Chapter

Enter the Moose

in Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780226169149
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226169194 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226169194.003.0006
Enter the Moose

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Although Notes on the State of Virginia was his only book, Thomas Jefferson's writings—especially his correspondence—were prolific, and show him to be the quintessential man of ideas and thought. In order to bolster his argument over Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon's theory of degeneracy, Jefferson, then serving in France as Minister Plenipotentiary, planned to personally hand Buffon proof that life in America was not inferior to that in the Old World. That proof would come in the form of a seven-foot-tall moose. Twice before, Buffon had been given physical evidence that his images of life in the New World were incorrect. His responses on those occasions did not bode well for Jefferson's plan to use the giant moose to persuade the Count to recant his degeneracy hypothesis. In the first few days of 1786, Jefferson finally got his chance to meet the Count in person. After listening to Jefferson's arguments, the Count “acknowledged his mistake” but gave no indication of revising his general assessment of North American life, let alone his ideas on degeneracy.

Keywords: degeneracy; Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon; America; Thomas Jefferson; Old World; moose; New World; France

Chapter.  7546 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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