The continuing Hamilton obsession reminds me: I’ve meant to read Dumas Malone’s six-volume biography of Jefferson for a long time; it’s supposed to be the definitive work on the man. I tried reading the first volume, but it was spending what seemed to me an excessive amount of time on Jefferson’s rural upbringing. That’s important to someone, surely; important when setting the stage for the famed philosopher’s veneration of rural life, surely; but not something I really need to read. So maybe I don’t need to read all six volumes. Maybe skip ahead to the time when he’s “off getting high [I always assumed it was ‘hot’] with the French”? Volumes 2 through 5 look like they cover the parts that most people would be concerned with, running from the Declaration through his time as president. Anyone interested in reading those four volumes with me?
As every schoolchild knows, Jefferson and Adams both died on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which would be July 4th of 1826. So from the end of Jefferson’s time as president until his death, there was a span of about 18 years. I’m sure he did fascinating things during that time, and I’m sure in particular that the letters he wrote would make for amazing reading…come to think of it, that time would span the War of 1812, and Jefferson was on one side of Virginia while Washington, D.C. burned, so surely he had interesting things to say. Regardless, volumes 2 through 5 are likely gripping reading, so let’s start by focusing on those.
James Madison also gets short shrift in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s play: offhand, I recall that Madison is mainly involved in uttering the hilarious single word “France”, convincing Jefferson to agree to the Compromise of 1790, and fielding Hamilton’s complaint that Madison is “useless as two shits.” But Madison is terribly important; my understanding is that he’s responsible for our government’s three-branch structure, in contrast to the monarchy that Hamilton wanted. That seems reasonably important. If nothing else, I’d like to read about the writing of the Federalist Papers, and the debate over the Constitution.
As always, I welcome people joining me in this reading.