He is vain, irritable and a bad calculator of the force and probable effect of the motives which govern men… Thomas Jefferson
With that exchange of pleasantries we have the last candid – if not honest – opinions expressed by one another of our second and third presidents until the end of the 19th century when Theodore Roosevelt would opine of Jefferson that he was, Perhaps the most incapable executive that ever filled the presidential chair… it would be difficult to imagine a man less fit to guide the state with honor and safety through the stormy times that marked the opening of the present century.
While the autobiographies of politicians may be largely dismissed as self-serving exercises in personal aggrandizement biographies written by scholars are often a little harder to judge. This is particularly true when you have a polarizing figure like Jefferson who has long had both opinions and actions attributed to him that are dubious in their authenticity leaving both the subject and the biographer suspect as to motive, action and result.
Burstein’s latest offering takes Jefferson’s correspondence at face value and credits it with revealing the man – as for us we believe that a man may smile, and smile, and be a villain…
The inner Jefferson : portrait of a grieving optimist Andrew Burstein Charlottesville : University Press of Virginia, 1995 Hardcover. 1st ed. xx, 334 p. : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 293-325) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG
Thomas Jefferson’s personal life has always been a puzzle to biographers. Even his contemporaries found him difficult to know. In Jefferson’s correspondence, however, Burstein has found a key to the inner man. This penetrating and thoughtful portait confronts widespread misunderstandings about Jefferson’s romantic life and provides insight into the contradictions that still surround our third president.