Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson has been identified as the “Father of the Enlightenment in America.” He tells the story of his own enlightenment in "Thomas Jefferson's Enlightenment – Paris 1785." In this revealing narrative, he recounts a series of excursions he made through Paris with Pierre Cabanis during which Cabanis acquainted him with France’s history, its social and political problems, and key members of the salon society Jefferson had come to France to join.

Jefferson remembers being introduced to the French concept of Progress and how he is befriended by the duc de la Rochofoucauld, a good man who hosts a circle of progressives at his hotel in Paris and at his chateau at La Roche-Guyon northwest of the city. Jefferson recounts how he embraces their vision of replacing France’s oppressive monarchy with a constitutional government resting on a bill of rights and the contributions he makes to this enlightened enterprise. In the process, he reveals how he became an agent of Progress.

The insights he provides in this account of this personal and political growth allow us to understand how the loner who wrote the Declaration of Independence cloistered in a Philadelphia boardinghouse became the party leader who waged and won America’s first national political campaign.