“Jefferson the President: First Term” is the fourth volume in Dumas Malone’s monumental biographical work on Thomas Jefferson. This volume was published in 1970 and was followed four years later by volume five, after which Malone received a Pulitzer Prize for the still incomplete series. The final volume was published in 1981 when its author was eighty-nine years old.
Consistent with previous volumes in this series, this book can be read as a stand-alone work – in this instance focusing almost solely on Jefferson’s first term as president – but seems much better read as part of Malone’s complete series. Also consistent with earlier volumes, this book was clearly the result of meticulous and painstaking research and groans under the weight of factual insights and accountings, though not the synthesis and evaluation I would have also appreciated.
Most readers will view this book as even less a biography than earlier volumes, it seeming instead more a historical account of the years 1801-1805. This is primarily due to Malone’s heavy focus on the notable events of the period, rather than Jefferson’s actions themselves. Owing partly to his party’s control of Congress, and the harmony within his cabinet, Jefferson rarely needed…
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