Empire of Liberty : The Statecraft of Thomas Jefferson: The Statecraft of Thomas Jefferson

Front Cover
Oxford University Press, USA, May 10, 1990 - Biography & Autobiography - 384 pages
1 Review
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.

What people are saying - Write a review

Empire of liberty: the statecraft of Thomas Jefferson

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

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 ... Read full review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

In Empire of Liberty, co-authors Robert Tucker and David Hendrickson tackle the legacy of two terms worth of Thomas Jefferson’s foreign policy At the heart of their assault on the third President is a criticism—or rather highlighting of a major inconsistency—in the purchase of the Louisiana Territory. With excellent historiographical references and incredibly detailed annotations, the authors establish the baseline of their work: Jefferson diplomatic coup in acquiring the Louisiana Territory from a powerful Napoleon. Tucker and Hendrickson then aspire to build on scholarship that suggests an alternate reality: a Jefferson of sworn opposition to European entanglements panicking, and then dragging his feet in a diplomatic waiting game, desperate to secure deposit rights in New Orleans. Ultimately, the authors offer a repudiation of Alexander Hamilton’s plan of action (formerly dismissed as a ploy to embarrass the Jeffersonian Republicans, but recently being historiographically exhumed and reexamined) to bring war to any European nation that threatened the Mississippi economy. The result is a tarnished Jefferson, deprived of his pristine diplomatic crown-jewel; or at least deprived of its former magnitude.
What is more convincing about the work of Tucker and Hendrickson is not its attempt to discredit Jefferson as a politician, but its success a striping the idea that one man, alone, can be responsible for such momentous shifts in power, policy, or in this case land. The Louisiana Purchase in Empire of Liberty is not the familiar textbook tale of Jefferson, Livingston, Madison, and Monroe courageously improvising a monumental real estate deal that would secure America from European aspiration and guarantee prosperity in the West. Tucker and Hendrickson’s Louisiana Purchase is the tale of a chain of global events that includes a slave-revolt, a World-War, a failed invasion, and a series of complex political maneuvers, counter-maneuvers, and bluffs that, somehow, results in the transfer of a claim to a large portion of interior of North America into American hands. While it would going to far to say the authors attribute this occurrence to “luck,” it is fair to say they portray a more complex and thus external to Jefferson series of events leading to this event. It would seem this work of scholarship makes clear yet more reflection on Jefferson and the legacy that goes with his name.


The Man and the Nation
Jefferson and the Diplomacy of the Old Regime
Conquering Without War
The Development of Republican Statecraft 17831801
Commerce Manufactures and the West
The Rival Systems of Hamilton and Jefferson
Neutrality and the Law of Nations
The Diplomacy of Federalism
The Conflict between Means and Ends
The Nature of Jeffersons Failure
Jeffersons Diplomatic Design
Neutral Rights and Impressment
The Abortive Peace Settlement
Jefferson and the Embargo
Neutral Rights versus the Balance of Power
Embargo and War

Toward the Republican Triumph of 1800
The Nature of Jeffersons Success
The Significance of the Mississippi Valley
Napoleons Colonial Design
War and Alliance in Republican Diplomacy
Playing for Time
The Gambit for West Florida
Lessons of the Louisiana Purchase
The Role of a Democratic Foreign Policy
The Isolationist Impulse
Exemplar or Crusader?

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

All Book Search results »