This book offers an unprecedented look behind the public image of Thomas Jefferson by visiting him in his final years, from his return to Monticello in 1809 after two terms as president until his death in 1826. Alan Pell Crawford paints a moving portrait of a private man very much at odds with the figure we have come to revere—and he himself wished he could be.
"Of course, Jefferson's stated principles are what made him so important; many of them became America's principles. And Jefferson wasn't the only American who failed to live up to them. But he sure didn't. Crawford connects the dots by portraying Jefferson as a failed idealist who preferred theory to practice, maintaining a constant state of denial that allowed him to denounce partisanship, political intrigue and fiscal irresponsibility as well as slaveholding with genuine vehemence in his public life while practicing them all with vigor in his private life. It's a polite way of saying that Jefferson lived in a dream world, a world where man's interests and duties miraculously coincided, where enlightened agricultural and architectural theories were correct regardless of miserable yields or leaking roofs, where no one dared to point out that Sally Hemings's children looked an awful lot like Thomas Jefferson.... We should celebrate Jefferson's enduring ideals, but this book reminds us that there's no need to whitewash his reality."—Washington Post