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The Long Affair: Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution, 1785-1800

The Long Affair: Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution, 1785-1800 (Paperback)

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Certain to be as controversial and explosive as it is elegant and learned, "The Long Affair" is Conor Cruise O'Brien's examination of Jefferson, as man and icon, through the critical lens of the French Revolution. Unable to speak the language, endowed with few close friends or colleagues, and curiously detached from Parisian intellectual life, Thomas Jefferson seemed an alienated and somewhat homesick Virginia farmer during most of his tenure as American Minister to France. But the advent of the French Revolution seized Jefferson with a new fervor, and in 1789 he returned to the United States an ardent admirer and ally of that cause. O'Brien argues that Jefferson, though enthralled with the ideological mystique of the French Revolution, nevertheless retained a shrewd political pragmatism, skillfully exploiting the Revolution's popularity with the American public. Ultimately, O'Brien suggests, Jefferson's egalitarian ideals came into conflict with his staunch political support for the slave-based Southern economy. Following the slave insurrection in Haiti inspired by the French Revolution, his revolutionary zeal was tempered and began to cool. Concluding with an evaluation of Jefferson's current role in the system of American political beliefs, O'Brien seriously questions whether we can sustain Jefferson's lofty status in an increasingly multiracial America, and he suggests a disturbing link between Jefferson's vision and white supremacist, survivalist extremists. A provocative analysis of the supreme symbol of American history and political culture, "The Long Affair" will challenge our traditional perceptions of both Jeffersonian history and the Jeffersonian legacy.

Conor Cruise O'Brien (1917-2008) was a leading Irish intellectual of his generation and had a distinguished career in public life as a diplomat, politician, government minister, writer, newspaper editor, critic, and scholar. He published numerous books in subjects such as history, biography, politics, and religion.

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