Mr. Jefferson's Lost Cause: Land, Farmers, Slavery, and the Louisiana Purchase

Mr. Jefferson's Lost Cause: Land, Farmers, Slavery, and the Louisiana Purchase

by Roger G. Kennedy


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Thomas Jefferson advocated a republic of small farmers—free and independent yeomen. And yet as president he presided over a massive expansion of the slaveholding plantation system, particularly with the Louisiana Purchase, squeezing the yeomanry to the fringes and to less desirable farmland. Now Roger G. Kennedy conducts an eye-opening examination of the gap between Jefferson's stated aspirations and what actually happened.

Kennedy reveals how the Louisiana Purchase had a major impact on land use and the growth of slavery. He examines the great financial interests (such as the powerful land companies that speculated in new territories and the British textile interests) that beat down slavery's many opponents in the South itself (Native Americans, African Americans, Appalachian farmers, and conscientious opponents of slavery). He describes how slaveholders' cash crops—first tobacco, then cotton—sickened the soil and how the planters moved from one desolated tract to the next. Soon the dominant culture of the entire region—from Maryland to Florida, from Carolina to Texas—was that of owners and slaves producing staple crops for international markets. The earth itself was impoverished, in many places beyond redemption.

None of this, Kennedy argues, was inevitable. He focuses on the character, ideas, and ambitions of Thomas Jefferson to show how he and other Southerners struggled with the moral dilemmas presented by the presence of Indian farmers on land they coveted, by the enslavement of their workforce, by the betrayal of their stated hopes, and by the manifest damage being done to the earth itself. Jefferson emerges as a tragic figure in a tragic period.

Mr. Jefferson's Lost Cause was a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title for 2003.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780195176070
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date: 10/01/2004
Pages: 376
Sales rank: 1,216,556
Product dimensions: 9.00(w) x 6.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Roger Kennedy is Director Emeritus of the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, and a past Director of the National Park Service. He has had a long and distinguished career in public service during which he has served six presidents. His books include Burr, Hamilton, and Jefferson and (as general editor and contributor) the twelve-volume Smithsonian Guide to Historic America.

Table of Contents

Part 1The Land and Mr. Jefferson1
Chapter 15
Choices and Consequences
Rain in Virginia and Its Results Lessons for Yeomen
Pasteur, Wilson, and the Three Sisters Yeomen, Planters, and the Land
Cheap Land and Slave Labor
Chapter 2Washington, Jefferson, Three Worthies, and Plantation Migrancy Philosophers in the Parlor and Lessons on the Land Westward Sweeps the Course of Desolation The Gospel of Garland Harmon17
Chapter 326
The Way Not Taken
The Makers of a New Order
Jefferson's Epitaph Disestablishing the Grandees
The Brotherhood
The Unpropitiated Son Monticello Again
Jefferson and Democracy Jefferson and the Family Farmer
Chapter 443
A Dependent Arcadia
The Virtues of Diversification Commercial Squires and Ungovernable Governors Diversification, the Pursuit of Happiness, and Cities Eastward Toward Civility
The Thousand-Foot Line
Chapter 560
Powers of the Earth Land Companies, Trading Companies, and Triassic Capitalism The Great Land Companies and Revolution Jefferson and Western Speculation
Veterans' Benefits Armed Occupation
Armed Occupation Marches On
Chapter 673
Jefferson's Opportunities and the Land 1784
The Second Opportunity
The Trans-Appalachian West The Third Opportunity
The Lower Mississippi Valley Old Men's Dreams and the Memories of the Land
Part 2The Invisible Empire and the Land85
Chapter 787
Colonies and Empires From Round Table to Board Table
Reinvesting the Loot Landed Gentry
Chapter 897
Textile Colonial-Imperialism
India Is Conquered by the Mechanics Solving the Problem of Supply
The Americans Are Put on Notice Hamilton, Jefferson, and Tench Coxe Respond to William Pitt Jefferson and the Cotton Business
Slaves as Cash Crop The Millers Send Out Their Salesmen
Independence? The British and the Plantocracy
Part 3Resistance to the Plantation System115
Chapter 9119
Mixed People and Mixed Motives
Indian Statehood McGillivray's Nationality
McGillivray and Washington
Chapter 10129
Resisters, Assisters, and Lost Causes Scots, Blacks, and Seminoles
The Firm
The Valences Shift William Augustus Bowles--The Second Act Bowles and Ellicott
"Execute Him on the Spot" The Fox Is Run to Earth
Chapter 11144
The Firm Steps Forward
Deerskins, Rum, and Land Indian Yeomen and Governor Sargent's Lost Cause
Yankee Yeomen
Chapter 12152
Jeffersonian Strategy and Jeffersonian Agents
Jefferson and Wilkinson Wilkinson's Clients
The Firm Adapts and Collects Wilkinson, Forbes, and Dearborn
Debt for Land The Accounts of Silas Dinsmoor
The Firm Wraps Things Up Andrew Jackson Takes Charge, with Some Help from Benjamin Hawkins
Part 4Agents of the Master Organism: Assistants to the Plantation System169
Chapter 13173
Fulwar Skipwith in Context
Skipwith the Jeffersonian Toussaint's Yeoman Republic
The Career of Fulwar Skipwith The Quasi War and Spoliation
James Monroe's First Mission to France Skipwith, the Livingstons, and Louisiana Cotton The Chancellor, Indolent Maroons, and Thomas Sumter Mister Sumter Is Shocked
The Third Article
Skipwith and the Floridas Consul Skipwith Goes to Jail
Chapter 14193
Destiny by Intention
The Adventures of George Mathews War, Commerce, and Race
Assisters and Resisters The Green Flag of Florida
Chapter 15205
Louisiana and Another Class of Virginians The Third Opportunity Reconsidered
The Hillhouse Debates
Chapter 16217
The Virginians of Louisiana Decide the Future of the Land Out of the Hills
The Kemper Outrage
1809-1810 Skipwith and Randolph
Complexities in Baton Rouge Skipwith at Bay
Haiti Again
Skipwith's Florida
The Jeffersonian Legacy: The Civil War and the Homestead Act Statesmanship and Self-Deception
Final Thoughts The Economics of Land Use
Another Stream Jefferson, Madison, Adam Smith, and the Chesapeake Cities The Romans, Armed Occupation, and the Homestead Act Jefferson and the Ordinances of 1784 and 1787-89
Debt and Land Jefferson's Doctrine of Usufruct
Tribes, Land, and Ireland Creeks, Seminoles, and Numbers
The Livingstons and West Florida The Claiborne-Clark Duel
Fulwar Skipwith and Andrew Jackson
Bibliographic Note307

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Mr. Jefferson's Lost Cause : Land, Farmers, Slavery, and the Louisiana Purchase 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
sweetFrank on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The plantation system is Kennedy's bete noir in this wide ranging account of the economy and politics of the south during Jefferson's political ascendancy. He is critical of the plantation mentality of Jefferson's class, who felt it was cheaper to move on to new lands than to use good farming practices. That mentality led to a dependence on foreign markets, single crops, the expansion of slavery and ultimately, to civil war. He is unsparing in his criticism of what he calls Jefferson's persistent and deep anti-black animus, which he feels in turn affected Jefferson's dislike of industrialization and of cities in general. "Throughout most of his career, Jefferson was too constrained by prejudice against artisans and multiracial towns to give support to urbanization in the South" (with the exception of Eli Whitney's cotton gin and the manufacturers in Richmond) . . . "The slaves seemed ungrateful and the yeoman unworthy". Kennedy's reading is broad and deep, as it is in his other books, but he makes frequent assertions about Jefferson's motives and psychic needs which I find are often unsupported. I have no argument with his characterization of the effects of the plantation system, but the overriding impression I take away is one of regret for what might have been for blacks, Indians, and the early republic.
Shrike58 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While making some points of interest, particularly in regards to the conditions at Monticello, this book is flawed by the basic problem that Roger Kennedy never learned the aphorism that one man's conspiracy is another man's affinity group. The "lost cause" of the title is Jefferson's concept of the United States becoming an agrarian republic of yeoman farmers, an aspiration crippled (in Kennedy's view) by Jefferson compromising his vision by being unwilling to break with his planter brethern on any significant issue. Thus leading to the spread of the plantation system with all its ills of ethnic cleansing, slavery and environmental degradations; rather a large onus to put on one man, no matter how influential.Where Kennedy really goes off the deep end is with his interpretation of the Louisiana Purchase, which has all the hallmarks of a conspiracy theory in that it's not capable of being falsified. This is not to mention that Kennedy gives every indication of not understanding international trade and politics. When Kennedy coined the prolix phrase "textile imperial-colonialism," instead of using the perfectly applicable term "neo-colonialism" to the Anglo-American commercial realtionship I should have put this book aside.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is the best history book I've ever read! It's easy to understand and brings you close to what is happening.