THOMAS JEFFERSON’S INCORPORATING POSITIVE ELEMENTS FROM CHINESE CIVILIZATION
ST. JOHN’S UNIVERSITY
On April 27, 1785, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), then the United States ambassador to France, received a letter from James Madison (1751-1836), in which Madison requested he buy in Paris the recently published book on China.1 This was more than an ordinary correspondence between the two great founders of the United States: indeed, it is of great significance to our study of the cultural relations between China and the United States. It reflects the fact that in Madison’s mind, Jefferson was an expert on China who was qualified to be trusted to make acquisition of books on China. This was not the first time that somebody called upon Jefferson’s expertise in the subject. Earlier in 1771, Robert Skipwith, Jefferson’s brother-in-law, requested Jefferson to recommend him "a list of the best books on general subjects available in America.”2 Jefferson recommended two Chinese classical books. 3 This recommendation indicates two things: Jefferson was very well-versed in Chinese literature and believed the Chinese classic works belonged to the “category of practical aids to virtue and were comparable to the great Western classics.”4 Actually, during the formative age of the United States, Jefferson wanted to incorporate positive elements from Chinese civilization to help him create a new culture in North America. With this essay, I will examine his efforts that impacted the formation of American culture.
Chinese Culture in Colonial North America
Europe was the main resource for the colonists to learn about China before the "China Fever", generated by the famous voyage of the Empress of China, the first American commercial ship that reached China in 1784. There was no direct contact between China and North America before then. All Chinese products were brought to North America through Europe. For the same token, Americans’ knowledge about China was also derived largely from European literary sources. Ever since the 17th century, the reports of European missionaries in China had been “so filled with admiration that European intellectuals were seized with a mania for things Chinese."5 Chinese philosophical “impact on Western philosophy was of far greater and more lasting significance.6 The admiration of Chinese culture had become the characteristic of the Age of Enlightenment in Europe.7 Some prominent European thinkers turned to Confucian philosophy for theory to support their arguments in their debates on moral, political or religious issues. European "admiration for things Chinese reached its climax in Valtair's Essai Sur les Maurs (1756), which presented Confucius (551-479 BC) as “an anticipation of the philosophies of the eighteenth century"8
Some eminent colonists had realized the value of Chinese culture to the social and economic development of the colonies in North America. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) regarded China as a source of inspiration and innovation.9 He was very "fond of reading about China" and showed his desire to “go to China."10 Discussion on China appeared in such favorite English periodicals as the Monthly Review and the Gentleman's Magazine.11 In August 1775, just before the eve of the Independence, Thomas Paine (1737-1809), author of Common Sense, showed his great “interests in China."12 He published some essays on China in the Pennsylvania Magazine.13
Similar to Europe, Confucius and his works were discussed in North America. As early as 1733, James Logan14 (1674-1751) acquired a copy of “the first European printing of Confucius philosophy.15 Some influential writers in the period, including George Anson (1697-1762), William Dampier (1651-1715), Daniel Defoe (1661-1731) and Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774) joined the efforts to introduce China to the colonists in their works.16
Before American independence, Chinese products enriched colonial “American life in many, many ways."17 Chinese products became increasingly popular and “spread among less affluent sectors of American society."18 During the mid-eighteenth century, some colonists bought a huge amount of "Chinese Chippendale" furniture, Chinese wallpaper, silk and porcelain wares. Chinese tea had become most popular drink for the majority of colonists.19 For some colonists, China was a source of silk.20
Facing the task of building a new society in North America, the colonists paid particular attention to what they could benefit from, such as Chinese agricultural and technological innovations. Benjamin Franklin, who served as the North American representative to France, sent Chinese soybean seeds back to the colony.21 Charles Thomas (1729-1826), Secretary of the Continental Congress and later of the U.S. Congress, emphasized the Chinese industry, such as advancing the arts of living, and improving in husbandry and native plants.22 The American Philosophical Society, founded in 1768, told the American people if they could “introduce the industry of the Chinese, their arts of living and improvements in husbandry, American might become in time as populous as China..."23
Certain Chinese economic theory and legal system also reached and impressed the colonists. As early as 1774, Benjamin Franklin showed his interest in a Chinese emperor's economic principle. Still some colonists showed great interest in the Chinese legal system. A writer told his readers that China's laws were "maintained with such strict impartiality, that the guilty seldom escape punishment or the injured fail to obtain prompt justice."24 A well-known figure in colonial America even declared that he was eager to adopt “the wisdom" of Chinese government, and "therefore wishing to have his [the Chinese emperor's] code of Laws."25
All these Chinese cultural elements exposed the colonists to a new culture, so different from their own traditions. Like the Europeans, they took different attitudes towards these new influences. Some eminent colonists, realizing its significance, worked to incorporate Chinese civilization into their efforts to shape developing American culture. In the following, we will examine how Thomas Jefferson used Chinese influences to pursue his goal.
Creating A new Culture by Incorporating Chinese Architectural Designs
Chinese influence on American architecture also came through Europe to North America in the 18th century. In garden construction, the English were interested in the irregularity of Chinese gardening, as expressed by temples. Burlington's purchase of Ripa's engravings in 1724 confirmed the style, and some "remarkable fruit" began to appear in the 1740s and 50s. At Grove House, Old Winds, Dickie Bateman (c. 1705-73) had lived like a "pseudo-Mandarin" during the 1730s and by the end of the decade had laid out a whimsically designed irregular garden adorned with a Chinoiserie bridge, a China House which combined Chinese and English styles.
At Woodside House, Berkshire, in 1752, Hugh Hamersley Gothicized the house by laying out a rococo wildness with an elegant Chinese kiosk, which seems to have been inspired by the House of Confucius at Kew, designed by Chambers and decorated by the fan-painter Joseph Goupy. Numerous pattern books on how to build Chinese gardens were produced at this time; among them were William Halfpenny's New Designs for Chinese Temples &c (1750) and Chinese and Gothic Architecture properly ornamented (1752).26
Some Chinese models were brought to North America and influenced the designs of its architecture in the first part of the 18th century. Some residents built their houses with "Chinese trim," others adopted the style known as Chinese Chippendale, and still others followed the designs of British builders, which were called Chinoiserie---a style of ornamentation that "represented an Occidental interpretation of China."27
In the 1760s, the influence of Chippendale's "Chinese" manner was apparent in the roof balustrades. An advertisement in the South Carolina Gazette, dated April 1, 1757, shows that at that time some Americans had used Chinese style design as a great attraction to potential buyers. The advertisement describes the James Reid house offered for sale, as the "new-built, strong and modish" house was built "after the Chinese taste." The house was "remarkably commodious in many respects; it is both warm in winter and deemed the most airy in summer of any house in the province."28 The decoration of the Miles Brewton house, completed 1769, is full of Chippendale motives, in which rococo, "Gothic," and "Chinese" are mingled. Some researchers prove that Jefferson preferred such forms of construction in 1782.29
The Chinese influence on architecture remained conspicuous after the founding of the United States. At Croyden, close to Philadelphia, Andreas Everardus van Braam Houckgeest (1739-1801), a member of the American Philosophical Society, built a home known as China's Retreat during the 1790s. The building adopted a Chinese-style cupola on the roof. The windows, similar to screens in Chinese homes, were double leaves that slid into pockets in the walls. The buildings that used Chinese "touches" added “decorative embellishments to an otherwise Occidental plan and structure." 30 Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, a Polish visitor, left us a vivid description of the house and its contents. The house was "immense, surmounted with a cupola and decorated with golden serpents in the Chinese manner. Six tabourets of porcelain were arranged in a circle in the peristyle." 31
Thomas Jefferson, who regarded architecture as "a passion of country gentleman in all countries and ages" remained affection for architecture throughout his life. According to William Short, Jefferson's secretary and lifelong friend, Jefferson had acquired his first book on architecture when he was in college.32 He was also interested in gardening. For him, gardening was "the complement to building." 33
Jefferson studied Chinese garden styles when he started to build his own garden in his estates. He spent his free time on making plans for his garden.34 During the year when he finally decided upon his construction plan, Jefferson planned to build a garden "where objects are intended only to adorn,' the Chinese style."35 Jefferson loved the Chinese railing--particular Chinese design found from Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779) and William Chambers (1723-1796). He used the railings below the dome of his main building and surrounding the walkways.36 Jefferson loved the Chinese railing so much that he used the style all over his estates from 1756, such as in the Woodford, Schuyler, Timothy Orne, and Roger Morris houses. He continued using the style after the American Revolution.37
Monticello (meaning “little mountain” in Italian) is widely considered one of the greatest architectural treasures in the United States.38 Jefferson regarded Monticello as his “architectural ideas and experiments.”39 He made Chinese railing a recurring motif at Monticello. In his main building, Jefferson adopted the Chinese style, making drawings of Chinese lattice about 1771.40 Before 1798, he designed the Chinese lattice for the house at Edgehill, Virginia. About 1802, He designed the lattice for the house at Farmington and also designed the Chinese lattice for his dwelling house at Barboursville. In the Swan house in Dorchester, the open panels contained the Chinese lattice, which Jefferson continued to use in balcony railings until his death in 1826.41
In addition to the lattice, Jefferson considered building one of his rooms with a Chinese roof.42 In 1771 in his notebook, Jefferson recorded down his plan to build "a square ‘Chinese Temple,'" "two stories high with four columns on a side in the lower story." He then decided to “set back behind a balustrade also of Chinese form." Later, Jefferson wrote, "I think I shall prefer to these Chinese temples two regular Tuscan ones." 43 Jefferson also planned to build on his property a couple of Chinese pagodas.44
The vast numbers of memos dealing with temples indicate Jefferson's deep interest in and aesthetic appreciation of this Chinese style. In his 1804 memo Jefferson planned to build a number of different temples. "At the Rocks" was to be “a turning Tuscan temple 10 f., diam. 6. Columns. Proportions of Pantheon," and over the offices, he planned to erect "the Chinese pavilion of Kew garden." Then along the lower edge of the garden he proposed to place four small temples, models of the Gothic style; the Pantheon, which he regarded the masterpiece of spherical building; a "model of cubic architecture," such as the Maison Carree; and "a specimen of Chinese "architecture.45 Jefferson also planned to build a Chinese pavilion when he worked to remodel Monticello in the last decade of the eighteenth century and built the University in the second decade of the nineteenth century.46
Being the first great architect in North America, in architectural history the Jeffersonian architecture is well-known. It was particularly popular during the early American period. The typical features of his designs are the use of octagonal forms, red bricks, and use of Chinese railings. It is still very popular nowadays. Taunton’s Fine Homebuilding Journal still introduces the style to the American people today.47
However, the meaning of Jefferson’s using of the Chinese railing was far beyond the architecture itself. He deemed that architecture was “the heart of the American cause.” For him, “a building was not merely a walled structure, but a metaphor for American ideology.” To build a building is equivalent to build a nation. Therefore, “the architecture of any American building should express the American desire to break cultural—as well as political—ties to Europe.” 48 The virtual consensus among the founding generation of American statesmen was to “pursue a political destiny separate from Europe.”49 Jefferson was determined to make a new nation in North America rather than a replica of a European country. He realized that the elements from Chinese culture could play a very important and positive role in his efforts to build the new nation. He regarded the incorporation of Chinese elements in his own building as an attempt to develop a new identity for the nation. Therefore, he incorporated Chinese designs in his buildings and refused to copy English style.
Jefferson had “a national audience in mind”, when he built his home at Monticello.50 He told James Madison, “You see, I am an enthusiast on the subject of the arts. But it is an enthusiasm of which I am not ashamed, as its object to improve the taste of my countrymen, to increase their reputation, to reconcile them to the rest of the world, and procure them its praise.”51 His creation of the new style has impressed many Americans. As a person with national fame, he is visited by numerous guests from all over the country everyday. The Chinese railing included on the exterior of Monticello “became a public expression of Jefferson’s regard for Chinese culture through its inclusion in the private space of his home.” 52
Using the Asian Dry Rice to Improve the Slave’s Working Condition
While summarizing what he considered to be his greatest contribution to the world, Thomas Jefferson ranked his effort to introduce dry rice from East Asia into South Carolina as high regard as his drafting of the Declaration of Independence.53
One author pointed out that Thomas Jefferson’s interests in introducing Asian plants “tied up with the agricultural and horticultural needs of the United States.”54 This is partially true because the author failed in realizing the more important reasons of Thomas Jefferson’s efforts to bring Asian dry rice into North America. Indeed, Jefferson was an agriculturalist. However, my recent research on Jefferson and Asian plants has revealed the fact that the introduction of dry rice reflected an important message: Jefferson had social value in his mind when he made his commitment to introduce the Asian plants into the United States.
According to David Briton Davis, after his return to America in late 1789, the most remarkable thing about Jefferson's stand on slavery was “his immense silence."55 Mr. Davis’ conclusion doesn’t take account of Jefferson’s effort to improve the environment of the slaves who toiled in the rice fields. Jefferson donated tremendous energy and spent long period of time on transplanting to the United States the dry rice, which he thought to be a means to improve the working condition of the slaves in the Southern United States.
Rice was very important in the expansion of the colonies prior to the founding of the United States. The rice, imported from Asia, grew well in South Carolina around 1700, when the Colonists had struggled to find means to make their living there. Until the end of the century, South Carolina’s economy was based overwhelmingly on the cultivation of rice. Rice agriculture has been called "the best opportunity for industrial profit which 18th century America afforded." 56 Later, because of the extraordinary success in South Carolina, the rice plantation system was extended farther south into coastal Georgia, where it also prospered.57 Until the Civil War, rice was maintained a major crop on the south Atlantic coast.
It didn’t take long for the South Carolinian colonists to realize the advantages of importing slaves from the traditional rice-growing region of West Africa. During the 1500s, the Portuguese introduced paddy rice from Asia into West Africa. West African farmers traditionally cultivated local varieties of wet rice on the flood plains and dry rice on the hillsides. The rice planters of the southern part of North America made their efforts to acquire slaves from the "Rice Coast," the "Windward Coast," the "Gambia," and "Sierra-Leon"58 The rice cultivation in South Carolina and Georgia drew heavily on the labor of African slaves. During the growing season the slaves on the rice plantations toiled in the field, while the women processed the rice during harvest time.
In the spring of 1785, Benjamin Franklin returned to America, where Jefferson was appointed to succeed Franklin in France as the representative for the new independent United States. In the same year, Thomas Jefferson was elected an honorary member of the South Carolina Society for Promoting Agriculture. Jefferson prized this position highly and regarded it as a good opportunity to help his fellow citizens with their efforts to build a rich and strong new nation in North America.
Two years later, Jefferson made some time to visit the farming areas in southern France and northern Italy, aiming to find reasons for lack of competition of rice produced in Carolina. Risking his own life as he had many times before, Jefferson sent back the precious grains to America to help “resurrect the South’s principal food export and hence the infant Republic.”59 On his trip from Vercelli to Pavia, Jefferson first learned a rice “growing on highlands” from Mr. Monsieur Poivre, the former Governor of the Isle of France. 60
Jefferson immediately saw the dry rice’s economic and social value to the southern part of the new nation. On July 30 1787 he told William Drayton: “The dry rice of Cochin-China has the reputation of being whitest to the eye, but flavored to the taste, and more productive. It seems then to unite the good qualities of both the others know to us.” 61 Then Jefferson started his long time effort to procure some seeds of the dry rice to be brought to South Carolina. 62
Jefferson worked tirelessly to unearth the seeds of dry rice. On January 13, 1788 Jefferson expressed with happiness to Drayton the information that he had “considerable hope of receiving some dry rice from Cochin-China.”63 1789 was the last year that Jefferson stayed in France. During the last months of his stay, Jefferson labored to secure the seeds of dry rice. On March 11, 1789, he asked for help from Monsieur de Malesherbes (1721-1794)64. Jefferson wrote to him in the following:
Your zeal to promote the general good of mankind by an interchange of useful things, and particularly in the line of agriculture, and the weight which your rank and station would give to your interposition, induced me to ask it for the purpose of obtaining one of species of rice which grows in Cochin-China on high lands, and which needs no other watering than ordinary rains. The sun and soil of Carolina are sufficiently powerful to ensure success of this plant…..If you would be so good as to interest yourself in the procuring for me some seeds of the dry rice of Cochin-China you would render the most precious service to my countrymen in whose behalf I take the liberty of asking your interposition. 65
Eventually Jefferson acquired some kinds of dry rice from Asia. On March 26, 1789 Benjamin Vaughan (1751-1835)66 sent three kinds of dry rice from Sumatra, Indonesia to Jefferson: Padee Coccos ballam, Padee Layee, and Padee Undallan. 67
In the fall of 1789, Jefferson sowed some dry rice seeds in eastern pots on his plantation in the wake of obtaining a few seeds of high land rice. On June 13, 1790, he sent a few of them to George Wythe (1726-1806)68, and told him that they would be most precious.69 About half a year later, Mr. Samuel Vaughan (1720-1803)70 from Jamaica sent Jefferson a few more grains of dry rice from Moluccas, Indonesia. He sent them to Thomas Mann Randolph (1768-1828)71, telling him “I asked your attention to the upland rice.”72
In first half of 1791, when he was at Havre on his return from France, Jefferson met Captain Nathaniel Cutting, who would later sail to Africa. Mr. Cutting went to the Africa coast just after the harvest and sent Jefferson thirty gallon cask of the seeds.73 From the island of Bananas on the cost of Africa Jefferson received a cask of Mountain Rice of 1790’s growth.74 He divided the seeds between the Agricultural Society of Charleston and some private gentlemen of Georgia. Jefferson told them if the dry rice turned out as well as swamp rice, they might rid the planters and laborers “of that source of their summer diseases.”75
He dispersed the seeds into many hands, and sent the mass of it to South Carolina. 76 He sent them to Mr. Izard of the South Carolina Society for Promoting Agriculture, 77 expecting that the dry rice might be “a complete substitute for the pestiferous culture of the wet rice.”78 Since then, he kept monitoring the progress of dry rice from Mr. Baldwin, one of those whom Jefferson engaged in the distribution of the seed in Georgia, and who in his annual attendance of Congress.79
In 1794, Jefferson personally sowed the seeds of the dry rice on his farm.80 He cultivated dry rice for “two or three years at Monticello, and had good crops, as did neighbors, but not having conveniences for husking it. ”81 However he continued to sow it in 1810 at his farm.82
By 1808, Jefferson had found that dry rice grew perfectly in the upper hilly Georgia. The rice had spread over the country, and was now commonly cultivated.83 It had spread from Georgia to Kentucky, where it was cultivated by many individuals for family use.84 In 1813, he told James Ronaldson, “The upland rice which I procured fresh from Africa and sent them, has been preserved and spread in the upper parts of Georgia, and I believe in Kentucky.” 85
Jefferson’s efforts to transplant the dry rice demonstrate to us his determination to have it succeeded in the new nation, similar to how the other founding fathers, worked tirelessly to draw nourishments from Asian civilization. However, my examination of Jefferson’s efforts to introduce Asian dry rice to the United States had led to my finding of new reasons why the founding father worked hard to borrow from Asian cultures.
In addition to the common theme pointed out above, there was an important social agenda in Jefferson’s mind to uplift the life quality of slaves. He had stated that one of his intentions of obtaining dry rice was “for the purpose of improving the living conditions of the slaves and saving them from the ravages of disease that swept the Low Countries.”86
Jefferson’s long term effort was driven by his following thinking: if the wet rice was replaced by dry rice, “it would be a great happiness, as it would enable us to get rid of those ponds of stagnant water, so fatal to human health and life.”87 Jefferson’s thinking of transplanting the dry rice would better slaves working condition reveals his intention to use elements of Chinese culture to improve social life in North America.
Founding Inspiration from the Confucius’Classics
In the nineteenth century intellectuals in the United States often enjoyed creating personal scrapbooks, in which they would cut out their “favorite newspaper articles and poems” and past “them onto the backs of old letters to create a sort of personal literary anthology.”88 None of us will feel surprised to know that Thomas Jefferson, “an Enlightenment intellectual,” created a scrapbook in his own way.89 Some time from 1801-1809 Jefferson included in the section of his scrapbook titled Poems of the Nations 90 an ancient Chinese poem from The Book of Odes.91 His love of the poem provides us with a window through which we can look into his efforts to learn from Chinese culture. What he wanted to learn from the poem?
Below is Jefferson’s clipping of the poem:
A Very Ancient Chinese Ode
Translated by John Collegins seq
Quoted in the To Hio 92of Confuciues
(….from a manuscript presented in the Bodlein Library93 )
The following ode has been translated into Latin by Sir William Jones94, who informs us to his Treatise on the second classic book of the Chinese, that the Ode is taken from 1st Vol. of the Shi King.95 “It is a panegyrick (says he) on Vucan. Prince of Guey, in the Province of Honang, who died near a century old, 756 years before the birth of Christ. The Chinese poets might have been contemporary with Homer and Hesiod, or at least must have written the Ode before the Iliad and Odyssey were carried into Greece by Lycurgus.”
SEE! how the silvery river glides,
And leaves' the fields bespangled sides !
Hear how the whispering breeze proceeds!
Harmonious through the verdant reeds!
Observe our prince thus lovely shine!
In him the meek-ey'd virtues join!
Just as a patient carver will, Hard ivory model by his skill,
So his example has impress'd Benevolence in every b[re]ast;
Nice hands to the rich gems, behold,
Impart the gloss of burnish'd gold:
Thus he, in manners, goodly great,
Refines the people of his state. True lenity,
how heavenly fair !
We see it while it threatens,—spare!
What beauties in its open face!
In its deportment—what a grace!
Observe our prince thus lovely shine!
In him the meek-ey'd virtues join!
His mern'ry of eternal prime,
Like truth, defies the power of time!96
The poem pays tribute to Prince Wei from the State of Wei, who was loved, respected and remembered by the people of his state.97 Confucius (551-479 BC) highly praised Prince Wei, described in the poem, when he quoted this poem in his famous book, The Great Learning, to provide a standard to inspire other princes and leaders of various states to follow.98 Confucius said,
In the Book of Ode, ‘Ah! The former kings are not forgotten’ Future princes deem worthy what they deemed worthy, and love what they loved. The common people delighted in what they delighted them, and are benefited by their beneficial arrangements. It is on this account that the former kings, after they have quitted the world, are not forgotten.99
Through the examination of his attitudes toward Chinese literature, his behavior and the political milieu at the time he picked the poem, it is safe to say that his choice to place this poem in his scrapbook reflects Jefferson’s contemplation of his position in American history and demonstrates his purpose to follow Prince Wei to be a great leader who would be remembered positively by American people. Jefferson hoped that he would be recorded and praised, like Prince Wei, in the history of the United States. His selection of the poem also shows that he regarded Prince Wei as his good example. He wanted himself to be “in manners goodly great, Refine the people of the state.” Therefore, “His mem’ry of eternal prime, Like truth defies the power of time!”
The first section of his scrapbook, “Poems of Nation,” constitutes something of a commentary in verse on Jefferson’s presidency and his political philosophy.100 Jefferson used his scrapbook to dramatize the “victory” of his own position over those of his critics. Jefferson scholars will undoubtedly discover other such examples of literary-political ventriloquism in this collection.101 If the “Poems of Nation” reveal Jefferson as the political apologist, 102 “Jefferson viewed his legacy as intertwined with the success of the republican experiment. Believing that he had a political, moral, and personal stake in how the history of the America Revolution and its aftermath would be conveyed to future generations, Jefferson collected documents, books, newspapers, and other materials so that later historians could construct an appropriate version of the American revolutionary history.103
Most of the prominent leaders of the revolutionary generation recognized that they were making history, and took care to preserve their correspondence and edit their memoirs with an eye on posterity’s judgment.104 It is also believed that the founding fathers knew they were writing for posterity and so “they purposely down played their own achievements and, by extension, their own missteps.”105 Realizing that his papers well worth preserving, Washington had hired a secretary and copyists to make sure “his correspondence was boxed in sturdy trunks and shipped to safety during the Revolution.” He “even planned to build a small library at Mountain Vernon”106
In the election of 1800, Jefferson was elected to be the third president. Benjamin Franklin and George Washington (1732-1799) were now dead. John Adams (1735-1826) had moved far away from the political center of Washington D.C. and was spending his retired life in rural Massachusetts. The younger generation of the American Revolution, including Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804), Aaron Burr (1756-1836), John Marshall (1755-1835), James Madison (1751-1836), John Randolph (1772-1833), James Monroe (1758-1831) and Thomas Jefferson “moved into the last act of the American Revolution, the one that would disclose the character of the society brought into begin in 1776.” 107
That younger generation of the revolution had its own points of view on the positions of the founding fathers’ generation. When Federalists asked the House to praise Washington and his farewell address, Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) expressed his opposition. Other Republicans were willing to honor Washington for the Revolution and Constitutional Convention, but not for his Presidency. Raising glasses in Philadelphia, they cried, “George Washington—down to the year 1787. And no further!”108
At the time he left the office in 1809, Jefferson was already thinking about the fifth and final volume of John Marshall’s Life of George Washington, which was published in 1807.109 Volume five was the portion that dealt with Washington’s last decade, when two distinct political parties formed. Jefferson was worrying about the book. “How could he simply rely on posterity on—unnamed future biographers—to use his papers to his best advantage, and consign Federalism, like monarchism, to the dust heap?”110 Jefferson wanted Joel Barlow (1754-1812) to return to Washington D.C. and told him that he had “cut out a piece of work” for Barlow. Jefferson told Barlow “to write the history of the United States, from the close of the War downwards.” Jefferson told Barlow that he would “open all the public archives” for him. Jefferson asked him to stay in Washington DC because a great deal of knowledge was not available in paper form, only from “verbal communications.”111
Jefferson began to rebuild White House etiquette after he became the president of the United States. He separated himself away from the “rags of royalty,”112 and turned modesty—of person, place and ceremony—into an important feature of his administration. The Federalists idealized a president who was shielded by a remote dignitary. Hamilton had “advised Washington to be accessible only to department heads, foreign ministers, and U.S. senators.” 113 Jefferson banished protocol. With the White House doors thrown open, the capital residents “could commemorate the day with the author of the Declaration of Independence.114
The above examination reveals that Jefferson was very serious about preserving the legacy of the historical Jefferson. His inclusion of the ancient Chinese poem in his scrapbook shows that Jefferson regarded Prince Wei as his example to encourage himself to be a leader loved by the future American people. His love of the poem served clearly as the indicator of demonstrating that he would like the historical Jefferson to be another Prince Wei, as a great leader of the people, praised and remembered for all the posterity of the United States.
Jefferson’s use of elements from Chinese culture to fulfill his goal of creating a new culture for the developing United States has deepened our understanding of the process of the formation of the nation. Historian David McCullough has stated correctly that the founding fathers of the United States “can be freshly examined with new techniques and perspectives. Each generation, we peel back biases that blinded those before us.” 115 When Jefferson looked for cultural and moral elements that he could use to aid his efforts to create the new nation, he realized the value of Chinese culture to his efforts. For this purpose, he merged the Chinese architectural designs into the Italian style to create the unique Jeffersonian style. Furthermore, he used Asian plants such as dry rice to improve the working conditions of the slaves in the south. He also found inspiration from Confucian classics. Jefferson played an integral role in the early growth of the United States through his fusion of the Chinese culture into his own.