Madison and Jefferson By Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg (Random House, 809 pp., $35) Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were more than good friends. These two Virginians and Founding Fathers participated in what was probably the greatest political collaboration in American history. Indeed, the history of the early republic is incomprehensible without an understanding of this political partnership.
The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family By Annette Gordon-Reed (W.W. Norton, 756 pp., $35) Although Thomas Jefferson spoke out strongly against slavery, he was always pessimistic about actually abolishing the institution.
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.
A few months ago, Garry Wills wrote an erudite piece in the New York Review of Books called "Jefferson the Aesthete." Far from the radical populist of historical myth, Wills argues, Jefferson was an aestheticized elitist of excessive refinement, who went on reckless buying sprees in Paris and cluttered his mountaintop chateau with Houdon busts, Sèvre table sculptures and a fauteuil from Marie Antoinette's own ébéniste.
This is the first of a series of articles discussing the position of the contemporary progressive. They are the outcome of conversations among the editors of The New Republic which have been occurring for several months, and the gist of which may be of interest to our readers as raw material for though and discussion. The second article, by George Soule, will appear in next week’s issue. —THE EDITORS IT SEEMS to me that the time has come for liberals seriously to reconsider their positions.