Empire of Liberty: The Statecraft of Thomas Jefferson

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Oxford University Press, Apr 30, 1992 - Political Science - 384 pages
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. This work 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.

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Empire of liberty: the statecraft of Thomas Jefferson

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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

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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.


Part II The Development of Republican Statecraft 17831801
Part III The Diplomacy of Expansion 18015
Part IV The Maritime Crisis 18059
Part V The Jeffersonian Legacy

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About the author (1992)

Robert Tucker is Professor of American Diplomacy at the School for Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University. He has written widely on American foreign policy, nuclear weapons, and international law and ethics. David Hendrickson is Associate Professor of Political Science at Colorado College, and is the author of two books on American defense policy. Their previous book together, The Fall of the First British Empire: Origins of the War of American Independence, appeared in 1982.

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