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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."