Eagerly awaited by readers of Alf Mapp's best-selling Thomas Jefferson: A Strange Case of Mistaken Identity, this final volume follows Jefferson from his inauguration as President in 1801 to his death at the age of 83 on July 4, 1826. It embraces the eight years as Chief Executive in which he doubled the size of the United States by his daring Louisiana Purchase, sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on one of the world's greatest expeditions of exploration, and challenged the formidable Chief Justice John Marshall with a major program of judicial reform. It proves the falseness of the stereotype that Jefferson ignored national defense and tried to keep the Navy weak. The book shows him late in life, with ideas that have relevance today, planning a system of public education and founding the University of Virginia, and it reveals, better than any other biography to date, the intimate details of the lonely private battle he fought during his last tortured, but ultimately triumphant, decade.
In Thomas Jefferson: Passionate Pilgrim, Jefferson the human being, passionate in his loves and hates, is never lost in a revealing portrait of the public figure. Witnessing Jefferson's actions in private life as well as in the arena of history, the reader learns why this founding father was abhorred by some but adored by many more.
The book not only is enlightening about Jefferson's personality, character, and career, but also enables us to view America and Europe in the first quarter of the nineteenth century through the eyes of the one person best qualified to see them in all phases. His wide acquaintance on both sides of the Atlantic, his richly varied interests, and his life as both scholar and social animal, gave him a unique perspective.
Almost as interesting as Jefferson himself are the many other characters ho enliven the narrative. In addition to such accustomed players in his life drama as Madison, Monroe, and Marshall, there is the President's troublesome cousin, John Randolph, majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives at age twenty-eight, who sometimes entered the chamber in foxhunting togs, followed by a pack of hounds, and gestured with a riding crop as he addressed his colleagues. And there is Margaret Bayard Smith, who boasted that the master of monticello had admitted her to his "sanctum sanctorum" where "any other feet but his own seldom intrude." There was Vice President Aaron Burr, of the hypnotic eyes, who almost founded an empire in the American West. And who could forget Napoleon, completely nude, conducting a conference vital to the fate of both Jefferson and the United States?
Read either separately or in conjunction with Mapp's earlier volume on Jefferson, this book offers an illuminating and absorbing view of the person whom columnist George Will describes as the "Man of the Millennium."