Thomas Jefferson's Scrapbooks: Poems of Nation, Family, and Romantic Love Collected by America's Third President

Thomas Jefferson's Scrapbooks: Poems of Nation, Family, and Romantic Love Collected by America's Third President

by Jonathan Gross
While in office from 1801 to 1809, Thomas Jefferson cut and pasted into homemade scrapbooks hundreds of poems of nation – early odes to the still coalescing republic – family, and romantic love. He gave the books as gifts to his granddaughters and for nearly 200 years it was believed the girls had compiled the collections themselves. No previous biography


While in office from 1801 to 1809, Thomas Jefferson cut and pasted into homemade scrapbooks hundreds of poems of nation – early odes to the still coalescing republic – family, and romantic love. He gave the books as gifts to his granddaughters and for nearly 200 years it was believed the girls had compiled the collections themselves. No previous biography of Jefferson has drawn on this important resource. In unexpected ways this groundbreaking work will help demystify “the American sphinx.” 243 of the poems that captured Jefferson’s imagination are published here for the first time, with essays, annotations and photographs that make this historically important and revealing volume a delight to explore.

Thomas Jefferson’s Scrapbooks shows our third president’s taste for sentimental verse and abolitionist poems, and will modify his reputation as a strict neo-classicist. It includes a poem by Benjamin Franklin, several odes on the death of Alexander Hamilton, poems by women writers who have not been fully recovered in recent anthologies, and corrects the assumption that newspaper verse did not shape Jefferson's thinking on foreign affairs. Jefferson's interest in young American poets will surprise even his biographers who do not always include his literary tastes while in office in their studies of the man. And numerous anti-Federalist poems will correct the view of Jefferson as a reluctant politician.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Scrapbooking may be trendy today, but it's not new: in the early 19th century, Thomas Jefferson clipped poems from newspapers and pasted them into books that he gave to his granddaughters. In a handsome and hefty tome, Gross, an expert on the British Romantics who has studied Jefferson's interest in their poetry, has reproduced Jefferson's favorite verses, many of them dealing with nationhood and a vision of republican leadership. Other poems deal with family, celebrating both a father's patriarchal authority over his children and his tender love for them. Jefferson's ambivalence toward women is captured: verse that seems misogynistic ("a wife should be... not like CLOCKS-harangue so clear,/That All the town her voice might hear") vies with remarkably forward-thinking poems by and about women. Gross's fascinating introduction explains why scholars, who once believed Jefferson's granddaughters made these scrapbooks, now attribute them to the Sage of Monticello. The editor also suggests that these poems reveal much about Jefferson's values and view of the world-but Gross could have gone further in spelling out just what we learn about our third president by reading the poems he loved. (May 1) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Read an Excerpt

Thomas Jefferson's SCRAPBOOKS

Poems of Nation, Family, & Romantic Love


Copyright © 2006

Jonathan Gross

All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-58642-107-7

Chapter One

The Music of the following excellent SONG,
was admirably performed by the Band, at the
Ball in this town, on Monday evening last -
but the words could not then be obtained.


THE gloomy night before us flies:
The reign of terror now is o'er,
Its gags, inquisitors and spies,
Its hordes of harpies are no more.
Rejoice! Columbia's sons rejoice
To tyrants never bend the knee,
But join with heart, and soul, and voice,

O'er vast Columbia's varied clime;
Her cities forests, shores and dales,
In rising majesty sublime,
Immortal Liberty prevails.
Rejoice! Columbia's Sons, &c.
No lordling here with gorging jaws,
Shall wring from industry its food,
No fiery bigot's holy laws,
Lay waste our fields and streets in blood.
Rejoice! Columbia's sons, &c.
Here strangers from a thousand shores,
Compell'd by tyranny to roam,
Shall find amidst abundant shores,
A nobler and a happier home.
Rejoice! Columbia's sons, &c.
Here art shall lift her laurel'd head,
Wealth, industry and peace divine,
And where darkpathless forests spread,
Rich fields and lofty cities shine.
Rejoice! Columbia's sons, &c.
From Europe's wants and woes remote,
A dreary waste of waves between,
Here plenty cheers the humble cot,
And smiles on every village green.
Rejoice! Columbia's sons, &c.
Here free as air's expanded space,
To every soul and feet shall be,
That sacred privilege of our race,
The worship of the Deity.
Rejoice! Columbia's sons, &c.
These gifts, great Liberty, are thine;
Ten thousand more we owe to thee!
Immortal may their mem'ries shine,
Who sought and died for liberty
Rejoice! Columbia's sons, &c.
What heart but hails a scene so bright,
What soul but inspiration draws,
Who would not guard so dear a right,
Or die in such a glorious cause.
Rejoice! Columbia's sons, &c.
Let foes to freedom dread the name,
But should they touch the sacred tree,
Twice fifty thousand swords shall flame,
Rejoice! Columbia's sons, &c.
From Georgia up to Lake Champlain,
From seas to Mississippi's shore,
Ye sons of freedom loud proclaim,
Rejoice! Columbia's sons, rejoice!
To tyrants never bend the knee,
But join with heart, and soul, and voice,

This poem is the first to appear in Jefferson's
clippings book; it captures the tone and tenor
of Jefferson's presidency. Republicans cast
their election as a return to the spirit of '76, an
overthrow of tyrants who would impose the
Alien and Sedition Acts on the American
public. After eight years in office. Jefferson
began to sympathize with Adams's position,
modulating his belief in freedom of the press
with indignation at the libels he read on a
daily basis in American newspapers. The
poem includes an interesting reversal of a
phrase, associating the reign of terror with the
Federalists rather than with Robespierre and
the French Revolution.

THE following SONG, sung on the
4th of MARCH, at an entertainment
given by the American Consul
at the Hotel, London, has merit
which entitles it to high rank among
our popular airs.


TUNE - "Anacreon in Heaven."

Well met, fellow freemen!
let's cheerfully greet,
The return of this day, with a
copious libation.
For freedom this day in her chosen
Hailed her favourite JEFFERSON
Chief of our nation.
A chief in whose mind
Republicans find,
Wisdom, probity, honor and
firmness combined.
Let our wine sparkle high, whilst
we gratefully give,
The health of our Sachem, and
long may he live.

Political frenzy howl'd o'er the
Ambition and rapine with blood
ting'd the ocean.
While JEFFERSON rip'ning sage
systems for birth,
Found the peaceful legitimate
path to promotion.
With reason his guide,
His virtues and talents full-often
were tried.
Now he's chief in command let
the universe see,
How happy a nation of freemen
can be!

Whilst Europe's proud Chiefs
wield the sword or the pen,
By force or by fraud to acquire
new possessions;
Our rulers speak "peace & good
will towards men," -
And their practice accords with
their cordial professions:
But should foreign foes
Their rancor disclose,
And by discord or arms dare disturb
our repose,
Let our Chief give the word, and he
safely may trust,
That those haughty disturbers
shall soon "bite the dust."

May JEFFERSON's genius sublimely
The carping of envy, the frenzy
of faction:
At his bidding let union attune
each free soul,
And Godlike philanthropy spring
into action;
Thus blessing and blest,
By his country carest,
Sweet peace shall forever illuminate
his breast!
Admiring his virtues, again let
us give,
The health of our Sachem, and
long may he live.

James Hall wrote "Anacreon in Heaven," a
song with the same melody as "The Star
Spangled Banner." Several poems in Jefferson's
collection are set to this song. Though some of
the praise of Jefferson is fatuous ("May
JEFFERSON's genius sublimely control, / The
carping of envy, the frenzy of faction"),
Jefferson himself did not hesitate to include
verse from the Port Folio, edited by Joseph
Dennie, which was harshly critical of his
administration. This poem refers to Jefferson
as "our Sachem," a term used in Republican
Tammany lodges in New York, where political
leaders often dressed as Algonquin Indians and
took nicknames.

Sung at Philadelphia, 4 July, 1801.


NO more to subtle arts a prey,
Which fearful of the eye of day;
A nation's ruin plann'd:
Now entering on th' auspicious morn,
In which a people's hopes are born,
What joy o'erspreads the land!

While past events portended harm,
And rais'd the spirit of alarm,
Uncertain of the end:
Ere all was lost, the prospect clear'd,
And a bright star of hope appear'd,
The People's chosen friend.

Devoted to his country's cause,
The rights of Man and equal Laws,
His hollow'd pen was given:
And now those Rights and Laws to save
From sinking to an early grave,
He comes, employ'd by Heav'n.

What joyful prospects rise before!
Peace, Arts and Science hail our shore,
And through the country spread:
Long may these blessings be preserv'd,
And by a virtuous land deserv'd,
With JEFFERSON our head!


REJOICE, ye States, rejoice
And spread the patriot flame;
Call'd by a nation's voice;
To save his country's fame;
And dissipate increasing fears,
Our favorite JEFFERSON appears.
Let every heart unite,
Th' eventful day to hail;
When from the Freemen's Right,
The people's hopes prevail:
That hence may horrid faction cease,
And honor be maintain'd with PEACE.

This poem is interesting, in part, because it
shows that Jefferson clipped poems from the
first year of his presidency (July 4, 1801).
The great majority of his political verse is
culled from newspapers during his second

The Land of Love and Liberty.
[By Thomas Paine]

TUNE - "Rule Britannia."

HAIL, great republic of the world!
The rising empire of the west!
Where fam'd Columbus, with mighty mind inspir'd,
Gave tortur'd Europe scenes of rest.
Be thou forever, forever great and free,
The land of love and liberty!

Beneath the spreading mantling vine,
Beside thy flow'ry groves in spring,
And on thy lofty, thy lofty mountain's brow,
May all thy sons and fair ones sing,
Be thou forever &c.

From thee may rudest nations learn
To prize the cause thou first began,
From thee may future, may future tyrants know,
That sacred are the rights of marl.
Be thou forever, &c.

From thee may horrid [illeg.] I discord fly,
With all her dark, her gloomy train,
And o'er thy fertile, thy fertile wide domain
May everlasting friendship reign.
Be thou forever, &c.

Of thee may lisping infancy
The pleasing wondrous story tell;
And patriot sages in venerable mood
Instruct the world to govern well.
Be thou forever, &c.

Ye guardian angels watch around,
From harm protect the new-born state;
And all ye friendly nations join,
And thus salute the Child of Fate -
Be thou forever great and free;
The Land of Love and Liberty.

This poem celebrating the United States as
"The Land of Love and Liberty" is sung, oddly
enough, to the tune of "Rule Britannia."
Paine's Common Sense was published in
January 1776, months before the Declaration
of Independence.



HENCE, laureate Flattery's lambient strain,
Profuse, mellifluent, loud, and vain,
To puff a monarch's sway:
At Freedom's shrine, where Patriots bow,
We'll pledge our renovated vow,
And hail her holyday.

Impulsive more is Law's command,
Than gorgon Terror's lifted hand.
To move a nation's soul:
Since fond desires propel to bliss
This golden age of happiness,
We'll grateful hearts control.

Here Agriculture clothes her fields,
And much to Nature's children yields,
O! Nature's ancient pride-
When shepherds sang to streams and groves,
Their cheerly tasks and spotless loves,
Where gods would fain reside.

Commerce, her cheerful handmaid, pours
Earth's richest gifts on Freedom's shores,
E'en Luxury's board supplies;
Thus let us waft from every zone,
A world's rare virtues to our own,
And fast to glory rise.

Science unlocks great Nature's springs,
And humbly takes her holy things,
And pours them on the mind;
She bids us count our blessings dear.
And soothing shows that Freedom here
An endless reign shall find

On flowery grades desert ascends,
No tyrant test its hand extends,
To lead the mind awry;
Conscience her awful GOD adores,
Nor strange oblation heartless pours,
In forc'd idolatry.

What rash foe dares the realm molest,
Where swains are soldiers but undrest,
And every neighbor, friend.
Who, with his hous[e]hold, shares his toil
The livelong day to dress the soil,
Can best that soil defend!

The faithless Power of Barbary's clefts,
No more shall, with his dastard thefts,
Our conscious flag offend;
Where thousands of our wealth we gave
To pass in peace the midland wave,
A thousand deaths we'll send.

Let mad Ambition's venal tools
Affect to blanch our civic rules,
As mere politic self;
We'll tell the World by maxims sound,
At length a blest REPUBLIC's found,


The process of celebrating a national holiday
started at least twenty-five years before the
fiftieth anniversary The poem distinguishes
America from those countries that would "puff
a monarch's sway," but Federalists might well
have challenged the assumption that a republic
was a place "Where MAN CAN RULE HIM
SELF." According to Montesquieu's definitions,
America was an aristocratic republic,
ruled by an elite group of educated men like
Jefferson and Madison. Federalists charged
Republicans with conflating democracy and
republic, two words that could not have been
more antithetical.

If a country is formed through a community
of newspaper readers, as Benedict
Anderson has argued, then Jefferson's news
paper clippings show how poets used this
medium to become what Shelley, in his
Defense of Poetry, called "the unacknowledged
legislators of the world." That not all
Americans would have agreed with the sentiments
of this poem can be gleaned from the
fact that Joseph Dennie referred to Thomas
Paine as a "drunken atheist."

Triumph of principles, in the election of Governor
TOMPKINS. - Quidism deprecated.

Call'd to the governmental chair
By half a million's voice:
A character so bright, so fair,
Is worthy of the choice.

A name, expiring envy owns,
Has robb'd her of her breath:
And fell detraction vents her groans,
As in the pangs of death;

And malice casts a dying glance,
And bites her serpent-tongue -
For all she ever could advance,
Was - "Tompkins is too young."

And youth is an atrocious crime, -
- Devoid of sense or wit -
So Walpole, on a certain time
Declar'd to William Pitt.

When William, saucy youth, replied,
- Tho' vast your life appears,
Your crimes, your follies and your pride,
Are equal to your years.

No matter whether young or old -
Where born, of whom or when;
For true republicans all hold
To principles - not men.

And now, while war impending low'rs,
And threatens to descend;
From discord, O ye gracious pow'rs,
Our citizens defend!

From governors, tho' grey with age,
Who base apostates prove,
And sacrifice to party rage
Their patriotic love: -

From senators who strive to bribe
The councils of the state,
And all the treason-fav'ring tribe,
However would-be great: -

From demagogues of ev'ry name,
Who all their arts employ,
The people's passions to enflame -
The people to destroy.

The monarchist, we often find,
Is loyal to his king;
The hog acts after his own kind,
The scorpion hath his sting;

Some fed'ralists are men of worth,
Some virtues have, tho' hid;
But of all animals on earth,
O save us from the Quid!

De Witt Clinton and his brother-in law, Judge
Ambrose Spencere, tried to prevent the reelection
of the Livingstons' candidate, Governor
Morgan Lewis. On February 16, 1807.
Clinton and a Repubican caucus nominated
Daniel D. Tompkins and John Broome for
governor and lieutenant governor. Clintonians
called their opponent. Morgan Lewis,
"Quid." This poem has been described as
"probably the first song written to advocate
the principle of party regularity." In American
newspapers, quid also refers to tertium quid, a
third party, movement within the Republican
party. As Andrew Burstein has noted, anyone
who threatened a state political interest was
branded "quid" during the first decade of the
nineteenth century.

Written for the Anniversary of American Independence,
and sung at the last celebration, by a society
of the friends of the People in Philadelphia.


While the slaves of a tyrant his birth day revere,
And honor the despot who robs them of bread:
Whilst thousands are starving and sunk in despair,
And the big tears of misery too often are shed;
Shall a nation so free and so happy as we
Not partake of much gladness from year unto year:
To a freeman most truly,
Each fourth of July,
The birth day of freedom shall ever be dear.

We'll remember the heroes who bled in the field,
We'll remember the sages who counsel'd at home,
We'll remember the foe whom they forced to yield,
We'll remember the contest for ages to come:
The heroes and sages,
Thro' numerous ages,
Shall live in the delight of the friends of mankind:
And while on the ground,
E'er a freeman is found,
Shall the birth day of freedom be present in mind.

See the old haughty foe on your shores now advance,
Led on by the spirit of selfish ambition;
Let them come when they please, we will give them a dance
By the route Saratoga and York, to perdition:
Let them come when they will,
They will find we are still,
Such men as they found us at old Bunker's hill;
Ever ready to show,
To an insolent foe,
That the blessings of freedom and virtue we know.

Determined to reject the pompous model set
by the "haughty foe" Great Britain, the poet
emphasizes that Americans celebrate July 4
rather than a presidential birthday. Jefferson
deliberately contrasted this poem with the
next, which celebrates Washington's achievements
rather than the date of his birth.


Excerpted from Thomas Jefferson's SCRAPBOOKS

Copyright © 2006 by Jonathan Gross.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Jonathan Gross is a professor of English at Depaul University and a specialist in British romantic verse, with a Ph.D. in English from Columbia University. He has served as a fellow at the Huntington Library and the International Center for Jefferson Studies.

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