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Empire of Liberty: The Statecraft of Thomas Jefferson

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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. Hide synopsis

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