Jeremy Bailey on “‘Most Blessed of the Patriarchs’: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination”



For the San Francisco Chronicle, JMC Fellow and professor of political science at the University of Houston, considers a new book on Thomas Jefferson by Peter Onuf and Annette Gordon-Reed.

With Thomas Jefferson, biographers face a tough question. What should we make of the gap between Jefferson’s world-historical importance in the progress of equality and his rule over a plantation of enslaved men, women and children? How do we make sense of the difference between Jefferson’s words and his actions? Should we be moved by Jefferson’s greatness, or should we pull down his statues?

In “‘Most Blessed of the Patriarchs’: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination,” Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf choose a different path for the biographer. Instead of offering a verdict, they aim “to consider the way he saw himself moving through a world he had helped bring into being.” That is, their goal is to “understand what Thomas Jefferson thought he was doing in the world.”

Read the full review here.