Volume IV, Number 1, Spring 2008

"'Amazons,' 'Angels,' Blacks, and Savages: National Others in Thomas Jefferson’s Thought" by Zoltán Vajda

Zoltán Vajda is Associate Professor at the Department of American Studies, University of Szeged, Hungary. E-mail:


It would be hard to deny Thomas Jefferson’s status as an important reference point in early American history or to question his significance in the making of American national identity. Apparently, he proved instrumental in formulating the principles that became the basis of the American nation-state. General interest in that role has been present in the literature but with the exception of Peter S. Onuf’s work, no systematic analysis of his conception of US national identity has been offered.

In his study, Onuf has explored the ways in which the “language of American nationhood” informed Jefferson’s understanding of political, ethnic or racial differences among various groups of human beings in the early republic. According to Onuf, Jefferson’s definition of the nation was fundamentally sentimental in the sense that it was structured by the notion of sentimental bonds of affection connecting members of the national community, while excluding those being outside the sphere of affection, including blacks, Native Americans or even white political adversaries such as the Federalists. This is what makes Onuf label Jefferson a “sentimental nationalist” (Onuf 14).

In this respect, one can argue, Jefferson’s nationalism was akin to the contemporary European model, born at the time of the French revolution, emphasizing kinship ties and sympathy among members of a nation, necessary for the formation and sustenance of a nation-state (Kedourie 52). In general, this emphasis on familial bonds of affection has, indeed, been an important component of the modern conception of the nation: national unity is supposedly based on the assumption that members of the nation are linked together as brothers and sisters “as one great family,” as it were (Smith 1991, 79; see also 76, 78, 162). Also, like in the case of Jefferson, such a conception of nationhood presumed a high degree of “cultural homogeneity” to the effect of creating conditions for the enduring co-existence of the members of the nation (Gellner 141).

Yet, bonds of affection can only be regarded as one aspect of national identity, and an understanding of Jefferson’s conception of nationhood based on them fails to do justice to other factors that also shaped his identifying those inside or outside of the American nation. The shifting boundaries of sentimental nationality, based on the changing scope of affection were not the sole markers in Jefferson’s system of American nationhood; there were other boundaries as well, shifting or stable, not necessarily depending on affection that determined the way in which certain communities could or could not be part of national identity as posited by him.

The problem of exclusion in Jefferson’s case, at the same time, is also related to the broader problem of equality, which formed an integral part of the modern concept of national identity. Nationalism, the movement aimed at constructing modern nations, involved the desire to abolish hierarchies and privileges associated with feudal power practices. It presupposed the nation as a kind of community whose members were equal in the political as well as in the legal senses of the word, enjoying equality in terms of rights and duties (Smith 1991, 1, 10, 68). As will be seen, Jefferson did not share this democratic conception of the nation if we regard the components of his understanding of American nationhood other than those related to familial affection. Various human groups enjoyed different degrees of share in his national community. The aim of this essay is to explore the scope of that nationhood, assessing the extent to which certain groups such as white middle-class women, Native Americans, and blacks could and/or could not be equal members of Jefferson’s American nation. In order to achieve that I first discuss considerations about national identity in general, then narrow the focus down on Jefferson’s general conception of American nationhood before turning to his particular visions of the place of women, Native Americans, and blacks in that community.

National Identity

In order to explore Jefferson’s conception of American nationhood as a multifaceted intellectual entity, it is indispensable to do so within the broader conceptual framework of national identity. Relating his ideas concerning the United States as a nation to more general considerations of the nation as a general concept facilitates a better understanding both of the different aspects of his vision as well as their significance from the perspective of national identity.

Approaches to the problem of nation and nationalism are without number.1 Of the ones that examine it from a historical perspective, the most comprehensible belongs to Anthony D. Smith, who has attempted to combine two basic perspectives of the nation that he labels “Western” and “non-Western.” The former understands the nation as a political community with a clearly circumscribed territory that the members of the nation feel attached to. This conception also underlines the equality of those belonging to one national community in a legal and political sense as well as the political values that they share. Furthermore, according to this model, the ties between the individual and the national community are voluntary, a matter of choice (Smith 1991, 11).2 By contrast, the non-Western conception of the nation assumes that its members belong to it through assertion of common birth and genealogy. This notion holds, then, that it is not so much a commonly held territory the boundaries of which hold the nation together but rather its presumed common ancestral roots. In this way, the nation appears as a family to its “members,” who “are brothers and sisters, or at least cousins, differentiated by family ties from outsiders,” maintains Smith (Smith 1991, 11-12; see also 76).

Smith’s distinction between these two conceptions of the nation, by and large, corresponds to the “civic-territorial” and “ethnocultural” dichotomy, which he identifies in the case of modern nations. While the former advocates the political attributes of the national community, the latter captures it through its cultural features (Smith 2000, 18, and Smith 1991, 13). Expanding on these two dimensions of nationhood, Smith proposes a definition that combines elements taken from both. Thus, he holds that national identity encompasses “an historic territory, or homeland,” “common myths and historical memories,” which relate to shared descent, “a common, mass public culture,” disseminated through education and the media, “common legal rights and duties for all members,” and finally, “a common economy with territorial mobility for members.” Smith emphasizes that this definition of the nation suggests an ideal type that has individual varieties containing its elements to varying degrees (Quotations in Smith 1991, 14; see also Smith 2000, 3, and Smith 1991, 43). As will be seen, Jefferson’s conception of American nationhood also contained elements taken from both dimensions and served as a basis of distinction among various human groupings in their relation to it.

Jefferson’s American National Identity

In the ethnocultural sense, Jefferson regarded all white Americans as sharing one common ethnic ancestry that he identified with the English and, ultimately, with the medieval Saxons. As he explains in his “A Summary View of the Rights of British America,” the English and American people had common “Saxon ancestors,” who, parting company with the Germans, settled down in the “North of Europe.” Such an ethnic connection enables him to argue, on the basis of common descent with the English, that Americans had their own share of Englishmen’s rights derived from Anglo-Saxon times (Jefferson 1975, 4-5; quotations on 4). This ethnically homogeneous people involved men and women alike, and posited Americans as a nation in an ethnocultural sense.3

Importantly, then, as Eric Kaufmann points out, in his use of the Saxon myth, Jefferson establishes a link between Americans and Anglo-Saxons both in an “ideological” and a “genealogical” sense (Kaufman 449). In other words, one should add, by way of his identifying political institutions shared by both groups, Jefferson regards the connection as one that expresses national identity both in the civic and the ethnocultural senses of nationhood. With independence, as scholarship has shown, the emphasis on Englishmen’s rights shifted to natural rights theory (see Appleby, and McDonald), yet, Jefferson never renounced this link with the Anglo-Saxonism-based English connection.

Jefferson was also a major proponent of the freeholding yeoman ideal, an important component of the early, ethnocultural dimension of American nationhood. According to this ideal, landed property assumed a vital role because of its capacity of allowing the producer to have independent subsistence. It also generated his preference for an agricultural “empire of liberty”4 facilitating the employment of population surplus, delaying the shift to a commercial stage of social development that Jefferson associated with western Europe. Instead of developing manufactures, the European way of dealing with the surplus population (in addition to war), by making available a sufficient amount of land for an ever increasing American population, he hoped to preserve the basis of a republican order based on virtue. This is the reason that in his Notes of the State of Virginia (1785), he referred to American yeoman farmers as “the chosen people of God,” the antithesis of the “mobs of great cities” that is, wage laborers, lacking the independence necessary for virtuous citizenship (Jefferson 1975, 217).5

When promoting the agrarian way of life, Jefferson did so within an underlying framework of progress resting on a general theory of human social development originating from mid-eighteenth-century French and Scottish philosophy. According to this theory, human societies are bound to undergo four successive stages of development, each based on one particular form of food production: the first, hunter stage, followed by the pastoral, which, in turn, precedes the agricultural, and the whole process is completed by the commercial stage of development (Meek 35-66, 117; see also Nisbet 155-56).6 The movement from one stage to the next was seen as a rise to a higher level of development and thus assumed legitimacy.

Jefferson understood the historical transformation of the United States as one fitting this pattern, with the westward “march of civilization” affecting American society, ultimately raising each segment from the state of “barbarism” to the level of the commercial centers of the East (TJ to William Ludlow, September 6, 1824, Jefferson 1975, 583).

Persistent and influential as it was, Jefferson’s vision of the USA as an agrarian republic underwent a significant change as a result of the War of 1812, which made him reconsider the problem of republican independence. The war had shown to him that in the lack of manufactures, the nation was dependent economically and politically on other nations. Isolating it from foreign supplies, the military confrontation compelled the USA to develop home industry. Hence, Jefferson realized, only a balanced economic policy was able to promote national self-sufficiency and ensure survival for the republic (See TJ to Benjamin Austin, January 9, 1816, Jefferson 1975, 549).7 Jefferson, then, extended the requirement of economic independence of the agricultural producer to the national economy, making it a prerequisite to national independence.

These considerations of political economy were fundamental to other components of Jefferson’s conception of the American nation. One of these was a common political culture based on the values of “equality, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as he articulated in the Declaration of Independence and reaffirmed for the public in his First Inaugural Address (Jefferson 1975, 292-94). The political and legal equality of the members of Jefferson’s American nation created conditions necessary for republican self-government, a political system where Americans, unlike people living under European monarchical rule, could govern themselves. They did so within the framework of a federal system of government which also ensured the equality of states by assigning appropriate spheres of authority for them and the federal government respectively (TJ to Elbridge Gerry, January 26, 1799, Jefferson 1975, 478) The territorial boundaries of this federal national political space, however, were not stable as Jefferson demonstrated through his acquisition of Louisiana Territory in 1803. In addition to the desire to enhance his “empire of liberty”, the purchase was to serve the preservation of republican political order by providing the population surplus with land for subsistence, thereby avoiding social tensions generated by overpopulation (McCoy 190-203).

As part of his effort to sustain such a republican political culture, Jefferson emphasized the role of education in raising devoted citizens for the republic. Its function was to hand over the tradition of natural rights together with the love of liberty to future generations of Americans. This was to be achieved by enhancing the knowledge of the young enabling them to govern themselves once having come of age. Moral education was of primary importance in his scheme, since it contributed to the development of the moral faculty of the individual necessary to make decisions furthering his/her own happiness as well as that of the nation (Wagoner 118, 121-22, 125).

For Jefferson, then, American national identity was, in part, determined by the position that the nation occupied in the process of social and economic development. With its love of liberty, derived from its ancient Saxon forefathers as well as its economic independence it exhibited major elements derived both from the civic-territorial and the ethnocultural dimensions of American national identity. Yet, awareness of these also directs attention to questions about the scope of American nationhood as understood by Jefferson, particularly concerning the degree of its inclusiveness. In this regard, as will be seen in the following, distinctions can be observed with regard to the degree of acknowledgement that different human groups received in relation to the American nation in Jefferson’s thought.

Native Americans

One group of people sharing a territory with white Americans but excluded from the nation both as far as its civic-territorial and ethnocultural dimensions are concerned were Native Americans. Descending from ancestors that Jefferson located in Asia (Jefferson 1975, 142), in his eyes, they were obviously different from whites, yet, through assimilation such a difference could be eliminated. In his vision, they were to cease to exist as a nation in the ethnocultural sense in order to become part of the American nation in the civic-territorial one. Jefferson did not regard Native Americans as a nation in the civic-political sense, so that aspect of nationhood gained no significance in his vision of their assimilation.

In a very real sense, Jefferson conceived of Native Americans as a unanimous race, radically different from whites in several ways, ranging from physical traits through mores and habits to social organization. Yet, he believed these not to be intrinsic to the race, but the product of external circumstances and thus susceptible to change. Hence the difference that his Indians exhibited vis-à-vis whites could be eliminated, and they could become part of the nation of the United States.

Jefferson argues that the weaker physical stature and other physiological features of Native American males are the result of insufficient nourishment and “physical exercise” but hence can also be improved (Jefferson 1975, 95, 97). More important are, for him, the distinctive marks of Native Americans’ society that distinguish them from that of whites and are derived from their place in civilization. Jefferson understands Indians to exist at a lower, “barbarian” stage of development characterized by such negative features as men subordinating their women, forcing them into manual labor (96). Their rudimentary level of social organization is also reflected in the fact, Jefferson argues, that these “savage Americans” lack a system of laws or government as well as an intricate social structure, instead having small, contiguous societies (134). In other words, they do not meet the requirement of a modern civic-territorial nation with a clearly circumscribed territory, state power or legal system.

This absence of the civic-territorial dimension of nationhood in the case of Native Americans, at the same time, facilitates their integration into the American nation for Jefferson, but only at a price of their undergoing a cultural transformation, basically affecting their status as a people at their current stage of social development. Jefferson, then, imagines them as a people capable of moving to the agricultural stage, once having settled and adopted a sedentary way of life. He believed that agricultural activity plus “household manufacture” were to serve their survival, also enabling them to improve their character.8 As he declared in his Second Inaugural Address, it was the responsibility of the American government “to prepare them [i.e. Native Americans] in time for that state of society, which to bodily comforts adds the improvement of the mind and morals.” (Jefferson 1975, 318; see also TJ to Handsome Lake, November 3, 1802, Jefferson 1975, 307).

Jefferson hoped to achieve that shift among native Americans by “civilizing” them from governmental resources. He found it the responsibility and interest of the state to provide them with all the necessary means enabling them to make their shift to agriculture, at the same time, compelling them to cede or sell part of their lands to whites (Wallace 277-87).

Jefferson had faith in this desired transformation of Native Americans since he thought them “[e]ndowed with the faculties and the rights of men, breathing an ardent love of liberty and independence” (Jefferson 1975, 318). And as such, they were capable of republican self-government. Native Americans, then, to Jefferson’s mind, possessed all the traits that enabled them to become members of the American nation in a civic-political sense. Yet, Jefferson went further that that: by encouraging them to adopt white ways, he also encouraged cultural adaptation, which, for him, implied preparation for their integration into the American nation also in the ethnocultural sense. As he wrote Benjamin Hawkins, one of his Indian agents, “in truth, the ultimate point of rest & happiness for them [i.e. Native Americans] is to let our settlements and theirs meet and blend together, to intermix, and become one people” (TJ to Benjamin Hawkins, February 18, 1803, Jefferson 1903-4. 8:214).9

This transformation desired by Jefferson was rejected by a sizeable part of the Native American population that found the idea of private property, an important part of adopting white ways, as well as the reversal of sex roles problematic, to say the least (cf. Wallace 298-99).

Jefferson, then, expected his Indians to join the US nation and become suitable for that by cultural transformation, the endresult of which was their ethnic (and cultural) annihilation. Native American men were to set out by changing their way of subsistence from hunting to farming, raising themselves to an appropriate level of civilization, which included changing sex roles involving the treatment of their women as white men would treat their own. This was the key to their admission to the American nation in the ethnocultural way.

White Women and the American Nation

Another group of human beings inviting scholarly attention in Jefferson’s system of nationhood were white women, whom he identified as middle-class, thereby collapsing differences within the category of white womanhood in the USA. Although they belonged to the American nation in an ethnocultural sense, Jefferson refused entirely to regard them as part of it once we consider its civic-territorial dimension. Lacking the right to vote and other political as well as civil rights such as the right to property in marriage in Jefferson’s time, white women were excluded from the political community of adult white males, confined to the home, under the patriarchal supervision of their husbands or fathers.10

Jefferson rarely discussed American women as a distinct social group, and when he did so, he tended to locate their place within the nation in relation to women different in terms of race or nationality. Furthermore, he performed his comparison within a framework set by parameters rooted in a developmental conception of economics, politics, and education. One such group that he contrasts white women to Native American women, who, according to him, enjoy equal status to men treat them without attempting to oppress them. As seen above, this, Jefferson argues, is in sharp contrast with the position of Indian women, whom their spouses treat with a heavy hand, enforcing them to perform agricultural labor for the latter. Yet, as he points out, that is not the way that corresponds to a proper (i.e. western) level of civilization and social development: “[T]his is a barbarous perversion of the natural destination of the two sexes,” he claims, as “women are formed by nature for attention, not for hard labor” (“Memorandum …” March 3, 1788, Jefferson 1984, 652). By saying this, Jefferson clearly designates a place for women in the division of labor, defined by the one that he identifies with the US level of civilization.

Jefferson is prepared to identify the same, low level of civilization as far as the treatment of women is concerned outside Indian communities, more precisely, in Western Europe and also finds women maltreated in France and Germany: “they do all sorts of work,” that is, they perform tasks both inside and outside the home, which Jefferson finds characteristic of a lower level of social development (651). In contrast to such female laborers, women in America are happy within the confines of the home: “They have the good sense to value domestic happiness above all other, and the art to cultivate it beyond all others” (TJ to Anne Willing Bingham, May 11, 1788, Jefferson 1984, 922-23). Furthermore, American women, Jefferson contends, have no ambition to cross the border between domesticity and politics—an aspiration that very much characterizes women in France (TJ to George Washington, December 4, 1788, Jefferson 1984, 932-33).

In Jefferson’s thought, the lack of political role for women, their being attached to the domestic sphere, also has implications for their place in national culture through education. The primary goal of female education, he argues, is the instruction of would-be mothers enabling them to educate their sons and their daughters. More particularly, he expects girls to acquire skills and knowledge necessary for domestic amusements (“dancing,” “drawing,” “music”), and labor. As for the latter, Jefferson reasserts his belief in a proper division of labor between the sexes—girls are taught to become suitable for performing household chores: “The order and economy of a house are as honorable to the mistress as those of the farm to the master, and if either be neglected, ruin follows, and children destitute of the means of living” (TJ to Nathaniel Burwell, March 14, 1818, Jefferson 1984, 1412-13; quotation on 1413).

One aspect of Jefferson’s ideas about the education of citizens for the American nation was the raising of ideal leaders for the republic who are responsible for their community. Women, however, would not count as potential leaders in Jefferson’s system of education. Thus, although, in Jennings L. Wagoner’s view, Jeffersonian education was to prepare both boys and girls “for the pursuit of happiness in the broadest sense” (Wagoner 126-27; quotation on 125), because of the separation of their spheres of education it also conditioned them for different ways of pursuing happiness, as well as of different degrees of belonging to the nation.

By accepting the prevailing cultural norm of relegating Euro-American women to the domestic sphere, Jefferson endorsed their exclusion from politics, work and the cultural sphere of men as far as education and domestic pleasures were concerned. Raising sons for the republic as mothers was the only way for American women to simulate entrance into the sphere of politics.11 In line with the norms of his age, while granting adult white males the franchise12, as for his position on the political status of women in America, Jefferson hoped they would never become the “Amazons” of France—even with French women’s limited, informal way of participating in politics and remain “Angels” of the hearth, ready “to soothe & calm the minds of their husbands returning ruffled from political debate” (TJ to Anne Willing Bingham, May 11, 1788, Jefferson 1984, 923).

Jefferson’s understanding of the links between economics, politics, education and the female sphere of domesticity reveals his refusal to consider white American women full and equal members of the nation either in the ethnocultural or civic-territorial sense. Peculiarly enough, it was through his regarding their status as being superior to that of their “savage” Native American and “agricultural” European counterparts that he legitimized their partial exclusion from the nation. While partaking of a common myth of descent, also sharing a territory with their male peers, Jefferson denied them access to civic culture and the political sphere in general as well as a common economic one: American white middle-class women had no chance of becoming yeoman farmers since it was against the thrust of civilization for them to fall back into the state of Indian women performing manual labor and to become both enfranchised citizens and producers outside the domestic sphere. They could be equal members of a nation in the enjoyment of affectionate ties and “attention,” but not with regard to other important components related to politics, education, or economics.

Blacks and American Nationhood

Scholars have taken notice of Jefferson’s troubled relationship with blacks in the United States and their status as slaves. His unequivocal assertion of the natural rights of humans and persistent denunciation of arbitrary rule created tensions when it came to his justification of black chattel slavery – tensions that he worked hard to resolve.13 Nonetheless, ambiguities also emerge when one considers Jefferson’s attitude to blacks in relation to the problem of American nationhood.

Unlike whites in general or Native Americans once integrated into the American nation, black people in bondage occupied a place outside of the American nation in Jefferson’s vision. As Onuf has argued, Jefferson considered black people in the United States a separate nation and as such deemed their emancipation impossible without their removal or demolishing their status as a nation through their dispersal (Onuf 161, 186-87). Nonetheless, despite their existence as a nation in Jefferson’s eyes, like Native Americans, blacks obviously lacked civic-territorial features, only possessing ethnocultural ones. Although sharing territorial boundaries with whites, while in slavery, lacking equal rights with the former, they had no way of making it as members of the civic US nation. Furthermore, in his plans about their emancipation, Jefferson argued for their removal from American territory, preventing them from existing within the US boundaries of nationhood.

When considering the position of black people in the United States, most frequently, Jefferson discussed their situation within the context of black chattel slavery. Obviously, those held in bondage could not count as members of the American nation in any sense: deprived of all the rights that Jefferson found inalienable for white men, they lived under the despotic rule of their masters—as he himself was ready to admit (Jefferson 1975, 214).

As has been seen, Jefferson attributed the differences that he perceived between Native Americans and whites to external circumstances. Not so in the case of blacks, whom he considered intrinsically different from whites and inferior in several respects. While regarding black people as the equals of whites in terms of the moral sense and memory, Jefferson considered them inferior with respect to reason, imagination, and physical features (Jefferson 1975, 186-91). Jefferson identified these differences as serious obstacles to the peaceful co-existence of whites and blacks after emancipation. He, at the same time, also found the experience of slavery to be detrimental to race relations. Admitting that slavery as an institution of oppression contributed to the degraded conditions of black people in bondage, he saw its effect as one producing animosity in blacks toward whites because of all the suffering that they had been exposed to under slavery (see TJ to Edward Coles, August 25, 1814, Jefferson 1975, 544, and 214).

Jefferson held that these differences, coupled with the concomitant hostilities between the two races worked against their cohabitation after the emancipation of blacks but also against their intermarriage. As he argued, in order to avoid the emancipated black slave “staining the blood of his master … he is to be removed beyond the reach of mixture” (Jefferson 1975, 193). To his mind, the “amalgamation” would result in the downgrading of whites by an inferior race of blacks (TJ to Edward Coles, August 25, 1814, Jefferson 1975, 546).

In Jefferson’s thought, then, ethnocultural differences of blacks prevented their integration into the white American nation. In addition to ethnic (that is racial) differences, historical memories, the experience of slavery divided rather than linked the black and white races. Furthermore, as seen above, while Native Americans as a nation were to undergo an ethnocultural transformation in order to join the nation of the USA, blacks did not face this requirement. Small wonder, then, that Jefferson, who was convinced that once emancipated, blacks would start a race war against their former masters, advocated their expatriation from the country (Jefferson 1975, 186; TJ to Edward Coles, August 25, 1814, Jefferson 1975, 545).


Jefferson’s conception of the American nation rested on both the ethnocultural and civic-territorial principles, which, therefore, provided the basis of a framework for a varied ideological strategy of integration and exclusion. In his vision, white women formed part of the ethnocultural American nation but only in a restricted sense, through blood ties, and were clearly excluded from the political-territorial one. Different from them, Jefferson regarded Native Americans as a people that were excluded from the American nation by nature but had the chance to become part of it both in the ethnocultural and civic-territorial senses. Yet, that was to take place only after their undergoing a transformation that was radically to affect their cultural traits, leading to their integration into the nation of white Americans first culturally, then ethnically. Finally, Jefferson also excluded blacks, either slave or free, from US national identity, giving no chance for them to become part of it in any sense: for them, political integration was impossible in Jefferson’s eyes, and so was an ethnic one. Although he found young generations of emancipated slaves capable of developing skills necessary for independent existence, that was not to happen within the civic-territorial nation constituted by adult white male Americans. Unlike in the case of Native Americans, he rejected the possibility of their integration into the American nation in an ethnocultural sense. His belief in the lasting impact of disaffection on black and white race relations as well as his fear of intermarriage between blacks and whites leading to the alleged racial degradation of the latter prevented his formulation of such a desire.

Anthony Smith has claimed that the USA as a civic-territorial nation is characterized by the co-existence of diverse ethnic groups (Smith 1991, 149-50). Jefferson’s vision, nonetheless, countered such a conception since it violated the civic-territorial dimension of the national principle, which allowed for the co-existence of human groups with different identity markers. Firstly, it was based on a desire to achieve ethnic homogeneity within the nation: white women and assimilated Native Americans fulfilled such a requirement but not blacks. Secondly, he expected Native Americans, once assimilated, to conform to the model of gendered division of white social roles, and hence they were to be expected by the unequal relationship that white adult males and females had in relation to the core of US national identity. He regarded members of these groups as temporarily, or permanently excluded from the American nation in certain ways. Even white women, the least unprivileged group in Jefferson’s vision, whom he believed part of his sentimental American nation on account of their enjoying the affectionate “attention” of their husbands, were denied the chance of becoming equal members of his national community in other respects.

Awareness of Jefferson’s conception of the American nation as having both a civic-territorial and an ethnocultural dimension, therefore, facilitates a better understanding of the ways that he distinguished among various human groups with regard to US national identity. Employing such a perspective also enables one to see that Jefferson found no group other than white adult males capable of meeting requirements for full membership of the American nation, also making distinctions regarding their chances of making it. In this way, he implied a division of the US population into two groups: white adult males, on the one hand, having an equal share of both dimensions of nationhood; and the national others that he relegated to a position which assured only limited (women) or no access (black) to nationhood regarding their civic and cultural domains or advocated their integration at the expense of ethnocultural annihilation (Native Americans).


1 For a survey of these see Smith 2000.

2 Scholars emphasizing the imagined, constructed nature of modern (western) nations can be linked to this perspective. See, for instance, Gellner, and Anderson.

3 On the place of Jefferson’s ideas within the broader context of the “Saxon myth” see Peterson 57-59.

4 The expression was introduced by Boyd.

5 On the significance of landed property in relation to republican political theory and in the American cultural context see Pocock 1989, 96-101, and Pocock 1975, 532.

6 For how much Jefferson’s views about agrarian development were rooted in the four-stage theory development of Scottish enlightenment explaining the shift from agriculture to the commercial stage see Drew McCoy 13-19.

7 On Jefferson’s understanding of national economic independence in a broader intellectual context, see Onuf and Onuf 239-46.

8 TJ to Benjamin Hawkins, February 18, 1803, Jefferson 1903-4, 10:362; see also TJ to Andrew Jackson, February 16, 1803, Jefferson 1903-4, 10:357 and TJ to William H. Harrison, February 27, 1803, Jefferson 1903-4, 10:369.

9 According to Bernard Sheehan, Jefferson’s plan amounted to a desire for “biological amalgamation” of Native Americans and whites. See Sheehan 174.

10 Kerber 137-84; Wiebe 266-67; On the ideological justification of this subordinated position see Welter.

11 On this function of “Republican Motherhood” as an ideal see Kerber 229, 283-84.

12 Jefferson was explicit on this in his “Report of a Plan of Government for the Western Territory,” in Jefferson 1975, 255.

13 On such Jeffersonian dilemmas see for instance, Miller 2; Diggins, and Boulton.

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