Book Review: Jefferson and His Time, Volume 1

This book, first in its series and often titled “Jefferson The Virginian”, is the first in a 6-volume monstrosity written by Dumas Malone over the course of thirty years. This was written in 48, and the final volume was written in 81. I think it reasonable for me to read biographies of more presidents than just Andrew Jackson, so here we go.

The Book

Jefferson and His Time, Volume 1: Jefferson The Virginian
Author: Dumas Malone
Amazon Link

Fair warning, the book does a really, REALLY bad job explaining this guy’s relationship with slavery. It’s probably a product of the time in which the book was written, but you know. You know it’s not a good thing to sweep the sins under the rug. I wonder if Malone’s view on Jefferson changes over the course of his life and as he writes more of these books; if you’ve read them, let me know in the comments!

Who Cares About Spoilers? Here’s a Review!

This book is about a young Jefferson, how he developed his political philosophy, wrote the declaration, and performed as governor of Virginia. Sounds cool enough.

But, after being such a big fan of Jackson who – by 14 – was a severely injured orphan and a prisoner of war, Jefferson is so boring. He was a smart boy with extravagant resources that allowed him to ride his family’s riches to become famous. He was so dull as a young man. He just went to school, did well, eventually became a governor, and happened to be good at writing. Sure, he developed a sense of state rights, but it was so dull.

During my reading of Remini’s 3-volume Jackson bio, I said I’d never find a biography in which the author had a bigger, more raging hard-on for their subject than he.


Malone had nothing bad to say of Jefferson and, when forced to approach things like his running from the British and getting reprimanded by the Virginia state government, Malone claimed Jefferson right and *everyone else* wrong. He spoke extensively about Jefferson being anti-slavery, but he never talked about where Jefferson’s money came from (slavery). He always forgave Jefferson for cheating on his wife and how he treated the women enslaved to him. He claims Jefferson always just, non-partisan, and “a man of ‘insert good trait here'” with regularity. Malone’s writing is so brokenly pro-Jefferson that it’s obvious even to one who’s only mildly familiar with Jefferson.

Part of this is, inevitably, due to the time of the writing. Jefferson was in favor in the post-WWII years, and Malone would have been influenced by that. As you read, this sort of timeline should be considered because Malone’s focus is thus drastically different than we’d expect from a modern edition.

Subject’s so boring, though, that I don’t think I can keep going with the next one.

2/5 Discoball Snowcones

Next week:

Back to some modern zeitgeist trash with Gilded Wolves!


2 thoughts on “Book Review: Jefferson and His Time, Volume 1

  1. Peter Martuneac says:

    Jefferson is definitely one of the more boring Founding Fathers, though arguably the most gifted. I forget who’s biography I read about Jefferson but that one definitely painted him in a negative light when required, like fleeing the British and his slave relations.

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