Recent historical analysis of Jeffersonian ideology emphasize the tensions between commercialization and republican virtue. Current historiography defines Jeffersonian notions of virtue rather broadly, embodying both communal responsibility and individualistic pursuits.1 But most historians still portray republicanism as a ‘mode of thought that ran counter to the flow of history’ by idealizing the values of a ‘world rapidly fading’.2 This book challenges such an interpretation. The overwhelming evidence presented demonstrates that immediately after independence Jefferson turned to pursuing foreign markets for surplus agricultural production, and that he viewed such markets as essential for maintaining the prosperous agrarian order upon which he based his hopes for the survival of republican society and polity. It was, in fact, the central theme of his commercial diplomacy. While Jefferson’s fondness for colorful sweeping generalizations often posed commerce as the opposite of virtue, economic reality, sectional considerations and international prejudice shaped policy.


Overwhelming Evidence Commercial Policy Economic Sanction Important Trading Partner Young Nation 
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  1. 3.
    Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History (New York, 1952), 24.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Doron S. Ben-Atar 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Doron S. Ben-Atar
    • 1
  1. 1.Yale UniversityUSA

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