Happy Birthday, Thomas Jefferson!

Thomas Jefferson by Charles Bird King, 1836, after Gilbert Stuart, at the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Photo 2016 by Amy Cools

As I rest after completing my term papers, exploring the highlands and islands of Scotland with my dear friends, I find I have little time to write and even less time with good internet connection. So let me share some old things with you, friends, until I can write and record for O.P. again.

In remembrance of Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) on his birthday, here are my tributes to his memory, his life, and his ideas from over the years:

To Washington DC, Virginia, and Philadelphia I Go, In Search of Thomas Jefferson

To Paris, France I Go, In Search of Revolution-Era Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Jefferson

and my thrilling interview with Clay Jenkinson, Jefferson scholar, of just over two years ago

Interview with Clay Jenkinson as Thomas Jefferson

I hope you enjoy following me as I followed in the footsteps of Jefferson!

~ Ordinary Philosophy is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Any support you can offer will be deeply appreciated!

Happy Birthday, Thomas Jefferson!

Thomas Jefferson by Charles Bird King, 1836, after Gilbert Stuart, at the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Photo 2016 by Amy Cools

In remembrance of Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) on his birthday, I’ll share my tributes to his memory, his life, and his ideas: my traveling philosophy / history of ideas series

To Washington DC, Virginia, and Philadelphia I Go, In Search of Thomas Jefferson

and

To Paris, France I Go, In Search of Revolution-Era Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Jefferson

and my thrilling interview with Clay Jenkinson, Jefferson scholar, last year

Interview with Clay Jenkinson as Thomas Jefferson

I hope you enjoy following me as I follow in the footsteps of Jefferson!

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

Photobook: Tomb of Beaumarchais, Père Lachaise, Paris, France

Tomb of Beaumarchais at Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France, 2015 by Amy Cools

Tomb of Beaumarchais at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France

Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, Jan. 24, 1732 -May 18, 1799, Paris, was a fascinating and brilliant man. He’s best remembered today as the author of the irreverent comedies Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro, which were rendered into operas by Rossini and Mozart, respectively. He also published the first complete collection of works by Voltaire, the great Enlightenment writer and philosopher.

To learn more about Beaumarchais and his revolutionary life and ideas, see his entry in Encyclopædia Britannica, in TheatreHistory.com, and in Wikipedia.

I took this photograph while in Paris in August 2015 following the life and ideas of Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Paine at the time of the French Revolution; to read more about these great thinkers, click here.

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, entirely supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

Seventh Day in Paris Following Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Jefferson

Former site of the Hotel d'Orleans at 17 rue Bonaparte, Paris

Front door of 17 rue Bonaparte, Paris, at or near the former site of the Hotel d’Orleans

Friday, August 21st, 2015

Today’s tale will be a shorter one, though the places I do make it to are wonderful and full of interest. It’s my last full day in Paris and I’m accompanied by my tired husband, so we take it easy. We visit Serge Gainsbourg’s house in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, enjoy some celebratory Paris-Brest pastries  from La Pâtisserie des Rêves on rue du Bac (considered by many to be the very best), take a boat ride on the Seine (a lovely way to see the city!), and otherwise just stroll around at a very leisurely pace, stopping here and there for a coffee or a cold drink.

On our way to the pastry shop, we swing by 17 rue Bonaparte, where, sometime in early to mid-August of 1784, Thomas Jefferson and his daughter Patsy moved from the smaller Hôtel d’Orleans on rue de Richelieu to more comfortable lodgings at this larger hotel, also named d’Orleans. This street was named the rue des Petits-Augustins in Jefferson’s time, and this time around, I have the address. The Hôtel would be Jefferson and Patsy’s home until he found the one that was supposed to be their permanent home in Paris on cul-de-sac Taitbout that October, and until he settled on a good school for Patsy. However, as we have seen, Jefferson ended up living the longest on Champs-Élysées.

Rown of shops and hotels including 17 rue Bonaparte, at or near Hotel d'Orleans site, Paris

Row of shops and hotels including 17 rue Bonaparte at or near the Hotel d’Orleans site where Thomas Jefferson lived for a short time in the fall of 1784

 Cour du Commerce Saint André behind Cafe Procope, Paris,

Cour du Commerce Saint André behind Café Procope, Paris

Next, we head east on Boulevard Saint-Germain, passing the beautiful medieval Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés. One of its chapels is the oldest surviving religious building in Paris, originally built in the 11th century, and I admire its spartan beauty.

We’re heading for Café Procope, which Jefferson frequented during his years in Paris in the company of Benjamin Franklin. Their time in Paris overlapped for a little less than a year, as Franklin left Paris in June of 1785, and Jefferson, as I have mentioned, arrived on August 6th, 1784. Franklin had already been a regular at Café Procope for many years, since 1776. The Café is located at 13 rue de l’Ancienne Comedie in the 6th Arrondissement, just off Bd. St-Germaine at Odéon, though we first spot it from the charming little pedestrian street that runs behind it named Cour du Commerce Saint André.

Cafe Procope and its flags, Paris

Cafe Procope and its flags

Marble plaques at Café Procope, 13 rue de l’Ancienne Comedie, Saint-Germain-des-Prés

Café Procope is a large, cheery restaurant, whose front is bedecked with flowerpots and flags from around the world. It’s considered the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Paris, and started as a literary cafe centered around conversation and coffee. Many of Paris’s best minds and most influential movers and shakers were guests here over the centuries: Jefferson, Franklin, Jean de La Fontaine, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, Napoleon Bonaparte, Honoré de Balzac, Victor Hugo, Anatole France, and perhaps Thomas Paine too, though I haven’t been able to verify the latter. After all, Paine was a great friend of Franklin’s, a sort of protege of whom Franklin took the trouble to introduce to his friends both in Paris and in the United States.

Central stairway in Cafe Procope

Central stairway at Café Procope

We approach the hostess and ask if they have a bar; we want to spend some time here and take in the atmosphere, but we have our picnic lunch with us already. It turns out it’s only a sit-down restaurant, no bar or coffee service. We pause and look around a bit, and a tall man with salt and pepper hair, in response to my inquiring expression, welcomes us very warmly and gives me permission take pictures. We have a little chat, and I tell him of my project, and though he appears pleased to hear it it’s clear I’m not the first visitor interested in the history of the place. He also invites us to go to the upstairs suite of dining rooms and explore those rooms as well, since they’re doing a little painting and it’s closed to diners at the moment. It appears that he manages the restaurant according to the wise principle that all press is good press, and the more people share stories and pictures of the place, the better for all.

Two interior views of upstairs dining rooms in Café Procope, Paris

Two interior views of upstairs dining rooms in Café Procope, Paris

Facsimiles of letters of famous diners over the centuries at Cafe Procope

thomas-jefferson-plaque-and-upstairs-dining-nook-at-cafe-procope-paris-2015-amy-cools

Thomas Jefferson plaque and upstairs dining nook at Café Procope

Painting of a hot air balloon ride at Café Procope, Paris

Painting of a hot air balloon ride at Café Procope, Paris

The restaurant has numerous dining rooms, upstairs and down, and has a sweet little back terrace dining area facing the passage we first spotted the restaurant from. They’re decorated in shades of gold and red, which coupled with the large and numerous windows, lend the rooms a warm and cheerful feeling. The walls are covered with portraits, plaques, facsimiles of personal correspondence, and many more artifacts pertaining to the great people who have sipped coffee, dined, and talked here over the centuries.

There’s a plaque dedicated to Jefferson on the wall of one dining room south of the central stairway, and a scene of a hot air balloon taking off with an adventurous couple in the basket in the hall. Jefferson was fascinated with this technology, the first by which people could travel by air, and Jefferson witnessed this marvel for himself in Paris for the first time, in the Tuileries Gardens. This place is a treasure trove for a person following history as I am, and next time I’m in Paris, this will certainly be the first on my list of restaurants to splurge on dinner.

Parc Montsouris, Paris, France

Statue of Thomas Paine by Gutzon Borglum at Parc Montsouris, Paris

Two views of the pedestal of the statue of Thomas Paine by Gutzon Borglum, 1938, at Parc Montsouris in Paris

At a certain point late in the afternoon, my exhausted husband decides to return to his hotel in Saint-Quentin en Yvelines where his bike and luggage are, so he can get plenty of sleep before leaving early in the morning, and we say goodbye until we see each other at home. I plan to stay up late, however, since my flight leaves tomorrow afternoon. So I decide that my last historical site to visit for this trip will be Parc Montsouris at the southern edge of Paris in the middle. I plan to spend my last evening at the Seine, watching the sun go down over the Île de la Cité, and I figure that I have time to get to the park and back before sunset. I’m headed to Parc Montsouris because the only statue of Thomas Paine in Paris is there, and to get there, I take the metro to the Port d’Orleans station then head east on Boulevard Jourdan. The park is across from the Cité Universitaire, and the statue is just off the pathway that runs along Bd. Jourdan, nearer the west end of the park. It’s a lovely place for a stroll on this cooling late afternoon, a relief from this hot summer day.

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Statue of Thomas Paine by Gutzon Borglum, 1938, Parc Montsouris, Paris

The statue is a gilded affair, sculpted by Gutzon Borglum in 1938, the same artist who conceived of and designed Mount Rushmore. He was a man of outsize personality, with a strange family history, overweening ambition, and a membership in the Ku Klux Klan. There’s a documentary about Mount Rushmore on PBS’s American Experience from which you can learn more about this most unusual character, and it’s really worth a watch. I’m pretty sure the egalitarian, anti-slavery, human-rights activist and critic-of-organized-religion Paine would disapprove of the commission for his statue going to this guy. It’s also just a middling portrait: not particularly evocative of Paine’s personality, as is the portrait by George Romney, nor particularly artful, interesting, or innovative in other ways. But it’s a serviceable one, and I’m glad this tribute exists in any case.

It’s likely Borglum painted it gold because of Napoleon Bonaparte. They first met at a dinner party in 1800, where Bonaparte invited Paine over to flatter him and get his support for his ambitious plan to invade Britain and ‘liberate’ them from their oppressive monarchy. (‘Liberate’ is in scare quotes because, in hindsight, it’s funny to think of Napoleon liberating people from monarchy as an institution. While he may have been sincere to begin with, over time, it became clear that he didn’t have a problem with monarchy per se so long as he was the monarch. He did, however, institute laws that promoted some of the best principles of the French Revolution including political equality, for men at least.) Paine had been advocating such a plan for years and continued to do so; however, his initial enthusiasm for Bonaparte rather quickly turned to disillusionment and then disgust. He recognized Bonaparte’s overweening arrogance, and accused him of freely shedding blood because of it and not out of a true concern for the people. Anyway, Bonaparte flattered Paine by telling him that he slept every night with a copy of The Rights of Man under his pillow, and that a golden statue of Paine should be erected ‘in every city in the universe’. Well, here’s one anyway.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I’ve come to the end of my travel adventures following in the footsteps of Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Jefferson in Paris, though not to the end of immersing myself in their ideas.

I’ve had a most wonderful and energizing time here in Paris, and I am very sorry it’s drawing to a close. I got to know the city in a way that I might never have done if I had come just for the food, the museums, and the scenery. My adventures led me to walk many, many miles a day up and down, back and forth across the city, and I got to know many of the neighborhoods very well. I didn’t make it to a few sites I would have liked to visit: the Bois de Boulogne, the woods where Jefferson liked to relax; Versailles, which Paine and Jefferson both visited on official business (I visited Versailles when I was here seven years ago, and decided not to go this trip because it gets absolutely mobbed by tourists in mid-August); and to search for the sites of Wollstonecraft’s Neuilly-sur-Seine cottage and Helen Williams’ salon which Wollstonecraft and Paine frequented (the latter two are way out in the suburbs and I can’t find records of the addresses). Through my research and my search for buildings of a particular era set among others of varying ages, I also developed much more of an understanding of how the city changed over time.

I had one main disappointment: I had hoped to find more sites associated with the life of Mary Wollstonecraft, and to find some sort of public tribute to her as well: a statute, a street named after her, even a little plaque marking any of the places she had been. No such luck. Even given the fact that Paine and Jefferson were appointed state officials whose movements in Paris would have been documented more thoroughly, the degree of the lack of evidence of places Wollstonecraft had bee been, and of public recognition of her contributions, was still a little surprising to me. Wollstonecraft was the first to publish a best-selling rebuttal to Edmund Burke’s screed against the French Revolution; she was an ardent supporter of the Revolution and championed its cause to the western world; she was close friends with Paine and many other leaders of the Revolutionary movement; she was a famous and highly respected intellectual; she was among the first to make a systematic, well-developed philosophical case in favor of women’s rights; she lived her life as unconventionally as she thought her thoughts; and by the way, she gave the world Mary Shelley. How, then, are her contributions still so overlooked in Paris? Perhaps for some of the same reasons I was so hard-pressed to find significant public recognition of the contributions of Ernestine Rose and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in New York City.

I learned so much about these three great thinkers and about this great city, what a joy this journey has been! And I’ll be continuing to immerse myself in their ideas and to think about much they still contribute to our lives and thought. Stay tuned…

Sources and Inspiration:

Adams, William Howard. The Paris Years of Thomas Jefferson. New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1997.

‘Café Procope.’ Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

‘French Revolution’. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Gordon, Lyndall. Vindication:  A Life of Mary WollstonecraftNew York: Harper Collins, 2006.

Gutzon Borglum‘, Biographical page on the American Experience website.

History of the Restaurant‘, Café Procope website.

Hitchens, Christopher. Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man: A Biography. New York: Grove Press, 2006.

Jacobs, Diane. Her Own Woman: The Life of Mary Wollstonecraft. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001.

Jacoby, Susan. Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. New York: Owl Books, 2004.

Les Statues du Parc Monsouris: Thomas Paine, Citoyen du Monde’, Laparisienneetsesphotos.com

Nelson, Craig. Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations. New York: Viking Penguin, 2006.

Todd, Janet. Mary Wollstonecraft: A Revolutionary Life. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000

Tomalin, Claire. The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft. London: Weidenfield & Nicholson, 1974.

Williamson, Audrey. Thomas Paine: His Life, Work, and Times. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1973.

Zwerin, Mike. ‘Traveling In Style: With Jefferson In Paris’. Los Angeles Times, October 16, 1994.
http://articles.latimes.com/1994-10-16/magazine/tm-51199_1_thomas-jefferson
http://articles.latimes.com/1994-10-16/magazine/tm-51199_1_thomas-jefferson/2
http://articles.latimes.com/1994-10-16/magazine/tm-51199_1_thomas-jefferson/3

Sixth Day in Paris Following Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Jefferson

Crossing rue de Richelieu on a drizzly day in Paris, France

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

It’s a rainy morning, wet enough to drive away the otherwise intrepid kids at the little alleyway skate park across the street, though not quite enough to drive away the hardworking construction crew renovating the building next to it. I take advantage of the inclement weather by catching up on my writing and research, and the clangs, buzzes, and shouts from the workers only adds to the feeling of productiveness, and don’t disturb me at all. By late morning, the rainfall lightens up, so I head out for the day. Along the way, I pop into several passages, covered pathways lined with shops and cafes: Passage des Panoramas, Passage Jouffrey, la galerie Vivienne, Passage des 2 Galleries, and more. It’s a great way to duck out of the rain while discovering some of the most charming little spots in Paris.

BNP Paribas offices, about where Hôtel Landron and cul-de-sac Taitbout used to be

On my way to my main destinations of the day, I quickly follow up on two sites from earlier in my trip. Last evening, I visited 95 Rue Richelieu, the actual site of James Monroe’s first house in Paris when he arrived to take over the ambassadorship from Governeur Morris. It’s now occupied by a Mercure Hotel (hotel in the modern sense), and I follow the desk clerk’s recommendation from yesterday, to see if the day manager can help me find more historical information about the building, but no dice. Upon inquiry, the lady in charge at the front desk stopped me with an abrupt ‘no’, as if to say, ‘I don’t have time for this nonsense, I have a hotel to run.’ Fair enough. I move on.

I swing over to Boulevard des Italiens, where Thomas Jefferson had lived at Hôtel Landron, aka Taitboit, for the first year of his sojourn in Paris. It stood on cul-de-sac Taitbout, which used to run north off this street right across from the back side of the Theatre des Italiens. I have since confirmed the site in additional sources, but I was right the first time: the building, and the cul-de-sac it was on, no longer exists. This place is now occupied by a large, much more modern building which houses the offices of BNP Paribas.

Then I head for 30 rue Richelieu, where Thomas Jefferson stayed first for a few days when he arrived in Paris, at one of the two hotels he stayed at named Hotel d’Orleans; this is the first of them. It’s a smaller and simpler building than many that Jefferson stayed at, which might explain why he stayed there such a short time, being used to more luxurious quarters. I find that it’s right down the street from the house where one of my literary heroes, Moliere, died, and there’s a monument to him right across the street. The statue is wearing a scarlet blindfold, just like another statue I saw on another day. I wonder what it means….

30 rue Richelieu where Thomas Jefferson stayed at one of two Hôtels d’Orléans, and 40 rue Richelieu, where the great playwright and actor Molière died

Galerie de Vivienne, behind approximate site of White’s Hotel, aka Hôtel de Philadelphia, at passage des Petits-Pères

Next, I swing by the site of the former White’s Hotel, where Thomas Paine stayed several times while he was in Paris and where Mary Wollstonecraft visited him, to confirm its actual site. As I mentioned at the opening of the story of my second day in Paris, part 2, it was listed as 7 passage des Petits Pères in three separate biographies I referenced (two of Mary Wollstonecraft, one of Thomas Paine). However, in the U.S. State Department paper I just discovered, it’s listed as 1 rue des Petits Pères. Turns out the place I had gone to on the first day was half right: putting two and two together, it seems that White’s Hotel, later Hôtel de Philadelphia, stood at the intersection of passage des Petits Pères and rue des Petits Pères, which join at an angle. Paine also lived in a place across from the hotel at 7 passage des Petits Pères, hence the confusion.

Building where James Monroe and Robert Livingston signed the Louisiana Purchase, rue des Petits Champs

Historical plaque on the building where James Monroe and Robert Livingston signed the Louisiana Purchase

So on with the story of the day: on the way to passage des Petits Peres, I stumble upon a Jefferson site quite by accident! It’s at rue des Petits Champs and rue Vivienne, the next block over from the White’s Hotel site, and it’s the place where James Monroe and Robert Livingston signed the Louisiana Purchase treaty on April 30th, 1803.

Jefferson had authorized them to purchase the crucially important port city of New Orleans and the area surrounding it so that U.S. trade could not be hampered by European quarrels. But when Napolean offered the entire Louisiana territory for $15 million, vastly larger than what they were prepared to purchase, Monroe and Livingston jumped at the chance, since they had also been instructed to use their best judgment. This was sort of going over Congress’s head, because though the President has the power to negotiate treaties, they don’t have the power to make land purchases, strictly speaking, and Jefferson had not received funding or the permission from Congress. For all his strict constructionism and anti-government-debt rhetoric, Jefferson at times operated more in accordance with a ‘great man theory’ of government like Theodore Roosevelt did. After all, if you have the vision and the power coupled with the proper concern for the wellbeing of your country, at times it just seems incumbent upon you to take such bold and decisive steps, even if they’re not strictly legal. And Jefferson was right: the Louisiana purchase was an opportunity like no other to increase the prestige, population, and power of the young United States, and had to be done almost regardless of the price.

Palais Royal, Paris, France

Front Gate of the Palais Royal / Conseil d’État, Paris, France

On my way to my next destination, I pause to snap some photos of the front of the Palais Royal, which I had neglected to do on my second day in Paris, in favor of staying under the shady walkways of its rear enclosure and tree-lined gardens. 

229 – 235 Rue Saint-Honore, former Home of Abbé André Morellet

The next site I swing by is the former home of Abbé André Morellet at 229 – 235 Rue Saint-Honore in the 8th Arrondissement, north of the Jardin des Tuileries at about its midpoint at Rue Castiglione. Morellet was an economist and contributing writer to Diderot’s Encyclopedia of the Sciences, Arts. and Crafts, and close mutual friend of Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. It’s a tall narrow house, over a macaron shop between a cafe and a luggage shop, on a touristy and expensive section of the street. Jefferson, as we have seen, was an avid collector of knowledge, and Morellet’s learned, witty, and sarcastic brain was an excellent one for picking.

Jefferson was also a frequent guest of Geoffrey Chalut de Vérin at 17 Place Vendôme, between the Opera metro station and the Jardin des Tuileries. He was a customs official and another close friend of Benjamin Franklin, though I can’t find that much information about him with a brief internet search, The collected Franklin papers contain some notes from him. Many of the opulent buildings surrounding the Place Vendôme are being restored, and some are being converted to a Ritz Hotel; 17 Place Vendôme is one of these. The column in the center of the place is also being reconstructed: the Paris Commune pulled it down in the revolution of 1871, the same revolution which saw the destruction of the Tuileries Palace.

A view of the Place Vendôme. The printed screen is shielding the monument under repair

17 Place Vendôme, behind the printed screen, at or near the site of the home of Geoffrey Chalut de Vérin

Returning to my lodgings to meet up with my husband Bryan, hopefully rested enough from riding Paris-Brest-Paris to spend a day touring Paris with me, I pass by the Palais Garnier Opera, whose spectacular beauty really knocks your socks off as you enter the square. It’s not the opera house that Jefferson attended, however, as it was built many decades after his time there.

Palais Garnier Opera House, Paris, France

When I meet up with Bryan, it turns out he’s still too exhausted to take much of a walk, so we go out for a delicious meal at a little gastropub just down the street from my place on rue Montmartre. After he goes in for a nap, I take the metro nearly as far west as it goes to Auteuil, which once was a suburb of Paris, and now in its 16th Arrondissement.

Hôtel de Verrières, 47 Rue d’Auteuil, former residence of John, Abigail, and John Quincy Adams, Paris, France

Histoire de Paris sign and view of the Hôtel de Verrières, 47 rue d’Auteil, former residence of the Adamses

Plaque on the wall in the courtyard of the Hôtel de Verrières, 47 rue d’Auteuil

Jefferson stayed here at John and Abigail Adams’ place for awhile in 1784, probably not long before he signed the lease at the Hôtel Landron at the cul-de-sac Taitbout that fall. The Adams’ former residence is at 43 – 47 rue d’Auteuil, about halfway between the Seine and the southeast corner of the Bois de Boulogne, at rue Michel-Ange, near the Monoprix grocery which is near the metro stop. The house at 47 rue d’Auteuil has a historical marker identifying it as the Hôtel de Verrières, where many famous people lived. It’s on a sweet little street, which still feels like central Paris but much mellower. The house is cute too, with rounded corners and sweet little garden area. There’s a plaque on the wall above the front garden with both John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams’ names on it, but try as I might, I can’t make out the small print or capture it on the basic camera I have with me. A young boy with a little black dog and thick blue glasses, which give him oversize Keane eyes, looks at me like I’m crazy as he goes to let himself in the front gate which I happen to be blocking. He doesn’t speak English, but I’m able to communicate with gestures that I’d just like to take a picture real quick. He lets me in and I do so. Nice kid.

Near 59 Rue d’Auteil, the former site of the salon of Madame Helvétius

In 1784 and onwards, Jefferson also often hung out at the famous salon of the fabulous Madame Helvétius just down the street at 59 rue d’Auteil. The rather puritanical Adamses were often shocked at French manners and dress, loud, lots of makeup, exposed bosoms, frank conversation, and these were to be found in abundance at Madame Helvétius’. (There are great scenes from the John Adams miniseries, starring Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney, of their unease in Parisian society and discomfiture at Madame Helvetius’ salon.) Aside from her own accomplishments and outsize personality, she was famous for Ben Franklin’s being so smitten with her that he asked her to marry him. The building I find is not old, quaint, or lovely, but an aggressively sleek, square building of concrete blocks and smoked glass, all angled corners. The suburb of Auteuil was very fashionable in Adams’ and Jefferson’s time, and the neighborhood I find myself in today still is, full of elegant buildings, cute expensive shops, well-dressed people, and families with one or two likewise well-dressed children. it looks like a postcard or realtor’s advertisement of the perfect neighborhood and reminds me a bit of Noe Valley in San Francisco, Paris-style.

Corner view of Benjamin Franklin’s house at Hôtel Valentinois, Passy

The last site I visit today is in Passy, also in the 16th Arrondissemont, also a former fashionable suburb of Paris which is now one of its outer wealthy neighborhoods. Thomas Paine lived somewhere in this neighborhood near Ben Franklin, who befriended him during Paine’s first stay in Paris in 1781 as he helped negotiate a loan from the French government to aid the American Revolution. Though I couldn’t find the exact site where Paine lived, Franklin lived at Hôtel Valentinois at 62-70 rue Raynouard at Avenue de Lamballe. There’s no doubt that Paine visited here often. The Hôtel Valentinois stands on a hill overlooking the city, and the view must have been particularly spectacular in Franklin and Paine’s time, with an uninterrupted view of the city since this is way out in the outskirts of Paris. Passy was an outlying village or suburb at the time, but highrises galore have sprung up between the Valentinois and central Paris since then. The view has still got to be pretty great from the upper floors, since it towers seven tall stories from the hill it’s on.

A view of Benjamin Franklin’s house at Hôtel Valentinois, Passy, Paris, France

Benjamin Franklin’s image on the corner of the historic Hôtel Valentinois

It was Franklin who wrote letters of introduction for the young Paine to his friends in the American Colonies, which enabled him to find a job and make connections with other young thinkers, movers, and shakers, eventually involving Paine in the burgeoning independence movement, which led to the publication of Common Sense… and the rest, as we have seen, is history!

As I walk back towards the Seine to meet my husband at rue Saint Dominique for dinner (just down the street from where we honeymooned seven years before, how romantic!), I’m treated to the most beautiful views, quite changed since Franklin’s, Paine’s, Wollstonecraft’s, and Jefferson’s time, but no more or less breathtaking, I’m sure. Just different.

A view from Avenue du President Kennedy, Passy, Paris, France

A View through Pont de Bir-Hakiem, Passy

A View From Pont de Bir-Hakiem, Paris, France

 
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Sources and Inspiration:
 
Adams, William Howard. The Paris Years of Thomas Jefferson. New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1997.
 
André Morellet‘. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
 
Bell, David. ‘5 Myths About the French Revolution‘, New York Post, Jul 9th, 2015.
The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d’Alembert‘, Collaborative Translation Project website.
 
French Revolution‘. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
Gordon, Lyndall. Vindication:  A Life of Mary WollstonecraftNew York: Harper Collins, 2006. 
 
 
Hôtel de Verrières‘, Structurae website.
 
Jacobs, Diane. Her Own Woman: The Life of Mary Wollstonecraft. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001.

Jacoby, Susan. Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. New York: Owl Books, 2004.
http://us.macmillan.com/freethinkers/susanjacoby

Louisiana Purchase, 1803‘, U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian website.
Nelson, Craig. Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations. New York: Viking Penguin, 2006.
 
O’Brien, Kristin. ‘Madame Helvétius‘, The Salonniere blog.
 
Paris Residences‘, from the Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia, Monticello.org
Todd, Janet. Mary Wollstonecraft: A Revolutionary Life. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000 
Tomalin, Claire. The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft. London: Weidenfield & Nicholson, 1974. 

Williamson, Audrey. Thomas Paine: His Life, Work, and Times. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1973.

Fifth Day in Paris Following Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Jefferson

On rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, Paris, France

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

I get a very late start resuming my history of ideas adventure today: I greeted my husband Bryan last night in Saint Quentin en Yvellines as he finished Paris-Brest-Paris in excellent time, 1200 kilometers in 53.15 hours! We celebrate his accomplishment and restore his energy by feasting throughout the morning and early afternoon, after he gets some good rest. When I arrive back in Paris, I still have at least three good hours of daylight, so I throw down my overnight bag and head right back out into the street. Although I only have a short time to explore, it turns out to be a very fruitful evening.

Today’s explorations will be conducted in light of some new information I’ve just uncovered. As Bryan slept, I researched, and as I had been discovering new details about the history of the places I visit, the more leads I have. As I enter these new combinations of keywords, I discover this wonderful U.S. State Department paper on the official history of U.S. representatives in France, complete with more detailed location descriptions, including some historical addresses listed alongside the new. It’s the site-identification Rosetta Stone I’ve been looking for, and I discover that three of the places I visited on my second day in Paris have different modern addresses. Today’s mission, then, will be one of rediscovery.

I begin by heading up rue Montmartre over to Boulevard Montmartre, then to rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, once again in search of the site of the mansion farmhouse Thomas Paine shared with six others from the fall of 1793 to 1794. The State Department paper reveals that while in Paine’s time the address was number 63, it’s now numbered 144, and that the mansion had once belonged to Madame de Pompadour, Louis IV’s official mistress. Unlike the other two sites that I’ll be seeking today, this one is quite far from the original address I sought, because the original rue Saint-Denis of Paine’s time had been lengthened significantly since then.

Produce shop on rue Faubourg St-Denis

It’s a beautiful and still warm, and Bd. St-Denis, like Bd. Montmartre, is thronged with people greeting friends, walking their dogs, shopping the produce markets, hawking flowers, and eating and drinking at the cafes, with a few drinking in the street and getting a little rowdy. As I mentioned in my earlier post about this street, it reminds me of the old Mission district in San Francisco, and I love it. The crowd is multiracial, multicultural, rich, poor, and in-between. There are cafes and little food markets offering foods from around the world: Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Turkish, to name a few, and the large produce markets, open to the street, offer a colorful array of fruits and vegetables.

A Street View of 144 Rue Faubourg Saint-Denis

As I head farther north and uphill, pretty far past 63 that I visited last time, the neighborhood becomes fancier, the buildings are taller, larger, more ornate, and well-kept. At 144 rue Faubourg Saint-Denis, I find an imposing brick building, beautifully ornamented, but closed off with iron gates. I photograph the outside, then peer into the large courtyard.

Courtyard of 144 Rue Faubourg Saint-Denis

Vertical Garden in the Courtyard at 144 Rue Faubourg Saint-Denis

A young man, clearly a local, stops and asks if I need directions, then explains that people can usually get into the courtyard of this building if they need to, and we chat a bit. Then an elderly man, who’s taking keys from his bag approaches the side gate, overhears our conversation and offers to let me inside as long as I make sure to close the gate behind me. I agree, and briefly explain my mission: he’s surprised at the historical details of the place formerly at this site. He smiles at my obvious enjoyment of the beauty I’m pleased to find all around me here, and explains that the lush green wall garden towering over us to our right is the largest in all of Europe. He’s a humble man and won’t consent to have his picture taken or name listed for this piece. I thank him, and he wishes me a good evening.

Though Paine might be pained to find that his happy garden retreat is now built over with towering (though very handsome) apartments and SNCF offices, he may take some comfort at the spectacular green wall.

Another View of the Vertical Garden in the Courtyard at 144 Rue Faubourg Saint-Denis

I exit the back gate of the courtyard and find myself at the side entrance of the Gare du Nord. I go up an inviting stairway that takes me to the street above station level, though it’s not necessarily the most direct route, just ’cause, ya know? In a place such as this, sometimes you just have to meander a bit.

Street Stairway near the Gare du Nord

Front Entrance to House Where George Sands Was Born at 46 Rue Meslay

After a bit, I pick up the pace, since I lingered at the last place and it’s getting late. I head in the direction of the square at Republique, back to the friends’ house that Mary Wollstonecraft lived in when she first moved to Paris in December of 1792. There are two candidates for the site of the Filliettaz house: the first is at 22 rue Meslay, the number I found in all the biographies I referenced, which may reference only the address at the time. Or, it could be somewhere farther up nearer to the house the author George Sand was born in, number 15 at the time of her birth in 1804, which is, of course, is close to 22.

A couple is strolling down the street, an older man in theatrical round blue glasses and a glowing green cardigan, and a younger tanned man with a leather vest and  wavy hair ‘artlessly’ swept back in a ponytail. They catch me looking around and I wish them good evening, and the man in the green cardigan asks me where I’m from. As usual, my poor pronunciation of French gives me away, though he tells me it’s my ‘happy visitor smile’. He tells me what a great street Meslay is and I agree, and he helpfully points me towards George Sand’s house. I tell him the object of my quest, but he hasn’t heard of the Filliettaz house, though is familiar with Mary Wollstonecraft, but doesn’t know she ever lived here. We say good evening and part ways.

A view of rue Meslay, Paris

Another view of rue Meslay

95 Rue de Richelieu, Former Residence of James Monroe and Thomas Paine

Though I find the Sand house easily, try as I might, I see no indication of the original Filliataz house andits exact location, just as I couldn’t in my books or online, so I photograph the part of the street and the houses near enough to the Sand house to be number 22. As you can see, it’s really a great street, just as the man said, and it does seem more likely that Wollstonecraft lived in a house near this end of the street, given the story of seeing the King passing by, since it’s higher up and the street veers closer to Boulevard Saint-Martin.

The last stop is 95 rue de Richelieu, which the State Department paper describes as the former 101 rue Richelieu. The name of the house where Thomas Paine lived with James Monroe and his family was the Hôtel Cusset, and I find this name with the address carved into an ornate lintel made of an incredible variegated, colorful stone over the doorway of another grand building just down the street from the current 101 that I visited last week. The address 101, which I found in more than one source, must have been the old address, and if that’s true, this lintel must date after Paine’s and Monroe’s time here.

Entryway to 95 Rue de Richelieu, once the Hôtel Cusset and former residence of James Monroe and Thomas Paine

As I described in the tale of my second day in Paris, Paine was physically broken down from his imprisonment in the Luxembourg, and the Monroes, while sympathetic, found him increasingly difficult to put up with over the two years he stayed with them afterwards.

This place, now a hotel in the modern sense, is right around the corner from where I’m staying, and the kind lady at the front desk suggested that I return when the day manager’s there who might be able to tell me more about the history of the building. Since it’s growing dark and I’m getting hungry (do you notice that the beautiful stone that surround the doorway look like perfectly marbled charcuterie and veined blue cheese, or is that just my hungry belly making that observation?), I plan to do that very thing tomorrow.

To be continued….

Beautiful stonework at entryway of 95 rue de Richelieu

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sources and inspiration:

Adams, William Howard. The Paris Years of Thomas Jefferson. New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1997.

Bell, David. ‘5 Myths About the French Revolution‘, New York Post, Jul 9th, 2015.

French Revolution. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Gordon, Lyndall. Vindication: A Life of Mary WollstonecraftNew York: Harper Collins, 2006.

A History of the Official American Presence in France‘, U.S. State Department.

Jacobs, Diane. Her Own Woman: The Life of Mary Wollstonecraft. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001.

Jacoby, Susan. Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. New York: Owl Books, 2004.

Nelson, Craig. Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations. New York: Viking Penguin, 2006.

Todd, Janet. Mary Wollstonecraft: A Revolutionary Life. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000

Tomalin, Claire. The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft. London: Weidenfield & Nicholson, 1974.

Williamson, Audrey. Thomas Paine: His Life, Work, and Times. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1973.

Fourth Day in Paris Following Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Jefferson

Colonne de Juillet at center of the Place de la Bastille, Paris, France

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

I wake up, get some fresh pastries and baguettes, eat breakfast, and make the day’s sandwiches. It’s another beautiful clear morning, and I’m eager to get out there.

If anyone tells you that traveling in Paris is necessarily expensive, don’t believe ’em. You can make delicious sandwiches with charcuterie and cheese that cost less than about $1-2 euros each in ingredients, fresh baked breads and basic pastries are super cheap, sightseeing is free and so is the entertainment if you know where to look. Take a tall can of beer or a bottle of wine to the left bank of the Seine, near the sculpture garden, and watch the dancers in the evening, even join in if you’re more talented than I; watch the acrobatic street performers on the Pont au Double bridge to the Île de la Cité; let your ears guide you to the many talented street musicians to be found near every bridge and in many other public places.

If you’re sick of sandwiches, pastries, and fruit, I found one grocery store (turns out, it’s a chain) that sells nothing but frozen foods: delicious and well-prepared meals that are much, much cheaper than going out. And Airbnb has done wonders for making inexpensive but comfortable travel accessible to just about anyone. So you can easily be frugal and have a great time, saving your money to spend on the really amazing things to do here, like going inside the Pantheon or splurging on a fine meal (rue Cler is the place to go for this: excellent food while not overpriced).

Baguette, salami, and cheese picnic sandwiches

Before I tell the tale of my day’s adventures, let me start with a site I stop by on the morning of Aug 11th that I’ve forgotten to mention. I had a little window of time before I was due at Gare du Nord to meet my husband and head off to Berlin for a few days’ detour to visit family, so I was able to visit just one place associated with my traveling philosophy adventures. So from my little cubbyhole apartment on Boulevard Voltaire, I head down Boulevard Richard Lenoir, a lovely wide street with a shady tree-lined park running down the center, where I find a fresh-faced grandmother playing ping pong with her young charge on one of the outdoor tables. What a great way to start the day!

Place de la Bastille

I’m heading for the Place de la Bastille, the site where the notorious prison once stood, which by the late 1700’s had become a symbol of unchecked monarchial, aristocratic, and clerical power. When it was stormed by an angry mob of working people of the professional class and soldiers who were sent to quell the uprising but joined it instead, the Revolution was understood to have begun in earnest. July 14th, 1789, is celebrated to this day as the pivotal juncture on the road to French liberty. The day before it happened, Thomas Jefferson wrote to Thomas Paine of the impending political storm that was about to break any moment, given public outrage over the King’s perceived disdain for the will of the people as embodied in the National Assembly and the popular unrest that was already raging throughout the city.

Historical plaque at the Place de la Bastille

When King Louis XVI observed how violently unhappy his people had become under the established system of government, he took steps to regain their confidence and to show them he was dedicated to reform. He appointed the marquis de Lafayette, a great favorite of the people, as Commander of the National Guard. Lafayette immediately proceeded to organize the full demolition of the Bastille, which the crowd had already begun. He entrusted Paine with the mission of delivering the key of the Bastille as a gift to Washington, a symbol of the French unity with America in their commitment to democratic rule. Given the unrest in Paris and the enmity between the British, French, and American navies (it was the persistence of the British practice of forcefully boarding American ships and impressing sailors into British service that led, in part, to the War of 1812), it took awhile for Paine to get it delivered to the United States. He was ultimately successful, and key of the Bastille resides at Mount Vernon to this day.

Steps and sandy walkway, at the park at the site of the Tuileries Palace

So now back to August 18th’s adventures.

I zigzag my way from rue Montmartre to my first destination of the day: the site of the Tuileries Palace. From May of 1793, the Convention, or the French revolutionary government, met at Palais Tuileries.

Here, Thomas Paine called for leniency for the royal family, arguing as forcefully as he could that the Revolutionary government’s show of mercy would be an inspiration to the world, setting itself apart from centuries of European bloodshed in the pursuit of power, and also show its commitment to progressive Enlightenment principles. The Tuileries had, by this time, become a dark and neglected palace since King Louis XIV moved the monarchy out of the city to Versailles.

Paine’s arguments did no good. On October 6th, 1789, the King and Queen were forced by the Women’s March to move back to the Tuileries so they could be more accountable to the people of Paris and the nation. Versailles was seen as a symbol of a corrupt and wealthy monarchy that had set itself apart from its subjects, collecting taxes and imposing the royal will without sufficient regard for the overall rights and well-being of its people. Most of this was mostly true, although King Louis XVI conducted himself better in these respects than most of his predecessors; he showed himself ready and willing to make substantial reforms, and anxious to see his people happy. Unfortunately, Louis’s attempts to make things right did not succeed, and he was guillotined on Monday, January 21st at what’s now known as the Place de la Concorde nearby, where Mary Wollstonecraft slipped on the blood of executed victims of the Terror that summer.

Historical sign at the Jardin des Tuileries

Carousel at the Jardin des Tuileries

The Tuileries palace no longer stands: it was destroyed in 1871 in a subsequent revolution as an ancient symbol of monarchy and oppression. A long raised terrace all what remains of the palace site, situated between the Louvre, which was also almost destroyed at the same time the Tuileries palace was, and the Tuileries gardens, preserved as a beautiful public space open to all. Paine would approve: he was a committed populist, and often got in more trouble for his insistence on disseminating his views to the public as widely as possible by writing in concise, direct, and accessible prose and forgoing profit to make his books affordable, than he did for the ideas themselves. Meritocrats, big-government proponents, and monarchist sympathizers such as John Adams, for example, considered Paine little more than a rabble-rouser.

Arched entryway to the courtyard at the Hôtel de Salm

The Hôtel de Salm, now the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur

Columns at the Hôtel de Salm. Note the lovely cameo bust in the round niche

My second destination for the day stands near the Left Bank of the Seine. The Hôtel de Salm stands facing the quai Anatole France on the river side, and facing 64 rue de Lille, formerly named the rue Bourbon, on the other. Built in 1987 during Thomas Jefferson’s sojourn in Paris, it was one of the buildings which most inspired his design for Monticello. Originally a private home, it’s now the headquarters of the Legion of Honor. It’s a beautiful building, and I especially share his enthusiasm for this one; as he put it, he was ‘violently smitten’ with it. It’s much more welcoming than the imposing colonnade of the Louvre, especially the front entrance on rue de Lille (see the first two photos). It’s inspiring in its beauty and classical style yet friendly, more of and for the people, so to speak, meant more to welcome than to impress or intimidate.

The Hôtel de Salm, now the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur, the side facing quai Anatole France

Statue of Thomas Jefferson on the Left Bank near the Pont de Solferino

As I round the building to take in all of its aspects, I see that the statue of Thomas Jefferson I had passed by on my first day in Paris stands kitty-corner from the Salm, at quai Anatole France and rue de Solferino at the foot of the Pont (bridge) de Solferino.

123 rue de Lille, formerly rue de Bourbon, in the 7th Arrondissement. Paine may have lived at this address for awhile, but I have my doubts. It certainly wasn’t this building, it dates later than his time

The next site I seek is much farther west on rue de Lille, formerly rue de Bourbon, number 123 in the 7th Arrondissement. Again with this address, at the time of my visit I haven’t found confirmation whether this number is the modern day address or the address at the time. In any case, I’m looking for the marquis de la Fayette’s Paris house, where Thomas Paine lived for much of 1791 working on French edition of The Rights of Man. He had returned to Paris the previous fall to celebrate his being elected an honorary French citizen in recognition of his defense of human rights.

Doorway of 123 rue de Lille, formerly rue de Bourbon

Later in that same fall, in early November of 1790, Edmund Burke’s Reflection on the Revolution in France was published. It was a scathing indictment of the extremist and anti-traditionalist nature of the French Revolution, and predicted it would end in disaster, in bloodshed and in even greater tyranny as a ruthless dictator would be sure to seize power amidst the ruins. As history has revealed, Burke was actually correct in his predictions in the short term. But the Terror had not yet begun, and Mary Wollstonecraft and Paine both offered impassioned arguments against Burke’s positions on the nature of legitimate governmental authority and the possibility of instituting a new order based on reason. Wollstonecraft got to it first with her Vindication of the Rights of Men, published less than a month after Burke’s treatise, and it quickly became a bestseller.

Paine had his Rights of Man published the next spring, also by Wollstonecraft’s publisher Joseph Johnson, in London on February 22nd, 1791. Almost immediately after its first printing, Paine left for Paris to work on the French edition, and the second, bargain-priced printing in London, released March 13th, really made the book take off. It made him a more celebrated author than ever as well as, more than ever, an enemy of the British crown, especially after Paine released the second part in 1792. William Pitt, the minister of Great Britain, unleashed a public campaign against Paine, just as he did against the French Revolution, and Paine was forced to flee the British isles for good in September 1792, returning to France, his new home country, until 1802.

Crue du 28 Janvier and Crue de la Siene 1910 lines, Paris, France

I can’t find any indication on the building before me, 123 rue de Lille, that it once belonged to Lafayette. I’m certain that this is the right street, though, based on more than one source, so as  I walk back, I look carefully for plaques that might indicate that his house was elsewhere on this street. I don’t find such a plaque, but I do see many buildings marked with a line and the text ‘Crue du 28 Janvier, 1910’ with a line. I remember that, a few days previously, I had seen the corner of a small building on the Seine walkway, right down by the water, marked with a series of dated lines. It appears there was a severe flood in 1910, and a series of pretty bad ones over the last century or so.

Passage des Petits-Pères

I return to my apartment to gather some things: I’ll be spending the night in Saint Quentin en Yvellines to greet my husband as he finishes his epic bike ride. Since it’s on my way back, I swing by the Passage des Petites Pères to see if there’s anything I missed when looking for White’s Hotel, the hangout for American expatriates that Wollstonecraft and Paine frequented and where Paine lived intermittently. It still seems likely that the building that houses the Galerie Vivienne is the former White’s Hotel, but Hotel de Normandie is a candidate as well, in its location on the left side of the Passage where the odd numbers are assigned.

To be continued….
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sources and inspiration:

Adams, William Howard. The Paris Years of Thomas Jefferson. New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1997.

Bell, David. ‘5 Myths About the French Revolution‘, New York Post, Jul 9th, 2015.

French Revolution‘. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia

Gordon, Lyndall. Vindication: A Life of Mary WollstonecraftNew York: Harper Collins, 2006.

Hôtel de Salm, Palace of the Legion of Honor‘, Grand Chancellor of the Legion of Honor website.

Jacobs, Diane. Her Own Woman: The Life of Mary Wollstonecraft. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001.

Jacoby, Susan. Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. New York: Owl Books, 2004.

Jenkinson, Clay. ‘The Magna Carta‘. The Thomas Jefferson Hour podcast, episode 1141.

Morgan, George. The Life of James Monroe. Boston: Small, Maynard, and Co., 1921

Nelson, Craig. Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations. New York: Viking Penguin, 2006.

Todd, Janet. Mary Wollstonecraft: A Revolutionary Life. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000

Tomalin, Claire. The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft. London: Weidenfield & Nicholson, 1974.

Williamson, Audrey. Thomas Paine: His Life, Work, and Times. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1973.

Women’s March on Versailles‘. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia