Click here to go on a walking tour of Jefferson's Paris
Jefferson went to Paris in 1784 two years after his wife died in childbirth. His friends feared that his depression would damage his health and urged him to go abroad. At the time, Benjamin Franklin was old and frail and desired to return to the United States. Franklin had represented the U.S. in Paris since 1796. There was much business to be done following the 1783 peace treaty negotiated with England, for example, dealing with repayment of French loans to the U.S. and dealing with attacks by North African pirates on American ships. Jefferson became immensely popular in France and, despite a dangerous love affair and bouts of ill health, including migraines, his scientific knowledge, mastery of foreign affairs and intellectual sophistication greatly benefited from his years in France.
Jefferson knew all the powerful people including King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, since he often needed to appear at ministers' offices at the Palace of Versailles. French fashion, French music and French theater became well known to Jefferson. He also learned a great deal about French wines from the Loire region and he especially enjoyed the wines of Bordeaux. Soon after they arrived in Paris, Jefferson placed his daughter Martha (the same name as her mother), known as Patsy, in the most exclusive school for young girls, the Abbaye de Panthemont, which one can still visit. She was fourteen years old when she arrived, learned French quickly and associated with young French princesses, English girls and French girls at her school. This site offers descriptions of what Thomas Jefferson saw and experienced in Paris in the eighteenth century, emphasizing especially how visitors to Paris can follow in Jefferson's footsteps and look at many of the same buildings and landscapes that our third president saw in eighteenth century Paris.
For a Timeline of Jefferson's Stay in Paris click this picture of one of Jefferson's letters to Maria Cosway. She was a married English painter and musician with whom he became infatuated in 1786.
Click on this image to go to the Jefferson's Daughter page.
Click on this image to look at Paris through Jefferson's eyes.
Click on this image to go to an interactive map of Jefferson's Paris
Click this image to go to the Fashion Page
Click this picture to go to the 18th century music page.
Click the picture to go to the Carnavalet Museum page