Most Blessed of the Patriarchs
Finalist for the 2017 George Washington Book Prize.
"Most Blessed of the Patriarchs": Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination. By Pulitzer Prize winner Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf. ISBN 978-0-871410-442-8. Copyright 2016. Hardcover with 379 pages including notes and index.
This character study of Thomas Jefferson explores his origins in Virginia, his five-year sojourn to Paris, and his views on Christianity, slavery, and race. We see not just his ideas and vision of America but come to know him in an almost familial way, such as through the importance of music in his life.
Tracing Jefferson's philosophical development from youth to old age, the authors explore what they call the "empire" of Jefferson's imagination; an expansive state of mind born of his origins in a slave society, his intellectual influences, and the vaulting ambition that propelled him into public life as a modern avatar of the Enlightenment who, at the same time, likened himself to a figure of old; "the most blessed of the patriarchs." Indeed, Jefferson saw himself as a "patriarch," not just to his country and mountain-like home at Monticello but also to his family, the white half that he loved so publicly, as well as to the black side that he claimed to love, a contradiction of extraordinary historical magnitude.