Twilight at Monticello: The Final Years of Thomas Jefferson

(Random House, 2008)

Book Forum
February 19, 2008 6:30PM
Auditorium/Wintergarden
Featuring the author, Alan Pell Crawford.
Twilight at Monticello is an unprecedented and engrossing personal look at Thomas Jefferson in his final years that will change the way readers think about him. During the years from his return to Monticello in 1809 until his death in 1826, Jefferson dealt with illness and debt, corresponded with the leading figures of the Revolution, and became a radical decentralist and admirer of the New England townships, where, he believed, the real fire of liberty burned bright.

Jefferson had witnessed the strength of local governments during his ill-advised, near-dictatorial embargo, which proved to be the great crisis of his political life, not because he placed too much faith in his countrymen’s capacity for self-government but because, for once in his life, he placed too little faith in it. During these years, Jefferson also became increasingly aware of the costs to civil harmony exacted by the Founding Fathers’ failure to effectively reconcile slaveholding within a republic dedicated to liberty.

Right up until his death on the 50th anniversary of America’s founding, Thomas Jefferson remained an indispensable man, albeit a supremely human one. Based on new research and documents culled from the Library of Congress, the Virginia Historical Society, and other special collections, including hitherto unexamined letters from family, friends, and Monticello neighbors, Alan Pell Crawford paints an authoritative and deeply moving portrait of Thomas Jefferson as private citizen — the first original depiction of the man in more than a generation.