Principle and Interest: Thomas Jefferson and the Problem of Debt

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In this work, Herbert E. Sloan examines Thomas Jefferson's complex and obsessive relationship with debt - its role in his life and political career, and in the formation of republican ideology. As party leader in the 1790s, and later as president of the United States, Jefferson led a crusade against public debt, which he felt robbed the people of a future rightly theirs. Yet as a private person he was plagued by debt, never free of it throughout his life. In this respect, Sloan argues, Jefferson was representative of his social class - most of the Virginia gentry had similar problems with debt, and similar feelings about it. Taking as the central exposition of Jefferson's political vision his famous letter to James Madison on the rights of the living generation, Sloan explores in detail the events of 1789-90, when Jefferson acceded to Hamilton's plans for the national debt. The consequences of this decision would haunt Jefferson until the day he died. Principle and Interest provides a unique perspective on a range of topics -revolutionary ideology, political economy, the mechanics of party organization - central to an understanding of the period.