After nearly two months with Thomas Jefferson involving five biographies (ten books in total) and over 5,000 pages of reading, I still feel I know Jefferson less well than many other revolutionary-era figures…including some like Alexander Hamilton who I’ve only encountered through his numerous appearances in various presidential biographies.
But that’s part of the intriguing mystery that Jefferson presents – even the most dedicated Jefferson scholars such as Malone and Peterson have admitted difficulty in getting to know our third president on a personal level. In his biography of Jefferson, Merrill Peterson acknowledged being mortified in confessing he still found Jefferson “impenetrable” after years of study.
Part of what seems to make Jefferson so complex is that he is not merely a two-dimensional figure. The set of internal rules governing his behavior resembles a multi-variable differential equation whose output seems maddeningly inconsistent at times. But on a basic level, Jefferson…
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