Name

Thomas Jefferson

Career

Public life

Occupation 1

President

Occupation 2

Louisiana Purchaser

Identifier

Founding Father

Region

NA/South & Gulf region

Era

Maritime Republic (1751-1815)

Born

1743

Died

1826

Source

Robert A. McCaughey

Text

Jefferson had perhaps the least intimacy with the sea of his fellow Founding Fathers. His home in Monticello was well west and north of the fall line of the James River, though the Ravanna River provided a tenuous link to the James and thence to the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. At different points during his life he attempted to make it navigable through the removal of rocks and the construction of a canal and dredging.

Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia (1781), while expansive about the rivers of Virginia(including the Mississippi!), had little to say about the commonwealth's sea coast, ports or maritime prospects. As minister to France in the 1780s he actively defended the growing American interest in whaling.

It is as president (1801-1809) where Jefferson acquired his reputation as an anti-maritimist, not least by his purchase of Louisiana, which effectively redirected American efforts westward. His willingness to cripple the maritime trades in 1807, following the humiliation of the boarding by the HMS Leopard of the USS Chesapeake , by declaring an Embargo also lend credence to the notion that he regarded American seagoing interests as expendable and not worth defending. Similarly, his favoring a defensive naval strategy against a more assertive one has marked him as an early "anti-navalist." He was the first national leader to effectively turn his back on the Atlantic Ocean.

Related Images

Date: 1800
Date: 1800
Author of the Declaration of Independence, Notes on the State of Virginia and 3rd president of the United States
Author of the Declaration of Independence, Notes on the State of Virginia and 3rd president of the United States