A groundbreaking work of history that explicates Thomas Jefferson’s vision of himself, the American Revolution, Christianity, slavery, and race. Thomas Jefferson is often portrayed as a hopelessly enigmatic figure—a riddle—a man so riven with contradictions that he is almost impossible to know. Lauded as the most articulate voice of American freedom and equality, even as he held people—including his own family—in bondage, Jefferson is variably described as a hypocrite, an atheist, or a simple-minded proponent of limited government who expected all Americans to be farmers forever. Now, Annette Gordon-Reed teams up with America's leading Jefferson scholar, Peter S. Onuf, to present an absorbing and revealing character study that dispels the many clichés that have accrued over the years about our third president. Challenging the widely prevalent belief that Jefferson remains so opaque as to be unknowable, the authors—through their careful analysis, painstaking research, and vivid prose—create a portrait of Jefferson, as he might have painted himself, one "comprised of equal parts sun and shadow" (Jane Kamensky). Tracing Jefferson's philosophical development from youth to old age, the authors explore what they call the "empire" of Jefferson's imagination—an expansive state of mind born of his origins in a slave society, his intellectual influences, and the vaulting ambition that propelled him into public life as a modern avatar of the Enlightenment who, at the same time, likened himself to a figure of old—"the most blessed of the patriarchs." Indeed, Jefferson saw himself as a "patriarch," not just to his country and mountain-like home at Monticello but also to his family, the white half that he loved so publicly, as well as to the black side that he claimed to love, a contradiction of extraordinary historical magnitude. Divided into three sections, "Most Blessed of the Patriarchs" reveals a striking personal dimension to his life. Part I, "Patriarch," explores Jeffersons's origins in Virgina; Part II, " 'Traveller,' " covers his five-year sojourn to Paris; and Part III, "Enthusiast," delves insightfully into the Virginian's views on Christianity, slavery, and race. We see not just his ideas and vision of America but come to know him in an almost familial way, such as through the importance of music in his life. "Most Blessed of the Patriarchs" fundamentally challenges much of what we’ve come to accept about Jefferson, neither hypocrite nor saint, atheist nor fundamentalist. Gordon-Reed and Onuf, through a close reading of Jefferson’s own words, reintroduce us all to our most influential founding father: a man more gifted than most, but complicated in just the ways we all are.
Presents a history that explicates Thomas Jefferson's vision of himself, the American Revolution, Christianity, slavery, and race.
A groundbreaking work of history that explicates Thomas Jefferson s vision of himself, the American Revolution, Christianity, slavery, and race."
In The Mind of Thomas Jefferson, one of the foremost historians of Jefferson and his time, Peter S. Onuf, offers a collection of essays that seeks to historicize one of our nation’s founding fathers. Challenging current attempts to appropriate Jefferson to serve all manner of contemporary political agendas, Onuf argues that historians must look at Jefferson’s language and life within the context of his own place and time. In this effort to restore Jefferson to his own world, Onuf reconnects that world to ours, providing a fresh look at the distinction between private and public aspects of his character that Jefferson himself took such pains to cultivate. Breaking through Jefferson’s alleged opacity as a person by collapsing the contemporary interpretive frameworks often used to diagnose his psychological and moral states, Onuf raises new questions about what was on Jefferson’s mind as he looked toward an uncertain future. Particularly striking is his argument that Jefferson’s character as a moralist is nowhere more evident, ironically, than in his engagement with the institution of slavery. At once reinvigorating the tension between past and present and offering a new way to view our connection to one of our nation’s founders, The Mind of Thomas Jefferson helps redefine both Jefferson and his time and American nationhood.
Winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize: "[A] commanding and important book." —Jill Lepore, The New Yorker This epic work—named a best book of the year by the Washington Post, Time, the Los Angeles Times, Amazon, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a notable book by the New York Times—tells the story of the Hemingses, whose close blood ties to our third president had been systematically expunged from American history until very recently. Now, historian and legal scholar Annette Gordon-Reed traces the Hemings family from its origins in Virginia in the 1700s to the family’s dispersal after Jefferson’s death in 1826.
When Annette Gordon-Reed's groundbreaking study was first published, rumors of Thomas Jefferson's sexual involvement with his slave Sally Hemings had circulated for two centuries. Among all aspects of Jefferson's renowned life, it was perhaps the most hotly contested topic. The publication of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings intensified this debate by identifying glaring inconsistencies in many noted scholars' evaluations of the existing evidence. In this study, Gordon-Reed assembles a fascinating and convincing argument: not that the alleged thirty-eight-year liaison necessarily took place but rather that the evidence for its taking place has been denied a fair hearing. Friends of Jefferson sought to debunk the Hemings story as early as 1800, and most subsequent historians and biographers followed suit, finding the affair unthinkable based upon their view of Jefferson's life, character, and beliefs. Gordon-Reed responds to these critics by pointing out numerous errors and prejudices in their writings, ranging from inaccurate citations, to impossible time lines, to virtual exclusions of evidence—especially evidence concerning the Hemings family. She demonstrates how these scholars may have been misguided by their own biases and may even have tailored evidence to serve and preserve their opinions of Jefferson. This updated edition of the book also includes an afterword in which the author comments on the DNA study that provided further evidence of a Jefferson and Hemings liaison.00 Possessing both a layperson's unfettered curiosity and a lawyer's logical mind, Annette Gordon-Reed writes with a style and compassion that are irresistible. Each chapter revolves around a key figure in the Hemings drama, and the resulting portraits are engrossing and very personal. Gordon-Reed also brings a keen intuitive sense of the psychological complexities of human relationships—relationships that, in the real world, often develop regardless of status or race. The most compelling element of all, however, is her extensive and careful research, which often allows the evidence to speak for itself. Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy is the definitive look at a centuries-old question that should fascinate general readers and historians alike.
Author: Peter S. Onuf
Publisher: University of Virginia Press
On the occasion of Thomas Jefferson's 250th birthday, a number of today's leading historicans take a fresh look at our third president, architect of democracy for his time and still for ours. Jeffersonian Legacies reconstructs the worlds Thomas Jefferson created for himself and envisioned for his countrymen. The authors consider Jefferson's career as a slave owner, his ambiguous and controversial testimony on the institution of slavery, and his significance for the civil rights movement and contemporary race relations. Jeffersonian Legacies provides the next generation of students, scholars, and citizens a better understanding not only of Jefferson in his own world but also his influence in the shaping of ours.
Author: Barbara Chase-Riboud
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Bringing to life one of the greatest and most controversial love stories, this fictional account reveals the beautiful and elusive Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson’s mistress for 38 years whom he loved and lived with until he died. Adding to the scandal, she was a quadroon slave and Jefferson fathered a slave family whose descendants are alive today. In this novel, Jefferson and his mistress are fully realized, as are many of the other personages of the early Republic—Aaron Burr, Dolly and James Madison, John and Abigail Adams, and Sally’s mother Elizabeth, who was Jefferson’s father-in-law’s mistress. This brilliant and highly acclaimed novel is a contemporary masterpiece—a poignant, tragic, and unforgettable meditation on the history of race and sex in America.
Allen Jayne analyzes the ideology of the Declaration of Independence -- and its implications -- by going back to the sources of Jefferson's ideas: Bolingbroke, Kames, Reid, and Locke. He concludes that the Declaration must be read as an attack on two claims of absolute authority: that of government over its subjects and of religion over the minds of men. Today's world is more secular than Jefferson's, and the importance of philosophical theology in eighteenth-century critical thought must be recognized in order to understand fully and completely the Declaration's implications. Jayne addresses this need by putting religion back into the discussion.
Our perception of life at Monticello has changed dramatically over the past quarter century. The image of an estate presided over by a benevolent Thomas Jefferson has given way to a more complex view of Monticello as a working plantation, the success of which was made possible by the work of slaves. At the center of this transition has been the work of Lucia "Cinder" Stanton, recognized as the leading interpreter of Jefferson’s life as a planter and master and of the lives of his slaves and their descendants. This volume represents the first attempt to pull together Stanton’s most important writings on slavery at Monticello and beyond. Stanton’s pioneering work deepened our understanding of Jefferson without demonizing him. But perhaps even more important is the light her writings have shed on the lives of the slaves at Monticello. Her detailed reconstruction for modern readers of slaves’ lives vividly reveals their active roles in the creation of Monticello and a dynamic community previously unimagined. The essays collected here address a rich variety of topics, from family histories (including the Hemingses) to the temporary slave community at Jefferson’s White House to stories of former slaves’ lives after Monticello. Each piece is characterized by Stanton’s deep knowledge of her subject and by her determination to do justice to both Jefferson and his slaves. Published in association with the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.
The new edition of this classic work addresses how the first generation of leaders of the United States dealt with the profoundly important question of human bondage. This third edition incorporates a new chapter on the regulation of the African slave trade and the latest research on Thomas Jefferson.
Author: Robert M. S. McDonald
Publisher: University of Virginia Press
Of all the founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson stood out as the most controversial and confounding. Loved and hated, revered and reviled, during his lifetime he served as a lightning rod for dispute. Few major figures in American history provoked such a polarization of public opinion. One supporter described him as the possessor of "an enlightened mind and superior wisdom; the adorer of our God; the patriot of his country; and the friend and benefactor of the whole human race." Martha Washington, however, considered Jefferson "one of the most detestable of mankind"--and she was not alone. While Jefferson’s supporters organized festivals in his honor where they praised him in speeches and songs, his detractors portrayed him as a dilettante and demagogue, double-faced and dangerously radical, an atheist and "Anti-Christ" hostile to Christianity. Characterizing his beliefs as un-American, they tarred him with the extremism of the French Revolution. Yet his allies cheered his contributions to the American Revolution, unmasking him as the now formerly anonymous author of the words that had helped to define America in the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson, meanwhile, anxiously monitored the development of his image. As president he even clipped expressions of praise and scorn from newspapers, pasting them in his personal scrapbooks. In this fascinating new book, historian Robert M. S. McDonald explores how Jefferson, a man with a manner so mild some described it as meek, emerged as such a divisive figure. Bridging the gap between high politics and popular opinion, Confounding Father exposes how Jefferson’s bifurcated image took shape both as a product of his own creation and in response to factors beyond his control. McDonald tells a gripping, sometimes poignant story of disagreements over issues and ideology as well as contested conceptions of the rules of politics. In the first fifty years of independence, Americans’ views of Jefferson revealed much about their conflicting views of the purpose and promise of America. Jeffersonian America
Master of the Mountain
Author: Henry Wiencek
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Is there anything new to say about Thomas Jefferson and slavery? The answer is a resounding yes. Master of the Mountain, Henry Wiencek's eloquent, persuasive book—based on new information coming from archaeological work at Monticello and on hitherto overlooked or disregarded evidence in Jefferson's papers—opens up a huge, poorly understood dimension of Jefferson's world. We must, Wiencek suggests, follow the money. So far, historians have offered only easy irony or paradox to explain this extraordinary Founding Father who was an emancipationist in his youth and then recoiled from his own inspiring rhetoric and equivocated about slavery; who enjoyed his renown as a revolutionary leader yet kept some of his own children as slaves. But Wiencek's Jefferson is a man of business and public affairs who makes a success of his debt-ridden plantation thanks to what he calls the "silent profits" gained from his slaves—and thanks to a skewed moral universe that he and thousands of others readily inhabited. We see Jefferson taking out a slave-equity line of credit with a Dutch bank to finance the building of Monticello and deftly creating smoke screens when visitors are dismayed by his apparent endorsement of a system they thought he'd vowed to overturn. It is not a pretty story. Slave boys are whipped to make them work in the nail factory at Monticello that pays Jefferson's grocery bills. Parents are divided from children—in his ledgers they are recast as money—while he composes theories that obscure the dynamics of what some of his friends call "a vile commerce." Many people of Jefferson's time saw a catastrophe coming and tried to stop it, but not Jefferson. The pursuit of happiness had been badly distorted, and an oligarchy was getting very rich. Is this the quintessential American story?
"In this lively and clearly written book, Kevin Gutzman makes a compelling case for the broad range and radical ambitions of Thomas Jefferson's commitment to human equality." - Alan Taylor, Pulitzer Prize winning author of American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804 Though remembered chiefly as author of the Declaration of Independence and the president under whom the Louisiana Purchase was effected, Thomas Jefferson was a true revolutionary in the way he thought about the size and reach of government, which Americans who were full citizens and the role of education in the new country. In his new book, Kevin Gutzman gives readers a new view of Jefferson—a revolutionary who effected radical change in a growing country. Jefferson’s philosophy about the size and power of the federal system almost completely undergirded the Jeffersonian Republican Party. His forceful advocacy of religious freedom was not far behind, as were attempts to incorporate Native Americans into American society. His establishment of the University of Virginia might be one of the most important markers of the man’s abilities and character. He was not without flaws. While he argued for the assimilation of Native Americans into society, he did not assume the same for Africans being held in slavery while—at the same time—insisting that slavery should cease to exist. Many still accuse Jefferson of hypocrisy on the ground that he both held that “all men are created equal” and held men as slaves. Jefferson’s true character, though, is more complex than that as Kevin Gutzman shows in his new book about Jefferson, a revolutionary whose accomplishments went far beyond the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.