"An important book…[R]ichly rewarding. It is full of fascinating insights about Jefferson." —Gordon S. Wood, New York Review of Books Hailed by critics and embraced by readers, "Most Blessed of the Patriarchs" is one of the richest and most insightful accounts of Thomas Jefferson in a generation. Following her Pulitzer Prize–winning The Hemingses of Monticello¸ Annette Gordon-Reed has teamed with Peter S. Onuf to present a provocative and absorbing character study, "a fresh and layered analysis" (New York Times Book Review) that reveals our third president as "a dynamic, complex and oftentimes contradictory human being" (Chicago Tribune). Gordon-Reed and Onuf fundamentally challenge much of what we thought we knew, and through their 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).
Presents a 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.
Thomas Jefferson believed that the American revolution was atransformative moment in the history of political civilization. He hoped that hisown efforts as a founding statesman and theorist would help construct a progressiveand enlightened order for the new American nation that would be a model andinspiration for the world. Peter S. Onuf's new book traces Jefferson's vision of theAmerican future to its roots in his idealized notions of nationhood and empire.Onuf's unsettling recognition that Jefferson's famed egalitarianism was elaboratedin an imperial context yields strikingly original interpretations of our nationalidentity and our ideas of race, of westward expansion and the Civil War, and ofAmerican global dominance in the twentiethcentury. Jefferson's vision of an American "empirefor liberty" was modeled on a British prototype. But as a consensual union ofself-governing republics without a metropolis, Jefferson's American empire would befree of exploitation by a corrupt imperial ruling class. It would avoid the cycle ofwar and destruction that had characterized the European balance ofpower. The Civil War cast in high relief thetragic limitations of Jefferson's political vision. After the Union victory, as thereconstructed nation-state developed into a world power, dreams of the United Statesas an ever-expanding empire of peacefully coexisting states quickly faded frommemory. Yet even as the antebellum federal union disintegrated, a Jeffersoniannationalism, proudly conscious of America's historic revolution against imperialdomination, grew up in its place. In Onuf's view, Jefferson's quest to define a new American identity also shaped his ambivalentconceptions of slavery and Native American rights. His revolutionary fervor led himto see Indians as "merciless savages" who ravaged the frontiers at the Britishking's direction, but when those frontiers were pacified, a more benevolentJefferson encouraged these same Indians to embrace republican values. AfricanAmerican slaves, by contrast, constituted an unassimilable captive nation, unjustlywrenched from its African homeland. His great panacea: colonization. Jefferson's ideas about race revealthe limitations of his conception of American nationhood. Yet, as Onuf strikinglydocuments, Jefferson's vision of a republican empire--a regime of peace, prosperity, and union without coercion--continues to define and expand the boundaries ofAmerican national identity.
This new edition of Statehood and Union: A History of the Northwest Ordinance, originally published in 1987, is an authoritative account of the origins and early history of American policy for territorial government, land distribution, and the admission of new states in the Old Northwest. In a new preface, Peter S. Onuf reviews important new work on the progress of colonization and territorial expansion in the rising American empire.
“Dazzling. . . The most revolutionary reimagining of Jefferson’s life ever.” –Ron Charles, Washington Post Longlisted for the 2016 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize A debut novel about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, in whose story the conflict between the American ideal of equality and the realities of slavery and racism played out in the most tragic of terms. Novels such as Toni Morrison’s Beloved, The Known World by Edward P. Jones, James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird and Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks are a part of a long tradition of American fiction that plumbs the moral and human costs of history in ways that nonfiction simply can't. Now Stephen O’Connor joins this company with a profoundly original exploration of the many ways that the institution of slavery warped the human soul, as seen through the story of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. O’Connor’s protagonists are rendered via scrupulously researched scenes of their lives in Paris and at Monticello that alternate with a harrowing memoir written by Hemings after Jefferson’s death, as well as with dreamlike sequences in which Jefferson watches a movie about his life, Hemings fabricates an "invention" that becomes the whole world, and they run into each other "after an unimaginable length of time" on the New York City subway. O'Connor is unsparing in his rendition of the hypocrisy of the Founding Father and slaveholder who wrote "all men are created equal,” while enabling Hemings to tell her story in a way history has not allowed her to. His important and beautifully written novel is a deep moral reckoning, a story about the search for justice, freedom and an ideal world—and about the survival of hope even in the midst of catastrophe. From the Hardcover edition.
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.
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.
Co-winner of the 2017 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize An intimate, authoritative history of the first black soldiers to fight in the Union Army during the Civil War Soon after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, abolitionists began to call for the creation of black regiments. At first, the South and most of the North responded with outrage-southerners promised to execute any black soldiers captured in battle, while many northerners claimed that blacks lacked the necessary courage. Meanwhile, Massachusetts, long the center of abolitionist fervor, launched one of the greatest experiments in American history. In Thunder at the Gates, Douglas Egerton chronicles the formation and battlefield triumphs of the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Infantry and the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry-regiments led by whites but composed of black men born free or into slavery. He argues that the most important battles of all were won on the field of public opinion, for in fighting with distinction the regiments realized the long-derided idea of full and equal citizenship for blacks. A stirring evocation of this transformative episode, Thunder at the Gates offers a riveting new perspective on the Civil War and its legacy.
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.