An absurd new book about Thomas Jefferson… by Henry Wiencek called “The Master of the Mountain” wants to change American history. Wiencek hates Jefferson and wants you to as well. He bends and twists evidence to suit his needs, even to the point of upsetting Annette Gordon-Reed. Gordon-Reed, no fan of our third President, provides a telling review of Wiencek’s nasty little screed:
“Suffice it to say that the problems with Master of the Mountain are too numerous to allow it to be taken seriously as a book that tells us anything new about Thomas Jefferson and slavery, and what it does say is too often wrong. It is, instead, a book about Henry Wiencek—with Jefferson, enslaved people, and the mountain thrown in for scenery. As he seeks to destroy Jefferson, Wiencek seeks to put himself in the place of the “Master of the Mountain” and become the true protector of the enslaved people of Monticello.”
Perhaps it is a stretch to see this as a change of heart… A better explanation is the extreme nature of this poorly written book. Weak Jefferson scholarship continues to proliferate because popular culture embraces the degradation of our most enigmatic Founder. It does say something when scholars with similar axes to grind turn on one another in print….somewhere, Dumas Malone is smiling.