On to Thomas Jefferson!
I visited Washington DC as a young man, and the Jefferson Memorial was overwhelmingly the favorite spot that my Dad took me on our trip. I spent my time studying the imposing statue and reading the words inscribed on the walls that surrounded him. I appreciate the words Jefferson applied to the Declaration of Independence and his stance on limited government. Jefferson is continually graded as one of the top 4 or 5 presidents and is eternally enshrined on Mount Rushmore. The third president is one of the leaders I am most excited to read about of all the Chief Executives.
Jefferson was born in Shadwell, VA on April 13, 1743. He was not born into the Virginia elite, but his father, Peter Jefferson was well respected in the Shadwell area. Jefferson graduated from the College of William and Mary prior to becoming a lawyer. Eventually, Jefferson was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses and then the Continental Congress. In 1776, Jefferson put pen to paper and formulated the Declaration of Independence, which became a transformative document in world history. Jefferson was elected as Governor of Virginia prior to being sent to France as American’s Ambassador.
Returning from France, he served as the Secretary of State for George Washington and Vice-President to John Adams. In 1800, Jefferson was elected as President of the United States, a controversial election that can be further researched in Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800 (my review here). He fulfilled two terms as President before retiring to Monticello. During these terms, he negotiated the Louisiana Purchase, deployed Lewis and Clark, and fought a naval war against the Barbary pirates. Jefferson exchanged dozens of letters with John Adams, providing present day Americans a fascinating look into their lives. He died the same day as Adams, July 4th, exactly 50 years from the signing of the Declaration.
The journey of reading on Jefferson will take some time this spring. I currently have 11 books, and believe once Thomas Jefferson: Architect of Liberty is released in late April, it will become 12. The books I selected are a mixture of biographies and works on snippets of Jefferson’s life. The first book in the lineup is American Sphinx by Joseph Ellis. I want to get a one volume overview of Jefferson’s life completed before taking on Dumas Malone’s six volume epic.
Moving through Malone’s works will take the better part of four weeks at 70 pages daily. His biography written in the Sixties is purported to be the definitive work on the life of our third president. Kevin Gutzman’s Thomas Jefferson: Revolutionary comes after Malone’s work. The remainder of the books will follow the timeline of Jefferson’s life, but I will save Pulitzer winner The Art of Power for the final book in my reading.
I am very excited to read and study Jefferson. I feel I am most closely aligned politically speaking with his views out of all the presidents. I look forward to discovering how much we have in common.