Thomas Jefferson: Author of America (Eminent Lives)

Thomas Jefferson: Author of America (Eminent Lives)

Christopher Hitchens

Language: English

Pages: 208

ISBN: 0060837063

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In this unique biography of Thomas Jefferson, leading journalist and social critic Christopher Hitchens offers a startlingly new and provocative interpretation of our Founding Father—a man conflicted by power who wrote the Declaration of Independence and acted as ambassador to France yet yearned for a quieter career in the Virginia legislature. A masterly writer, Jefferson was an awkward public speaker. A professed proponent of emancipation, he elided the issue of slavery from the Declaration of Independence and continued to own human property. A reluctant candidate, he left an indelible presidential legacy. With intelligence, insight, eloquence, and wit, Hitchens gives us an artful portrait of a complex, formative figure and his turbulent era.

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drafting. This sense of being part of a grand and forward-looking enterprise helps explain the insouciance with which he greeted the lynching and dismembering of certain reactionary aristocrats, a price in blood he thought a small one to pay in the circumstances. After all, had not the Assembly at a stroke abolished all feudal and clerical privileges? Going some distance beyond his official duties as minister of a foreign power, in August he acted as host for a dinner organized by the Lafayette

view of this development, and routinely referred to the racial elite in Haiti (as I shall call it) as “aristocrats” and “monocrats,” he did take alarm when he saw that there might be a full-dress black slave revolution so near to the American South. As secretary of state, he saw this not as the second revolution of liberty in the hemisphere, but as a frightening development that had sent white French planters to seek refuge in places like Charleston, South Carolina. The force of the comparison

agricultural husbandry, hunting, bibliophilia, and the ingenious prolongation of chattel slavery. The difference was made by Jefferson’s attendance, between 1760 and 1762, at William and Mary College in Williamsburg. Here, he had the best luck that a young man can have, in that he was fortunate with his tutors. In particular, he fell in with Dr. William Small, a Scots-born teacher of the scientific method, and with the great George Wythe, who taught the law as an aspect of history and logic and

of larger than four each, but the fact remains that if they had received less than seventy votes apiece they would have had to face a runoff with the other three candidates—Adams, Pinckney, and Jay. To this head-swimming collision of arithmetic and interest (not really cleared up until the passage of the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution in 1804, and still a possible anomaly to this day, should there be any question of the validity of any state’s ballot) has been added a grave charge by

should think him less of a philosopher than a partisan. His manners are much the most agreeable part of him. They are artifical [sic], he shrugs his shoulders when talking, has much of the Frenchman, is rapid, varying, volatile, eloquent, amusing. I should not think him (did I not know his age) much over 60 or 65 years. In the same period as he was completing his work of radical biblical revisionism, Jefferson took his last, despairing position on the question of slavery. The Missouri

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