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Jefferson at Monticello: Memoirs of a Monticello Slave and Jefferson at Monticello

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Covering the years from 1781 into the 1820s, these valuable accounts remain the chief source of information about Thomas Jefferson's domestic and personal life, interests, habits, appearance, and day-to-day activities at Monticello. Isaac Jefferson and Edmund Bacon were each sixty-five years old when their recollections were recorded. What they remember best, of course, are Covering the years from 1781 into the 1820s, these valuable accounts remain the chief source of information about Thomas Jefferson's domestic and personal life, interests, habits, appearance, and day-to-day activities at Monticello. Isaac Jefferson and Edmund Bacon were each sixty-five years old when their recollections were recorded. What they remember best, of course, are scenes from the past made vivid and immediate by details involving their own experience. Although their recollections of Jefferson differ in a number of ways, apparent in both accounts is a concern for the master whose involvement in national affairs made his life so different from their own.


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Covering the years from 1781 into the 1820s, these valuable accounts remain the chief source of information about Thomas Jefferson's domestic and personal life, interests, habits, appearance, and day-to-day activities at Monticello. Isaac Jefferson and Edmund Bacon were each sixty-five years old when their recollections were recorded. What they remember best, of course, are Covering the years from 1781 into the 1820s, these valuable accounts remain the chief source of information about Thomas Jefferson's domestic and personal life, interests, habits, appearance, and day-to-day activities at Monticello. Isaac Jefferson and Edmund Bacon were each sixty-five years old when their recollections were recorded. What they remember best, of course, are scenes from the past made vivid and immediate by details involving their own experience. Although their recollections of Jefferson differ in a number of ways, apparent in both accounts is a concern for the master whose involvement in national affairs made his life so different from their own.

43 review for Jefferson at Monticello: Memoirs of a Monticello Slave and Jefferson at Monticello

  1. 5 out of 5

    Byron Woodson Sr.

    Presents primary source material offered up by persons who lived at Monticello.. Priceless. In a category of its own.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy Lee

    I picked this up after a visit to Monticello years ago, and finally took it off the pile after a second visit. Although I certainly didn't race to read the book, I was looking forward to a more contemporary, non-familial, and less erudite view of Jefferson. However, if you're looking for an unbiased view of Jefferson, this isn't it. With this book, we get views of Jefferson from two individuals - one, a former slave of Jefferson's, and the other, a former overseer at Monticello. Isaac, the former I picked this up after a visit to Monticello years ago, and finally took it off the pile after a second visit. Although I certainly didn't race to read the book, I was looking forward to a more contemporary, non-familial, and less erudite view of Jefferson. However, if you're looking for an unbiased view of Jefferson, this isn't it. With this book, we get views of Jefferson from two individuals - one, a former slave of Jefferson's, and the other, a former overseer at Monticello. Isaac, the former slave, relies solely on memory, but we have extensive footnotes correcting his recall. Edmund Bacon, the former overseer, has correspondence from Jefferson to augment his stories - nonetheless, extensive footnotes provide the necessary corrections. Although Bacon could read and write, he apparently did not keep a diary, and over the years (not surprisingly) his recollections of his personal interactions with, and importance to, Jefferson increased. Regardless, I found Bacon's portion to be the most interesting. The sheer detail of the instructions that Jefferson sent to Bacon regarding Monticello, when the government of the country was also Jefferson's responsibility, was eye opening. Jefferson was specific to the placement of each and every plant, the sale of each imported sheep, all while we know he was working to get his arms around governing a burgeoning country in an increasingly complex world. Bacon's section also acknowledged one of the major debts that Jefferson was unable to clear in his lifetime. Isaac's section gives a rather telling portrait of how the family of the plantation owner becomes the soap opera watched, and viewed as intimate family, by all those on the property. He also provides an account of the skills a slave might develop, or be expected to develop, in his lifetime - skills that might lead to a form of quasi-independence and could be used in later life as a free man, or skills that would be exploited for profit by his owner. From a narrative perspective, I found both sections to be a bit jumbled - the storytellers tended to hop from one topic to another and back again (without editing); the footnotes required the reader to hop as well. This makes it a more arduous read then first glance might indicate - and if there's a particular point to a discussion, sometimes it's subverted to a sideline by hop-scotching. Generally, though, both Bacon and Isaac provide an overwhelmingly complementary portrait of Jefferson the man, Jefferson the farmer, and Jefferson the master. A family tree is included for Isaac and for the Hemings, mentioned in the narrative. In the tree, Sally Hemings is noted in as having five children, but there is no reference to her relationship (now acknowledged by historians) with Thomas Jefferson or her parentage by John Wayles, who was also the father of Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson. An interesting book, but one-sided by today's views.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Joe Rodeck

    Strictly for Thomas Jefferson enthusiasts. He is idolized by those who knew him personally. If you want to know what kinds of animals he kept, what kinds of grains he grew, what he ate . . . that's what you can expect. My disappointment: no light is shed on his alleged affair with Sally Hemings. Easy reading. Short. Strictly for Thomas Jefferson enthusiasts. He is idolized by those who knew him personally. If you want to know what kinds of animals he kept, what kinds of grains he grew, what he ate . . . that's what you can expect. My disappointment: no light is shed on his alleged affair with Sally Hemings. Easy reading. Short.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Chris Langer

    The book contained two solid primary sources that shed an interesting light on Thomas Jefferson. Well worth the read for those interested in learning more about our third president.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Rauch

  6. 4 out of 5

    Doug

  7. 5 out of 5

    Travis Cox

  8. 4 out of 5

    A. J. Frances

  9. 5 out of 5

    Amy Suzanne

  10. 4 out of 5

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  11. 4 out of 5

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  12. 5 out of 5

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  13. 5 out of 5

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  14. 4 out of 5

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  15. 4 out of 5

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  16. 4 out of 5

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  17. 5 out of 5

    Joanna Gardiner

  18. 4 out of 5

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  19. 4 out of 5

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  20. 4 out of 5

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  21. 5 out of 5

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  22. 4 out of 5

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  23. 5 out of 5

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  24. 4 out of 5

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  25. 4 out of 5

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  26. 5 out of 5

    Kirsten (lush.lit.life)

  27. 5 out of 5

    University of Virginia Press

  28. 4 out of 5

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  29. 5 out of 5

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  30. 4 out of 5

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  31. 5 out of 5

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  32. 4 out of 5

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  33. 5 out of 5

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  34. 4 out of 5

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  35. 4 out of 5

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