A revelatory new biography of Thomas Jefferson, focusing on his ethical and spiritual life
“Set aside everything you think you know about Thomas Jefferson and religion, and read this book. This is the definitive account. It is well written, well researched, judicious, and entirely convincing.”—Timothy Larsen, Wheaton College
Thomas Jefferson was arguably the most brilliant and inspiring political writer in American history. But the ethical realities of his personal life and political career did not live up to his soaring rhetoric. Indeed, three tensions defined Jefferson’s moral life: democracy versus slavery, republican virtue versus dissolute consumption, and veneration for Jesus versus skepticism about Christianity.
In this book Thomas S. Kidd tells the story of Jefferson’s ethical life through the lens of these tensions, including an unapologetic focus on the issue where Jefferson’s idealistic philosophy and lived reality clashed most obviously: his sexual relationship with his enslaved woman Sally Hemings. In doing so, he offers a unique perspective on one of American history’s most studied figures.