“Jefferson the President: Second Term” is the fifth of six volumes in Dumas Malone’s groundbreaking biographical work on Thomas Jefferson. Published in 1974, this book is the longest of any in the series. Soon after completing this volume, and more than three decades after beginning work on the series, Malone received the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for history.
By this point in the series, Malone has long-settled into a familiar, comfortable style of writing which is clear and cogent, though somewhat dry. Readers expecting an enchanting, carefree description of events will again be disappointed. Malone’s meticulous research underpins a writing style which is consistently expansive and thorough, and will test the casual reader’s tenacity.
Most scholars, Malone included, view Jefferson’s second term as having been less successful than his first. Similarly, readers are likely to find the description of Jefferson’s first term (in Malone’s fourth volume) more absorbing than the description of events here, in Jefferson’s second term. Where the earlier volume provides a gripping account of Jefferson’s struggle with a Federalist-dominated judiciary, the Louisiana Purchase and the launch of the Lewis and Clark expedition, this volume labors under the burden of…
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