Historian John B. Boles, a professor at Rice University, has provided readers with a well-researched and thoroughly engaging portrait of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States and crafter of the Declaration of Independence.
Boles mentions the story of John F. Kennedy’s 1962 dinner for Nobel Prize laureates where Kennedy famously quipped, “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”
the abolition of slavery “will ever be in my most fervent prayer”
Readers of Jefferson will be confirmed in the view that he was a man of singular knowledge and accomplishments, with a curiosity that seemed boundless.
His reputation has suffered in recent years due to new details about his relationship with his slave Sally Hemings, views on the inferiority of African-Americans, and his neglect to free his slaves, despite a lifetime of stated opposition to the institution of slavery and his fears (later realized) that its continuance would lead the young nation to civil war.
This fine biography does not shy away from Jefferson’s contradictions but provides a fascinating look at a devoted family man who championed religious freedom, maintained an optimistic view of the nation which he helped found, promoted public education, and—writing six weeks before his death—noted that the abolition of slavery “will ever be in my most fervent prayer.”