“Jefferson and the Rights of Man” is the second of six volumes in the Pulitzer Prize winning epic biography of Thomas Jefferson authored by Dumas Malone. This volume covers the years 1784-1792 which Jefferson largely spent in Europe as a diplomat and as George Washington’s first Secretary of State. The volume concludes as Washington’s first term, but not quite Jefferson’s tenure in the cabinet, is ending.
Like the first volume in this series, turgid prose and weighty detail are found in abundance throughout. Happily, though, the pace moves along somewhat more rapidly than in “Jefferson the Virginian” though it is uneven, moving quite slowly in pockets and picking up speed at other moments (usually as the story grows more interesting and intriguing).
Many reviewers describe this volume as more dry and less interesting than the first, but I disagree. While, from a personal perspective, less seemed to occur in Jefferson’s life during these years, what was described of this important period seemed either more interesting, or perhaps just more colorfully related. Where in the first volume we saw Jefferson mature, enter politics, draft the Declaration of Independence, marry and serve as a war governor of Virginia, in this second volume he…
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