tv Derek Baxter In Pursuit of Jefferson CSPAN July 5, 2022 5:50am-6:26am EDT
and now for the main event we are so thrilled to have derek baxter here with us today the author of in pursuit of jefferson traveling through europe with the most perplexing founding father. joining us today from fairfax, virginia where he lives with his wife and children and in his words. they lived quite a peaceful life there before deciding to follow thomas's jefferson's travel advice across europe, so he is going to tell you a little bit more about the book and we are so thrilled to have him here derek baxter everybody. great. well, thank you. thank you scuppernong and and c-span. thank you everybody for watching. so. so yes, this book is about it's
about me following jefferson's travels across europe and it's really it was a chance to learn about a different side of jefferson that we don't often hear about we all know about the younger jefferson who wrote the declaration of independence at the age of 33, and we probably know something about jefferson as an older man when he was president, but this gave me a chance to explore this different side of jefferson. it was in his when he was middle age in the 1780s. so jefferson was just going into his 40s, and he almost didn't travel to france at all. he had been asked twice to go over there to be ambassador from the united states and a declined it both times. but there were there were two events two traumatic events that really changed his mind and changed his whole life in the early 1780s that led him to take this trip. so one was he was governor of virginia for two years during the revolutionary war and it wound up being a very difficult
time jefferson, you know, he's a brilliant guy, but he was not a good wartime governor. there are many challenges. he had trouble calling the militia up and the british wound up over running the state and jefferson himself was was almost captured at monticello. the dragon's charged up the mountain and came within a few minutes of of catching him. and jefferson left office and he was fiercely criticized by this incident and he was really stung by criticism. he was you know, he was a bit of a sensitive guy and he swore at that point that he was done with politics. he wrote that he's retired to his farm and his family and his fields and nothing would stop ever separate him from them again. but then the next year the next event happened his his wife martha died. so they had lived together. he wrote it was 10 years of uncheckered happiness and when she passed away, he was just devastated as you might imagine. he he wrote that he was in a
stupor of mind as dead to the world now as as late wife was so he was very distressed and he even wrote to one friend hinting at suicide. so so this is not the jefferson that that you might think of. in fact people didn't even know that he had written the declaration of independence for the most part. this had been kind of kept secret to make the document seem like it was the work of the continental congress as a whole. so here he was he was out of politics. his family life was ruined and he really just he just wanted to get away at that point. so james madison knew this his good friend and close political ally and he arranged for congress to ask him for a third time to go to paris. this time he accepted. and it was over there. as you can see maybe from this painting that jefferson jefferson started enjoying himself again and and started to kind of find the joy in life if you will. so here he is. he's he's dressing in the french
manor. he discovered paris. he found so much to love there. he fell in love with the the art galleries and the intellectual salons and the music and just all the culture that paris had to offer and he really kind of came back in a way. i think he he not only got a new lease on life so to speak but he wound up learning so much when he was in europe, and it was learning about different topics that he could then contrast with what was going on in america and and come back to america with new ideas. so he wound up taking several trips across europe from paris. he was state. he was there he spent five years as the ambassador and he took three great trips away from the capitol where he really got to explore. so one was to the south of france and italy one was to england and one was to the netherlands and germany. and he learned about a lot of different subjects. he kind of refined his political ideals and i think my theory is
it was really this time in france that kind of put him back on track to to rise through the political ranks in the government and eventually become president and it was towards the end of this day in europe. it was in 1788 that two young americans came to him. these were these were friends sons of friends of his back home and they were planning a great trip around the continent and who better to get advice from then jefferson the ambassador and the friend of their father so jefferson, being jefferson and you know the ultimate overachiever. he didn't just give you know a few a few names here and there you should go here and you know, check this out instead. he wrote a 5000 word letter to these these two 20 something guys and he even gave it a title. he called a hints to americans traveling in europe. so he sketched out this itinerary and for them to to follow and gave them a of ideas to.
of things to do. he also had a lot of insight from his english trip that he could share about things to do over there and he thought that it was it was important though that these young men not just go over to europe and have a good time. although they hopefully, you know would enjoy the trip it was it was really about learning he gave them homework. and jefferson set out what he called eight objects of attention that he thought were particularly important for americans to learn about things like agriculture and landscape gardens and architecture and royal courts. so i have a question for you here here in the crowd which of these different subjects if you can see them there. do you think that jefferson thought was particularly worth great attention for an american. i mean there are several up there that he subjects that he wanted to explore and that he was interested in but he thought one in particular was really worth great attention. obvious agriculture, but i don't
know agriculture agriculture was one that was right up there, but but not one for that particular quote. anything else that he's he's known for? architecture, absolutely, absolutely. so we'll give you afterwards this nice little in pursuit of jefferson bookmark. for your your reading pleasure architecture was one that he really was was fascinated by a subject. he was fascinated by and something that he wanted to he wanted the people to explore. so this this guide, you know, it really spoke to me and i think it came at an interesting point in my life. i saw a few parallels. i don't want to overdo the parallels, but i was about the same age as jefferson was when i came across this travel guide. it was about a decade ago, so i was pushing 40 about the same age jefferson was you know, i'm from virginia. so i i was kind of seeing a you know, a couple of things in common, but really i was just fascinated by the fact that jefferson who had been my hero growing up in virginia, you know, he wrote this guy and and
he set out all these challenges and so i was looking for someone something else to do in my life a little bit of a midlife crisis if if it were and and kind of thinking about you know, what else did i want to do and this idea of following this itinerary from start to finish and and exploring the different places and going, you know going the sites and and and and doing you know learning about the subjects he set out this just sounded great to me. so so i started thinking about you know going out and do it. i didn't want to quit my job. you know, i had a job and i didn't feel like i could just, you know go off for a year or whatever and do this long trip, but i was starting to think could i could i break it into pieces. could i start to do the travels and find out what would happen and what i might learn along the way and so one one subject, i think. was was particularly interesting to me. which was how was i going to learn about wine? so in jefferson's travels, i'll go back to the map here. you can see in the map, you know
where that wine glass and wine bottle is and bordeaux, you know, if you know anything about bordeaux, it's one of the most exclusive wine regions in the world. so jefferson sends the traveler there and hints and he makes a big deal out of it. and you know, i felt like if i if i was gonna follow these travels i'd have to figure out how to go to bordeaux, but the problem is you can't just waltz into bordeaux. these are very exclusive vineyards that don't let you know anybody off the street just you know the in for a tasting you kind of have to have an in so a scratching my head trying to figure out, you know, if i'm gonna do the travels, how could i go to go to bordeaux and particular when i came across something else on the internet, which is that in bordeaux. they have a marathon every year, but it's not just any marathon you dress up in costume and you get to go into the different chateau and they actually serve you wine, you know, and this is vineyards that are producing $500 bottles of wine. so my wife leon and i thought about it. wondered if this was kind of the in i was looking for and finally
we decided to go do it. so here we are starting off this wine marathon. so it was a strange way a bit of a travel hack, you know to get into bordeaux and the catch was we actually had to run a marathon and we had to dress in costume. so that year that i did at the the theme of the marathon was history. so it seemed like the perfect chance if i was ever going to dresses thomas jefferson, this would be it, but i did ask myself. i wanted to know more so before the before the the marathon i was i did some research i had to find out why was jefferson so fascinated by wine? so, you know, he's a very serious guy, you know, he's not joking around a lot and you know wine doesn't seem like that serious topic for a founding father, but he put all of these different wine references in his travel guides. in fact, he told the travelers he listed 13 different types of wine that he wanted them to find so i learned about it and so eventually as i'm gonna read just a short passage from my book about why wine was important to jefferson
jefferson's travels through southern france as well as italy and germany formed part of his quest for the perfect bottle of wine. this wasn't just so he could lay out the best table in america, although he would do that, too. until independence americans had drunk only rough overly sweet madera forced on them by the english and their restrictive trade policies now the wines of france were open to american importers, but which ones were the best there were no printed guides. jefferson would have to make discoveries for himself. the grapes, he selected might even be grown back in america jefferson worried that the fastest growing drink in popularity back home was corn whiskey. he didn't want his beloved yeoman farmers going on benders. he imagined them sipping fine yet affordable wines by the fire at night reading virgil in the original latin and discussing democracy. so jefferson rambled through the vineyards as he put it talking to vintners observing winemaking
and finding deals. he recorded how women plucked snails off the grapes and how men grafted vines. he bought vine cuttings to experiment within his garden and bottles to sample at home. these were the happiest days of his life. he wrote later. after his trip jefferson would use his rankings of bordeaux to guide his purchases which he made directly with the winery wherever possible. middleman inevitably cheated the consumer. he wrote adulterating wine switching vintages and producers and storing it poorly. only the producer itself provided the genuine article for ubi suicidal for them to do otherwise he would travel home from france with 363 bottles in tow mostly white bordeaux. and that was just for us immediate use the rest of his vast wine collection was shipped in crates. so we went off to the to. to the marathon and i'll read you a short passage from the end of the marathon. so i was thinking about a lot of
things. this is my first jefferson travel experience and i was looking for ways to make connection between his time and hours, you know during the race. i was thinking about the history of when jefferson was there and when these two young men followed hints and made it toward two bordeaux one of them men following hints william short jefferson's private secretary actually wrote to him from bordeaux. he said a bit of a crisis himself. he was wondering if he should stay in europe for his the rest of his life or go back in america and follow politics. so there's there's a lot of history going on but mostly by the end of the marathon leon and i were just thinking about finishing this was our first run. there's a hot day we're drinking wine. we're in costumes. so we're just hoping to survive by now the small sips of bordeaux no longer dole the throbbing in our knees or the blistering on our feet and even the mild. whiny buzz has disappeared. alayliana called out the spectators who look concerned. her name is on her running bib,
but i wonder why she has garnering such attention. then i see that she's as bright red as a nice cabernet sauvignon. despite all the pageantry and wine. it's still a marathon our first. and doubts about this whole expedition creep in. how would it bowed for any plans of following hints to to americans if we fail this inaugural leg? we walk briskly. i know where north of six hours into the race closing in on the seven hour limit. a tent with the flag proclaiming kilometer 38 as a welcome sight. we're on the home stretch and it's time for the most famous stop on the journey a table piled high with heaps of modeled oysters. so there were stops along the way where you're getting gourmet food along with this wonderful wine, but you do have to be careful because there's a time limit and there's these three french runners called the sweepers. so if you fall behind the sweepers, they're running at the slowest pace you can do and still be in the marathon if you're but if you get behind them you're too slow and they can kick you out.
a man with a proud white mustache and son brown arms shucks the oysters at a snail's pace. i drink white so tear and poured from a plastic water bottle. this lush drink almost puts me in a trance. if only i could lie down stop running and drink some more preferably listening to sitar music. i reached my hand out for a second. lyanna shouts to me from the edge of the tent. i can't hear her but manage a garlic shrug smile weekly and take another swig lyanna looks upset as if she'd eaten a bad oyster and points dramatically at a hill as if to say jacquees. i follow her finger high cresting a distant hilltop 100 meters ahead of us run the three sweepers. behind them a gaggle of runners practically cling to the trio's capes begging for penance the sweepers and their acolytes disappear over the hill crushing the juice from our dreams. we're about to be placed in a van and hauled back to the
starting line my hints test run a failure. on monday, i'll be back on the commuter train getting to work by 9 for another week of sameness. just like those bordeaux wines. i'll be confined in a classification that's impossible to break out of. my mind flashes back to jefferson and these young men following his advice. am i really going to be leaving them? so soon and about how william short wrote the letter to jefferson from bordeaux. consider carefully jefferson counseled in a return letter will be sorry to lose short as a secretary, but the young man had to find his own path to durable happiness. it won't be easy. it will certainly involve hard work. this is not a world in which heaven rains riches into any hand that will open itself jefferson wrote whichever of these courses. you adopt delay as loss of time. the sooner the races begun the sooner the prize will be obtained. mailed, i feel an almost electric jolt course through me.
i'm not ready to abandon this race this prize this pursuit of happiness. without a word leanna and i rushed forward revolutionary storming the barricades. we put pain out of mind we charge up the hill sweeping past the sweepers on a runner's high blisters and heat forgotten we clock our fastest kilometer as the grand jerome river comes into sight. my cape flies crisp in the wind our hearts pounding unison our minds drag our exhausted bodies behind them. alleliana. she's purple like merlot and determined loud french music blairs people clap the clock ticks. seventh hours. we cross the line holding hands. we finished the marathon. now the hard journey begins so we decided to continue as you can tell from that reading. we decided that first run that test run was was fun enjoyable. we made connections and we set out. and and as i did the the trips.
we wound up combining about a trip a year doing part of this itinerary in europe, and then we'd come back home to virginia and we look for for smaller trips we could do in virginia to see how jefferson put all this knowledge and put these projects into practice. this is fernando franco the viticulturist at at barbersville vineyards in virginia. i'm practicing that scuppernong sells barbersville vianier here. so jefferson tried to grow wine. after all these european experiences and learning any any failed in virginia and one reason there were several reasons why but one was the grapes weren't working the grapes didn't take and it's because of this this aphid we have in the us the phelacher allows that was attacking the roots of this vines. so all the european grapese brought over couldn't take hold here and produce good wine grapes. eventually jefferson actually tried what what could be a solution to it towards the end of his life people started
sending him grapes different kind of great wine grapes that grew here in america, which hopefully people might know the name of of those grapes grapes here. and the hint is this store is named after this wine grape. and of course the scuppernong river, it's the scuppernong grape european grapes wouldn't grow in america, but but native grapes would like the scuppernong which jefferson with maybe a little hyperbole said a had a very fine and aromatic flavor to it. so so he you know, he wasn't successful really growing his grapes ultimately, but he did kind of kickstart what became you know the american wine culture that we have today. but we continued on our trip. and i think the stop that we really learned how to travel like jefferson was an amsterdam.
so this is this is a scene of a festival in amsterdam called kings day. it happens once a year. it's to celebrate the royal house of orange and when jefferson went to amsterdam, he saw something a little similar. he also was there for the celebration of the prince of orange's birthday, and he had to wear orange. he had to he bought an orange cocade to joining the celebrations there were fireworks. so it was in amsterdam is the place that jefferson's travel guide starts, and it was so that's a perfect place to put his his travel advice into practice and i think his travel tips are interesting a lot of them stand up to get today one thing. he wrote in his guide the first thing you should do when you go into a city a place you've never been before is to buy a map which makes sense and to buy a guidebook, so he thought you should really try to get practical information and then the next the next stop is to go to the the highest place you can find in the city the highest
point. so perhaps a church steeple or the city walls and the idea is to look down below you and get an aerial view of the place kind of like you might through a google earth satellite photo today. and then his next piece of advice was to go out there and as he put it gulped down culture, so he generally recommended going, you know, you've got your practical information. you know, how this the city plan, you know looks and go out there and find certain sites that you know, you want to see and he almost had a carpe diem message. he reminded the traveler you might never be back at this place again. so if you have any questions or doubts as to whether you should go see something, you know go out there and do it because you don't want to be left with regrets. but he also said on the other hand look for some balance because you can't possibly go to you know, say a museum and see everything in it. he said that would burden the mind. so see the things you really have to but don't try to see absolutely everything in a place. and when you've done all that
when you've kind of seen the sites jefferson really recommended meeting real people and getting to know a bit a bit about the real life of the place you're in so he said one place to do that is to go to public markets. that was an ideal place where you can buy something you can talk to people you can get to know a little bit about them. and he also recommended going to taverns and ends and i love this actually drinking local. he said don't drink don't order four and wine. they're just gonna adulterate it and mark it up, you know, drink everybody else is doing? and ultimately jefferson thought that travel was a great way of learning and experiencing and seeing new things. but who's also a good a good time for introspection because you can contrast all these new things you're experiencing with with what you know about your own life and he wrote a really interesting letter from the south of france to a friend back in paris about how he was at an inn and he had everything with him just in two suitcases and he said, you know, he had so few
cares and at that time he could, you know, he was happy. he was just sitting in his in his in the room and his in with all his charis gone and travel can do that it can just let you give you a chance to reflect about everything you've seen and and kind of and think about where you're going. so we continued on our travels. we did a number of them my wife and i saw and some of them with our with our children who were pretty young at the time. so, this is stow gardens in england. so landscape gardens english gardens were basically the only thing that jefferson liked about england, but he really did love them. he went to 19 different gardens which we did as well and stowe was one of his favorites jefferson took a lot of ideas back from the landscape gardens. he saw he looked at the follies the small little temples they had he had ideas about putting what they called eye catchers way off in the distance and kind of painting a tableau through
landscaping and he would go back. he thought this was a great art form. this was a very important art form in the 18th century, especially for aristocare aristocrats with the states. it was kind of like almost like instagram today. you're kind of showing off the best side of things so he came back and and had had ideas for monte cello. the landscaping he would do a monticello, which you can see today. he left the base of his mountain very wooded and wild but if you go up the mountain to the top you see pastures rolling pastures, and then you look out and see this vista of mountains stretching out to the west. so it was kind of telling a story i think of of taming of taming the land and you know, america expanding so jefferson learned so much of that from his travels in england. another trip we took which had to be the most popular for the family certainly for the kids was to italy. where jefferson wrote he was on a continued feast through italy. so we learned about the different kinds of agriculture
and foods that interested him that that he recommended in his guide one of which was pasta. so here we are in the small town of granyano, which is near naples and jefferson asked the the young men who were following his guy to stop there and get him a macaroni mold which they did so he could back home. he could make macaroni jefferson was one of the this is an artisanal pasta factory that had some very similar molds like how they made pasta in the old days and this was something jefferson became very famous for he popularized pasta in the president's house. he served wasn't the first person to do that in america, but he's the first president to do. so and people people were surprised by what they're eating. one one guest said he thought it the pasta was elongated onions, you know, they just didn't know what to make of these new flavors. but he popularized a lot of a lot of italian dishes even french dishes. he had a french chef in the president's house who made basically a forerunner of french fries.
so another another trip we took that was that was really fascinating. it was about science and natural history, you know another passion of jefferson's everywhere. he traveled while he was on the road he would take notes about technology about the canal gates. he saw he actually invented a new kind of plow when he looked out from his carriage window and saw a farmer laboring with what he thought was a very inefficient plow. so we just sketched out a better design right there on the spot. and he wrote that science never appears. so beautiful as when applied to the uses of human life. he was always trying to you know, find these practical applications for a science. at one of the the main areas where he did that was through promoting phishing and wailing so as ambassador, you know in paris which he was he had to promote american business interests of which, you know, these were big industries for the us and new england at the time so he he studied he studied
fishing. he studied whaling to try to even find out, you know, the different the different migratory patterns of of animals of in the sea and better ways of fishing. so here we are here i am with with the fish in a market in brittany at a fish auction. and then he came to what we talked about earlier the subject that he thought was worth great attention. um architecture, so so this this is tricky any ideas what this picture might be of is this a building you think you've ever you know, possibly seen before? it's it's a bit of a trick question because this is actually monticello. it's it's the first it's the forerunner of monticello before jefferson traveled to paris. he had a version of this built
not finished and it's palladian and form, but he took the draw he just took his design ideas from from books from books by palladio the great renaissance architect, you know, he hadn't seen any buildings like this in person. so it's it's certainly not a bad design, but it's nothing like the monticello we all know if you've ever been there if you've ever looked at the back of a nickel, you know that monticello, you know, it has a dome this is missing a lot. it's supposed to have a dome. it's flowing. you know, this has all these portals it's it's kind of boxy. so it was instead in europe that he really got his architectural ideas. so this building looks probably a lot more like monticello the monticello, we know this is the otaldum in paris, which was jefferson's favorite building over there. he wrote in fact that he was violently smitten by it. is this was a mansion that was built for. my german prints and it happened that the construction happened the very same years that jefferson was in paris.
so he would go out there from his from his shanti lisae mansion. this was being built. not too far from the eiffel tower on the left bank. jefferson would come down from the schumpty these a and sit in the tillery's garden in a lawn chair and he would crane his neck, you know, as far as he could to look across the sin and watch this building being built and he wrote that he would come home at night with his neck hurting from looking at it all day long. but this this was showing off a new style of architecture french neoclassicism. it's called today. so a little different than the old classical forms that platio was playing with instead. there was a real emphasis on on flow on humility on restraint. this was this, you know a building with three stories that was meant to look like it was just one story. so jefferson took some of these ideas back. he certainly took the dome back. he took the idea of skylights back and he loved this idea of kind of modesty in a way of making a large building appear
to be a cozy one story building. so at monticello the third the third story is hidden behind a balustrad and the second story has the windows very low to the ground very low close to the first story. so it looks like they're really part of the first story. so it's a bit of a trick and makes monticello seem much smaller than it really is. another thing that jefferson learned while he was in europe was about building materials. so here i am in carrara italy. this is a an ancient marble quarry that the romans used a michelangelo got marble from his best marble in the world. and jefferson asked these young men who were following his guide to stop in carrara and actually execute a commission for him give it to the workers there so they can make a marble chimney piece for monticello. so he brought that back but what he discovered of course was you know, this marble is so expensive. you can't use much of it in your building. instead what virginia was famous for was its red clay and jefferson realized that this the
signature the signature lookup is buildings would come from the bricks. he used in instead. so here's here's an older picture of monticello and you can see some of the ideas that he brought back between the building materials between the roman building. she saw the the newer french buildings. he mixed them all together and he started to use a lot of creativity and come up with his own ideas for a building. but throughout the so throughout the travels, you know, as i said, you know, we went on this trips. they were great adventures, you know, you know even going to the top of carrara was was this kind of madcap adventure because it was kind of dangerous. we're going around all these these curves. so, you know, we certainly experienced a lot. and we learned a lot when we went back home to virginia to try to understand how he put the his ideas in practice. excuse me, but but what what i learned more and more as the trips went on and i realized i had to deal with in a really
significant way as i contemplated jefferson as i thought about these travels. was the issue of slavery would of course, i knew that obviously jefferson was a slave owner was a disappointing fact that i thought about before my trip, but i didn't particularly think that these journeys would be that focused on slavery. jefferson took them took his european travels by himself or with a hired french servant. he had two enslaved people at different times with him in paris james hemings for the entire stay and sally hemings for part of it, but they didn't go on these trips with him. so as initially thinking okay, this is this is certainly a very very troubling side of jefferson. but not the main focus of his travels, but as i went on i realized that was wrong slavery had everything to do with this travels because as i explored more and more these subjects i realized well, no the architectural ideas. he had that he came back home to put in place. he wasn't out there building the buildings there were largely built by enslaved people the
landscape gardens the the agricultural ideas. he brought back. also, we're all going to be engaged in. you know, we're carried out by enslaved people. so it was very disappointing to see but one that i realized i an issue i needed to reckon with more than i had including the very fact of jefferson's travels themselves. he had a salary as an ambassador, but it was really his the planting of tobacco by enslaved people back in monticello and these other plantations that was that was funding his work. so i felt like i needed to and had to pay more attention to everybody that lives on his mountain jefferson enslaved over 600 people and his lifetime. he only free 10 and i think disappointingly focusing on this time of his life. it was a difficult time because it was during the 1780s and france that he kind of retreated from his his his view his role as an advocate for gradual emancipation and he had he had pushed for that in virginia and
the congress you start to step backwards when he was in paris for a variety of reasons for political reasons for the debt that he was in and he was never quite that same passionate advocate. in fact, he was quite quiet very quiet on the subject. but and instead because he realized he needed the money that enslaved people were him from their work. in the fields and even at times when he sold them, so in fact in january 1785 jefferson, it was in his first year in paris. he found himself deeper in debt and needing money and he authorized his overseer back home to sell 31 people at auction. so i i started to view jefferson differently when i saw just how important slavery was to his entire life and that i couldn't separate it out as that, you know jefferson in the architect was one thing jefferson the slave owner. is it different they're all connected. and i started to pay more attention to the lives.
the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. the clerk willing read a comiewks to the senate. the clerk: washington, d.c., july 5, 20226789 under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3 of the standing rules of the senate. i hereby appoint the honorable jeff merkley, a senator from the state of oregon, to perform the duties of the chair, signed patrick j. leahy, president pro tempore. the presiding officer: under the previous order