Figures and Tables



Notes on Contributors



PART I: Jefferson’s Life and Times

CHAPTER ONE: Jefferson and Biography

The Pitch

The Responses

CHAPTER TWO: Jefferson’s Virginia


Virginia to 1750

Virginia in 1750


Revolutionary Changes


CHAPTER THREE: Thomas Jefferson and A Summary View of the Rights of British North America

CHAPTER FOUR: The Declaration of Independence

The Road to Independence

Writing the Declaration

The Declaration as a Philosophical Document: The Introduction

The Declaration as a Propaganda Document: The Grievances

The Declaration as a Foreign Policy Document: Conclusion

CHAPTER FIVE: “I have known”: Thomas Jefferson, Experience, and Notes on the State of Virginia

CHAPTER SIX: The Virginia Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom

The Statute

Thomas Jefferson and Religion

The Battle for the Statute

The Statute and the First Amendment


A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom5

CHAPTER SEVEN: A Republican Reformation: Thomas Jefferson’s Civil Religion and the Separation of Church from State

The Controversy

Jefferson’s Public God

Jefferson’s Religion

A Republican Reformation

Education and Capability6

Conclusion: An Ironic Wall

CHAPTER EIGHT: The Paris Years of Thomas Jefferson

A man for all seasons

Political Life

Intellectual life

The Rights of Man, the Citizen, James Hemings, and Sally Hemings

CHAPTER NINE: Jefferson as Party Leader

CHAPTER TEN: A Qualified Revolution: The Presidential Election of 1800

The Crisis Mentality of 1800

The Election of 1800

The Electoral Tie

Jefferson the President

CHAPTER ELEVEN: The (Federalist?) Presidency of Thomas Jefferson

The Substance of Style

The Purposes of Parsimony

Promises and problems in the West

The Limits of Limited Government

Emperor of Liberty?

CHAPTER TWELVE: From “Floating Ardor” to the “Union of Sentiment”: Jefferson on the Relationship between Public Opinion and the Executive

Executive Discretion

Public Judgment

Executive Discretion and Public Judgment

CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Jefferson and International Relations

Revolutionary Diplomacy

Minister to France

Secretary of State and Opposition to the Federalists

Presidential Diplomacy and Retirement

CHAPTER FOURTEEN: Jefferson in Retirement

PART II: Themes

CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Thomas Jefferson and Native Americans




CHAPTER SIXTEEN: Thomas Jefferson: Planter andFarmer

Philosophical Planter

Mathematical Manager

Honorary Farmer

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: Thomas Jefferson and Slavery


CHAPTER NINETEEN: Thomas Jefferson and Affairs of the Heart

Martha Wayles Skelton’s Sterne

Maria Cosway’s Heart

Patsy’s Angel

Angelica’s Little Urn

America’s Angel and Amazon

CHAPTER TWENTY: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams

Two Men of 1776

Americans in Paris

The Republic and the World

The Federal Era, the French Revolution, and the Early Republic

Retirement and Reconciliation

Last Writes

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: The Libraries of Thomas Jefferson

The Shadwell Library

The Early Monticello Library

The Annapolis Library

The Paris Library

The Great Library

The Vacation Library at Poplar Forest

The Retirement Library

The University of Virginia Library


CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO: Jefferson and the Law

Jefferson’s Reputation and the Law

Jefferson’s Ambivalence about the Law

Jefferson’s Legal Project

Jefferson, Slavery, and Law

Jefferson and the Law of Church and State

Jefferson and the Reform of Law


CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE: Thomas Jefferson, Cosmopolitanism, and the Enlightenment

Enlightened Traveler

Provincial Cosmopolite

Cosmopolitan Nationalist

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR: Thomas Jefferson and the Ancient World

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE: Jefferson and American Democracy

Becoming a Democrat

Revolutionary Origins of American Democracy

Aristocracy and Democracy

Federalism and Mixed Government


CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX: Thomas Jefferson and Constitutionalism

Challenging the Imperial Constitutional Context (1743–1776)

Constitutional and Legal Reformer (1776–1784)

The Constitutional View from Abroad (1784–1789)

Within the Context of the United States Constitution (1789–1801)

President Jefferson’s Constitutional Vision (1801–1809)

The Constitutional Sage of Monticello (1809–1826)


Time, Space, and the Expanding Republic

The War-System, Antistatism, and Liberty

The Jeffersonians in Power


CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT: Jefferson and Education

PART III: Legacy

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE: History, Politics, and the Self: Jefferson’s “Anas” and Autobiography


The Anas

The Autobiography

CHAPTER THIRTY: “For Generations to Come”: Creating the “Definitive” Jefferson Edition


Setting to Work

Reception of the Volumes

Sustaining the Edition

Impact and Legacy

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE: Preservation and Education: Monticello and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO: Jefferson’s Legacy: The Nation as Interpretative Community

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE: Thomas Jefferson in the Twenty-First Century


Primary Sources

Secondary Sources



This series provides essential and authoritative overviews of the scholarship that has shaped our present understanding of the American past. Edited by eminent historians, each volume tackles one of the major periods or themes of American history, with individual topics authored by key scholars who have spent considerable time in research on the questions and controversies that have sparked debate in their field of interest. The volumes are accessible for the non-specialist, while also engaging scholars seeking a reference to the historiography or future concerns.


A Companion to the American Revolution
Edited by Jack P. Greene and J. R. Pole

A Companion to 19th-Century America
Edited by William L. Barney

A Companion to the American South
Edited by John B. Boles

A Companion to American Indian History
Edited by Philip J. Deloria and Neal Salisbury

A Companion to American Women’s History
Edited by Nancy Hewitt

A Companion to Post-1945 America
Edited by Jean-Christophe Agnew and Roy Rosenzweig

A Companion to the Vietnam War
Edited by Marilyn Young and Robert Buzzanco

A Companion to Colonial America
Edited by Daniel Vickers

A Companion to 20th-Century America
Edited by Stephen J. Whitfield

A Companion to the American West
Edited by William Deverell

A Companion to American Foreign Relations
Edited by Robert Schulzinger

A Companion to the Civil War and Reconstruction
Edited by Lacy K. Ford

A Companion to American Technology
Edited by Carroll Pursell

A Companion to African-American History
Edited by Alton Hornsby

A Companion to American Immigration
Edited by Reed Ueda

A Companion to American Cultural History
Edited by Karen Halttunen

A Companion to California History
Edited by William Deverell and David Igler

A Companion to American Military History
Edited by James Bradford

A Companion to Los Angeles
Edited by William Deverell and Greg Hise

A Companion to American Environmental History
Edited by Douglas Cazaux Sackman

A Companion to Benjamin Franklin
Edited by David Waldstreicher

In preparation:

A Companion to American Urban History
Edited by David Quigley

A Companion to American Legal History
Edited by Sally Hadden and Alfred L. Brophy

A Companion to World War Two (2 volumes)
Edited by Thomas Zeiler

A Companion to the History of American Science
Edited by Mark Largent

A Companion to Supreme Court History (2 volumes)
Edited by John Vile

A Companion to American Sports History
Edited by Steven Riess



A Companion to Franklin D. Roosevelt
Edited by William Pederson

A Companion to Richard M. Nixon
Edited by Melvin Small

A Companion to Thomas Jefferson
Edited by Francis D. Cogliano

In preparation:

A Companion to Abraham Lincoln
Edited by Michael Green

A Companion to George Washington
Edited by Edward G. Lengel

A Companion to Harry S. Truman
Edited by Daniel S. Margolies

A Companion to Theodore Roosevelt
Edited by Serge Ricard

A Companion to Lyndon B. Johnson
Edited by Mitchell Lerner

A Companion to Andrew Jackson
Edited by Sean Patrick Adams

A Companion to Woodrow Wilson
Edited by Ross A. Kennedy

A Companion to Dwight D. Eisenhower
Edited by Chester J. Pach

A Companion to Ronald Reagan
Edited by Andrew L. Johns

A Companion to James Madison and James Monroe
Edited by Stuart Leibiger

A Companion to John Adams and John Quincy Adams
Edited by David Waldstreicher

A Companion to the Antebellum Presidents, 1837–1861
Edited by Joel Silbey

A Companion to the Reconstruction Presidents, 1865–1881
Edited by Edward Frantz

A Companion to Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter
Edited by V. Scott Kaufman

A Companion to Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover
Edited by Katherine A. S. Sibley



Frank Shuffelton

Figures and Tables



Charlottesville, and Monticello.



Non-debt-related government spending (four-year total) and size of public debt (final year of administration) ($ millions).


Imports and government revenue ($ millions).

Notes on Contributors

Cameron Addis is Professor of History at Austin Community College and Instructor at American Military University. He is the author of Jefferson’s Vision for Education (2003), studied as fellow at the International Center for Jefferson Studies in 1997–1998, and spoke at the opening of the USMA Jefferson Library at West Point in 2008.

Jeremy D. Bailey is Associate Professor at the University of Houston, where he holds a dual appointment in the department of political science and the Honors College. He is now at work on a book on James Madison’s treatment of constitutional imperfection. Bailey is the author of Thomas Jefferson and Executive Power (2007). He has also published articles in American Political Science Review, Review of Politics, Presidential Studies Quarterly, Publius: The Journal of Federalism, and Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy.

R.B. Bernstein is distinguished adjunct professor of law at New York Law School, where he has taught since 1991. His books include The Founding Fathers Reconsidered (2009), Thomas Jefferson (2003), and the forthcoming The Education of John Adams.

Andrew Burstein is Charles P. Manship Professor of History at Louisiana State University. He is the author of seven books on early American political culture, including Jefferson’s Secrets (2005), The Inner Jefferson (1995), and most recently Madison and Jefferson (2010), which he coauthored with Nancy Isenberg.

Andrew Cayton, Distinguished Professor of History at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, is the author of Frontier Indiana (1996); co-author with Fred Anderson of The Dominion of War: Empire and Liberty in North America, 1500–2000 (2005); and co-editor with Fredrika J. Teute of Contact Points: American Frontiers from the Mohawk Valley to the Mississippi, 1750–1830 (1998).

Francis D. Cogliano is Professor of American History at the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of Thomas Jefferson: Reputation and Legacy (2006) and Revolutionary America, 1763–1815: A Political History (2000, 2009, 2nd ed.) among other publications.

Matthew E. Crow is a PhD candidate in History at UCLA. He has been a research fellow at the Library of the American Philosophical Society as well as the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies. His dissertation is entitled In the Course of Human Events: Jefferson, Text, and the Potentialities of Law.

Max M. Edling is a lecturer and research fellow in the History Department at Uppsala University. He is an expert on the American founding and the public finances of the early American state, and the author of A Revolution in Favor of Government: The Making of the U.S. Constitution and the Origins of the American State (2003).

Todd Estes is Associate Professor of History at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. He is the author of The Jay Treaty Debate, Public Opinion, and the Evolution of Early American Political Culture (2006) and has also published many other articles, essays, and reviews. In 2009 he was named a Distinguished Lecturer by the Organization of American Historians. He is currently working on a book about the public debates over the ratification of the Constitution.

Joanne B. Freeman is Professor of History at Yale University, specializing in the political culture of revolutionary and early national America. She is the author of the award-winning Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic (2001) and the editor of Alexander Hamilton: Writings (2001). A frequent lecturer at institutions and teaching institutes around the nation, she has contributed to numerous documentaries on PBS, the History Channel, and BBC Radio. Her current project is a study of congressional violence and the culture of Congress in antebellum America.

Annette Gordon-Reed is a Professor of Law and Professor of History at Harvard University. She is also the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard. Gordon-Reed is the author of, among other works, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy and The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for History and the National Book Award for Non-Fiction.

Kevin J. Hayes, Professor of English at the University of Central Oklahoma, is the author of several books, including The Road to Monticello: The Life and Mind of Thomas Jefferson (2008), The Mind of a Patriot: Patrick Henry and the World of Ideas (2008), and The Library of William Byrd of Westover (1997), for which he received the Virginia Library History Award from the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Center for the Book.

Catherine Kerrison is Associate Professor of History and Academic Director of Gender and Women’s Studies at Villanova University. The recipient of numerous research awards, she is the author of articles about gender and intellectual life in the early South, and of Claiming the Pen: Women and Intellectual Life in the Early American South (2006), winner of the Outstanding Book Award from the History of Education Society. She is currently working on her second book, “Jefferson’s Daughters.”

David Thomas Konig is Professor of History and Professor of Law at Washington University in St. Louis. He is co-editor with Michael Zuckert of The Legal Commonplace Book of Thomas Jefferson, series 2 of the Papers of Thomas Jefferson (forthcoming).

James P. McClure, a Senior Associate Editor of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, has been a member of the project’s staff since 1996. He has lectured on Jefferson and science, the drafting of Jefferson’s first Annual Message to Congress, and the Kentucky Resolutions. He was previously an associate editor of the Salmon P. Chase Papers (5 vols, 1993–1998). With Peg A. Lamphier and Erika M. Kreger, he edited “Spur Up Your Pegasus”: Family Letters of Salmon, Kate, and Nettie Chase, 1844–1873 (2009).

Robert M.S. McDonald is Associate Professor of History at the United States Military Academy. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia, Oxford University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned his PhD. He is editor of Thomas Jefferson’s Military Academy: Founding West Point and is completing a book to be titled Confounding Father: Thomas Jefferson and the Politics of Personality.

Michael A. McDonnell teaches in the Department of History at the University of Sydney. He has published articles on the American Revolution in the William and Mary Quarterly, the Journal of American History, and the Journal of American Studies, and is the author of The Politics of War: Race, Class, and Conflict in Revolutionary Virginia (Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, 2007). He is currently finishing a book on the French, Anishinaabe, and Métis communities of the Great Lakes, and starting a new project on “Memory, History and Nation-Making: The Revolution in American Life.”

Iain McLean is Professor of Politics at Oxford University and a fellow of Nuffield College. He has held visiting appointments at Washington and Lee, Stanford, Yale, and the Australian National universities. His interest in Thomas Jefferson goes back to his long-ago sabbatical at Washington and Lee, the slightly older cousin of Jefferson’s University of Virginia. It was rekindled in the late 1980s by work on Condorcet and the mathematics of democracy, when he discovered the remarkable encounter of Condorcet and Jefferson in Paris. While preparing this chapter he held visiting appointments at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (Paris) and the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello. He is a Fellow of the British Academy.

Johann N. Neem is Associate Professor of History at Western Washington University. He is author of Creating a Nation of Joiners: Democracy and Civil Society in Early National Massachusetts (2008).

Barbara B. Oberg is General Editor of the Papers of Thomas Jefferson and a Lecturer with the Rank of Professor in the History Department at Princeton University. Before coming to the Jefferson Papers in 1999, she served for 12 years as Editor of the Papers of Benjamin Franklin at Yale University. She has co-edited two collections of essays, Benjamin Franklin, Jonathan Edwards, and the Representation of American Culture with Harry S. Stout (Oxford University Press, 1993) and Federalists Reconsidered with Doron Ben-Atar (University of Virginia Press, 1998). She has published many articles and reviews on the history of the early American republic and the craft of documentary editing. A former president of the Association for Documentary Editing and the Society of Historians of the Early American Republic, in 2008–2009 she was the R. Stanton Avery Distinguished Fellow at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.

Peter S. Onuf is the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor of History at the University of Virginia. He is the author of many works on the history of the early American republic, including Jefferson’s Empire: The Language of American Nationhood (2000) and The Mind of Thomas Jefferson (2007).

Robert G. Parkinson is Assistant Professor of History at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. His book, The Common Cause: Race, Nation, and the Consequences of Unity in the American Revolution, will be published in the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture series of the University of North Carolina Press.

Cassandra Pybus gained her PhD in History from the University of Sydney in 1977 where she now holds an Australian Research Council Professorial Fellowship. She was Fulbright Professor at Georgetown University in Washington DC in 2002, International Fellow at the International Center for Jefferson Studies in Virginia in 2003, and Visiting Professor at Institute of Historical Studies in Austin, Texas in 2007. Her interests span as broadly as Australian social history, colonial history in North America, South East Asia, Africa and Australia, slavery and she has published extensively on Australian, American, and Transatlantic history. Her most recent books are Epic Journeys of Freedom: Runaway Slaves of the American Revolution and their Global Quest for Liberty (Boston 2006) and, as co-editor, Many Middle Passages: Forced Migration in the Making of the Modern World (Berkeley 2007).

John A. Ragosta is a historian and lawyer who has published extensively in both legal and historical journals in the areas of early American history, constitutional law, and international relations. He practiced international trade law and litigation for 20 years in Washington DC and has taught at the George Washington University School of Law, the University of Virginia history department and law school, and Randolph College. He is the author of Wellspring of Liberty: How Virginia’s Religious Dissenters Helped Win the American Revolution and Secured Religious Liberty (2010).

Jack N. Rakove is the William Robertson Coe Professor of History and American Studies, and Professor of Political Science and (by courtesy) Law at Stanford University, where he has taught since 1980. He earned his BA in History from Haverford College in 1968, while also studying history at the University of Edinburgh, and completed his PhD at Harvard in 1975. He is the author of six books on the history of the American Revolution, including The Beginnings of National Politics (1979); Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution (1996); and Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America (2010). Rakove also writes frequently on issues of constitutional interpretation. He is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

Kristofer Ray is Assistant Professor of Early American History at Austin Peay State University and senior editor of the Tennessee Historical Quarterly. Between 2004 and 2006 he helped edit four volumes of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series. His first book, Middle Tennessee, 1775–1825: Progress and Popular Democracy on the Southwestern Frontier, was published in 2007. He is currently researching issues of sovereignty, loyalty, and identity formation in the trans-Appalachian west, 1670–1800.

Leonard J. Sadosky is an independent scholar who holds a PhD from the University of Virginia (2003) and is a past fellow at both the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello and Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of Revolutionary Negotiations: Indians, Empires, and Diplomats in the Founding of America (2009) and co-author with Peter S. Onuf of Jeffersonian America (2002).

Richard Samuelson is an Assistant Professor of history at California State University, San Bernardino. He has taught at or held fellowships at the University of Virginia, the University of Glasgow, the National University of Ireland, Galway, the University of Paris, 8, Claremont McKenna College, and Princeton University. He has published several essays on Jefferson, Adams, and the Adams–Jefferson correspondence, and is currently completing a book entitled John Adams and the Republic of Law. Dr. Samuelson received his PhD in American history from the University of Virginia.

Hannah Spahn is assistant professor at the John F. Kennedy-Institute for North American Studies at the Free University Berlin. She is author of Thomas Jefferson und die Sklaverei: Verrat an der Aufklärung? (2002) and Thomas Jefferson, Time, and History (2011).

Lucia Stanton is Shannon Senior Historian at Monticello. She is co-editor of Thomas Jefferson’s Memorandum Books (1997) and Jefferson Abroad (1999) and author of Free Some Day: The African-American Families of Monticello (2000) and articles on Jefferson and agriculture, science, and slavery.

Brian Steele is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is the author of “Thomas Jefferson’s Gender Frontier” (Journal of American History, June 2008) and of a forthcoming book on Jefferson’s nationalism.

Peter Thompson is Sydney L. Mayer University Lecturer in Early American History, University of Oxford and a Fellow of St. Cross College.

Billy L. Wayson holds a PhD from the University of Virginia. He brings his experiences in business, public policy, elected office, and farming to the study of cultural, social, and community history from mid-eighteenth century to the early antebellum period. His long-term project exploring a community of plantations in central Virginia currently focuses on Thomas Jefferson’s business finances, plantation management practices, and slave labor utilization.

Caroline Winterer is Professor in the Department of History at Stanford University. She is the author of The Culture of Classicism: Ancient Greece and Rome in American Intellectual Life, 1780–1910 (2002) and The Mirror of Antiquity: American Women and the Classical Tradition, 1750–1900 (2007).


Memorandum Books: James A. Bear and Lucia C. Stanton (eds) Jefferson’s Memorandum Books, 2 vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997).

PTJ : Julian P. Boyd et al. (eds) The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 36 vols to date (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950-).

PTJ:RS: J. Jefferson Looney (ed.) The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, 6 vols. to date (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004–).

TJ: Thomas Jefferson

TJP: The Thomas Jefferson Papers, 1607–1826, Library of Congress.

TJW: Merrill D. Peterson (ed.) Thomas Jefferson: Writings (New York: Library of America, 1984).



On February 17, 1826 Thomas Jefferson wrote to his close friend James Madison. After discussing the appointment of a law professor for the University of Virginia, Jefferson lamented his crushing debts and outlined a lottery scheme which he hoped would solve the problem and save his home. At age eighty-two and in declining health, Jefferson was preoccupied with his legacy. He wrote to Madison, “It has … been a great solace to me, to believe that you are engaged in vindicating to posterity the course we have pursued for preserving to them, in all their purity, the blessings of self-government, which we have assisted too in acquiring for them.” Jefferson worried that future generations would forget, misconstrue, or misuse his historical legacy. He closed his letter with a plea that his friend “Take care of me when dead.” (TJ to James Madison, February 17, 1826, TJW, 1515)

Jefferson need not have worried. Although his reputation has waxed and waned over time he has not wanted for the attention of posterity. Since his death on July 4, 1826 biographers and historians have sought to come to grips with Jefferson. They have done so for a vast and interested audience of fellow scholars, politicians, and a general public that has a seemingly insatiable appetite for things Jeffersonian. Several examples illustrate the ubiquity of Jefferson and Jefferson’s image in contemporary America, and beyond. On March 17, 2009 a new play, Red-Haired Thomas by Robert Lyons debuted at New York’s Ohio Theater. Set on Manhattan’s West Side, the play “opens with a scene of a half-naked Thomas Jefferson who congratulates himself for having “fathered the most human of all human rights – and the most elusive: the right to pursue happiness.” He also claims to have fathered two singularly unhappy men: Cliff, “a delusional dreamer with a penchant for violence,” and Ifthikar, “an immigrant from Asia Minor who runs a newsstand.” The play examines modern New York life, terrorism, the global financial crisis, and family relationships through the men’s imagined relationship with Jefferson whom a reviewer in the New York Times described as “still our shiniest symbol of the democracy that some see as our most valuable export” (Soloski 2009, Gates 2009).

Several days after Red-Haired Thomas debuted in New York the right-wing Republican congresswoman from Minnesota, Michelle Bachmann, invoked Jefferson to call for armed resistance to the Obama administration. “I want the people in Minnesota armed and dangerous,” she said, on the “issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us, having a revolution every now and then is a good thing, and the people – we the people – are going to have to fight back hard if we’re not going to lose our country. And I think this has the potential of changing the dynamic of freedom forever in the United States” (Grandia 2009, emphasis in original).

Enthusiasm for Jefferson is not confined to the United States. On March 10, 2009 a blogger for London’s Daily Telegraph published a series of quotations from Jefferson concerning freedom of religion after advertisements appeared on buses in London and Seattle favoring atheism (Spence 2009). Several days later Modern Ghana News cited the example of Jefferson’s bitterly contested 1800 election and his (eventual) reconciliation with his opponent John Adams to argue for a similar reconciliation between Ghana’s New Patriotic Party and the National Democratic Congress (Damptey 2009). On April 5, 2009 in a column condemning greed Shmuley Boteach argued in The Jerusalem Post that Jefferson’s positive view of human nature had prevailed over Alexander Hamilton’s more pessimistic interpretation. “I was raised to believe,” wrote Boteach, “that an open democratic society is built on the belief that people are ultimately trustworthy. Did not Thomas Jefferson wage a pitched battle against Alexander Hamilton, the first secretary of the treasury, about the goodness inherent in individuals, with Jefferson’s vision winning out?” (Boteach 2009). On April 17, 2009 The Australian newspaper declared that President Obama is a “modern-day Jefferson” (O’Connor 2009). Each of these writers, on four different continents, presumed their readers would understand their references to Jefferson and grasp his contemporary relevance. What is striking is that Jefferson retains a powerful contemporary relevance. Jefferson is unique in his appeal to pundits, politicians, policy-makers, bloggers, writers of letters-to-the-editor, and ordinary people in the United States and beyond. It is difficult, for example, to imagine a contemporary British prime minister invoking William Pitt in an effort to win support for his or her policies or using “Gladstonian” as a shorthand for all that is good about British political values.

Against the context of intense public enthusiasm, books about Jefferson and his time continue to appear inexorably. In 1960 Merrill D. Peterson wrote, “The knowledge of Jefferson possessed by some recent scholars surpasses that of his most intimate contemporaries (if there were any who were genuinely intimate with that reserved man). Their works have achieved a more richly textured and, as the candid observer must feel, a truer image of than in his time” (Peterson 1960, 446). A half-century later, Peterson’s words still ring true. Owing to access to digital resources as well as the publication of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson by Princeton University Press students of Jefferson and his time have access to an increasingly wide array of primary source material. This has made possible the publication of an ever increasing (and increasingly sophisticated) scholarship on Jefferson, which this volume seeks to analyze and contribute to.

In October 1992 Peter S. Onuf, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor at the University of Virginia, organized a six-day conference to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Jefferson’s birth. Arising from that conference was an essay collection, Jeffersonian Legacies, which presented fifteen essays by leading scholars focusing on different aspects of Jefferson’s life and legacy. Jeffersonian Legacies quickly became a landmark in Jefferson scholarship. Nearly a generation has passed since its publication (Jefferson considered a generation to be 19 years in length). The present volume can be read as a sequel to Jeffersonian Legacies, which aims to take stock of the vast and growing scholarly literature on Jefferson and to offer fresh insights from leading scholars on Jefferson and his time. It is organized into three sections. The first contains essays that follow a roughly chronological format and trace Jefferson’s life, major writings, and public career. The second section, of equal length, provides detailed consideration of important themes that run through Jefferson’s life and the scholarly literature. The third, briefer, section presents a series of essays on Jefferson’s legacy – including Jefferson’s effort at fashioning his own legacy as well as the institutions, notably the Papers of Thomas Jefferson and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which have shaped our understanding of Jefferson’s complex legacy. It is not possible to get the last word on Jefferson. This volume is intended to contribute to an ongoing (and never-ending) colloquy on Jefferson and his time.

This volume is dedicated to the memory of Professor Frank Shuffelton, an eminent scholar of Jefferson. Frank was to have contributed an essay to this volume, but was prevented from doing so by his untimely death. This collection is the poorer for its absence. Frank provided encouragement, support, and friendship to numerous scholars, including many of those whose essays appear in this volume.


Boteach, S. (2009) No holds barred: The Rebbe and the remedy for greed, Jerusalem Post, April 5, 2009,

Damptey, D. D. (2009) We shall overcome … but when? Modern Ghana News (Accra),, March 13, 2009.

Gates, A. (2009) City life gets a bit Jeffersonian, New York Times, March 18, 2009,

Grandia, K. (2009) Republican Rep Michele Bachmann’s over-the-top nonsense, March 24, 2009, (accessed March 30, 2009).

O’Connor, B. (2009) Obama as a modern-day Jefferson. The Australian (Sydney), April 17, 2009,

Peterson, M.D. (1960, repr. 1998) The Jefferson Image in the American Mind. Oxford University Press, New York; University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville.

Soloski, A. (2009) A Founding Father prowls the Ohio theater stage in Red-Haired Thomas. The Village Voice, March 18, 2009,

Spencer, N. (2009) What quotation would you choose?,, March 9, 2009, accessed March 10, 2009.


Jefferson’s Life and Times