Mazzei Letter

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MAZZEI LETTER, a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to Phillip Mazzei on 24 April 1796, in which the former secretary of state offered a characteristically hyperbolic and Manichean appraisal of the state of American public affairs. Jefferson asserted that the ruling Federalist Party was dominated by corrupt men who intended to assimilate the U.S. government to the British government. (The recent Jay's Treaty, which he and other Republicans read as an ignominious surrender of just American claims to the British, had reinforced Jefferson's appraisal.) Within a short time of its receipt in Italy, the letter appeared in Italian translation in a Florentine paper, from whence it made its way into the French press and, soon enough, across the sea. In America, the letter's publication caused great controversy. Among its fruits was the final rupture of the friendship between Jefferson and President George Washington, who joined his fellow Federalists in seeing an insult to the president in Jefferson's reference to "men who were Samsons in the field & Solomons in the council, but who have had their heads shorn by the harlot England."


Banning, Lance. The Jeffersonian Persuasion: Evolution of a Party Ideology. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1978.

Malone, Dumas. Jefferson and the Ordeal of Liberty. Volume 3 of Jefferson and His Time. Boston: Little, Brown, 1948–1981.

K. R. ConstantineGutzman

See alsoRepublicans, Jeffersonian .