Jefferson's Adoptive Son: The Life of William Short, 1759-1848
"Short was more than a protege; to all practical purposes he was a son," writes Dumas Malone in his biography of Thomas Jefferson. Yet William Short has remained a shadowy figure in the history of the early American republic. He was a founder of Phi Beta Kappa at the College of William and Mary and a member of the Virginia Council of State, and he served as Jefferson's secretary in France and became charge' d'affaires when his mentor returned to America. Later he was minister to the Netherlands, Spain, and Russia.
Luck cheated Short of fame, although he was one of the most successful diplomats after Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson. His astuteness during the war crisis of 1789-1790 went unrecognized. Bad transatlantic communications led the Washington administration to think he was making no headway in Spain, and he was replaced by Thomas Pinckney. Short's last humiliation was the Senate's refusal to confirm his recess appointment as minister to Russia.
The great romance of Short's life was with Rosalie, widow of Duc Louis Alexandre de La Rochefoucauld, who was assassinated in 1792. From 1796 to 1802 she and Short lived as husband and wife, but she refused to marry him or accompany him to America. When she married a French nobleman in 1809, Short was crushed.
The correspondence between Jefferson and Short is as important in revealing the thoughts of our third president as is Jefferson's correspondence with John Adams. George Shackelford's study provides new insights on the lives of many figures of the early republic and on this country's diplomatic relations with European powers.
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JSTOR: Jefferson's Adoptive Son: The Life of William Short, 1759-1848
Jefferson's Adoptive Son: The Life of William Short, 1759-1848. By George Green Shackelford. (Lexington: University Press of Ken- tucky, 1993. Pp. x, 250. ...
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