperative to enlarge the haven without creating threats to liberty within it, a tenet then embodied by Jefferson's abhorrence of a standing military establishment. Intriguing historical interpretations recommended for larger collections. To be indexed. --Gilbert Taylor

Library Journal Review

Thomas Jefferson's foreign policy still influences America--not just because of his greatest success, the purchase of Louisiana, but because of the high moral purpose with which he endowed the basest of goals. Jefferson consistently invoked transcending principles while pursuing expansionist aims, and rejected the European ``reason of state'' for policies of peaceable coercion. He refined this ``practical idealism'' in the 1790s, but after Louisiana he foundered in his quests for Florida and neutral rights. The authors offer a masterful, interpretive synthesis of the triumphs and failures of Jefferson's diplomacy. Their analysis of the pitfalls of moralism puts both the War of 1812 and current issues in new contexts. For specialists.-- Harry W. Fritz, Univ . of Montana, Missoula (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Written by political scientists rather than historians, this excellent book stresses both the enduring principles and the actual practice of Jefferson's foreign policy. Historically, the work examines in great detail Jefferson's successful drive toward empire with the purchase of Louisiana in his first administration. It also investigates the diplomatic failure of economic sanction in Jefferson's response to the maritime troubles of his second administration and emphasizes the challenge of that policy to his concepts of domestic freedom. More important, Tucker and Hendrickson have written an analysis of American foreign policy that is as applicable today as it was to the US of nearly 200 years ago. The conflict between the expansion of American liberty and the protection of that liberty at home is as valid in the 1990s as it was in the 1800s. Solidly written, extremely well documented, and with an extensive bibliography, the book is recommended for purchase by all academic libraries. -H. R. King, Eastern Michigan University

Table of Contents

Part I. An American Statesman
1. The Man and the Nationp. 3
2. Jefferson and the Diplomacy of the Old Regimep. 11
3. "Conquering Without War,"p. 18
Part II. The Development of Republican Statecraft (1783-1801)
4. Commerce, Manufactures, and the Westp. 25
5. The Rival Systems of Hamilton and Jeffersonp. 33
6. Neutrality and the Law of Nationsp. 48
7. The Diplomacy of Federalismp. 64
8. Toward the Republican Triumph of 1800p. 74
Part III. The Diplomacy of Expansion (1801-5)
9. The Nature of Jefferson's Successp. 87
10. The Significance of the Mississippi Valleyp. 95
11. Napoleon's Colonial Designp. 101
12. War and Alliance in Republican Diplomacyp. 108
13. "Playing for Time,"p. 125
14. The Gambit for West Floridap. 137
15. Lessons of the Louisiana Purchasep. 145
16. The Empire of Liberty: The Conflict between Means and Endsp. 157
Part IV. The Maritime Crisis (1805-9)
17. The Nature of Jefferson's Failurep. 175
18. Jefferson's Diplomatic Designp. 180
19. The Anglo-American Dispute: Neutral Rights and Impressmentp. 189
20. The Abortive Peace Settlementp. 198
21. Jefferson and the Embargop. 204
22. Neutral Rights versus the Balance of Powerp. 214
23. Embargo and Warp. 222
Part V. The Jeffersonian Legacy
24. The Role of a Democratic Foreign Policyp. 231
25. The Isolationist Impulsep. 239
26. Jefferson and Liberty: Exemplar or Crusader?p. 249
Notesp. 257
Bibliographyp. 337
Indexp. 349