Wednesday, December 5, 2012

287. Why James Madison Asked Thomas Jefferson to Buy Book on China?

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. 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.” Jefferson recommended two Chinese classical books.

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