Joseph J. Ellis

Founding Brothers
January 30, 1995

The Republic of Letters: The Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison 1776-1826 edited by James Morton Smith (W.W. Norton, 3 volumes, 2,073 pp., $150) Perhaps all heroes are conveyed to posterity as singular and solitary beings. In the case of Thomas Jefferson, however, the splendor of his isolation seems an essential aspect of his reputation. Jefferson's ultimate act of solitary creation was, of course, the drafting of the Declaration of Independence in June 1776. Sitting in a Windsor chair with his lap-desk and a quill pen, he wrote the magic words of American history.