Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves

Is there anything new to say about Thomas Jefferson and slavery The answer is a resounding yes Master of the Mountain, Henry Wiencek s eloquent, persuasive book based on new information coming from archaeological work at Monticello and on hitherto overlooked or disregarded evidence in Jefferson s papers opens up a huge, poorly understood dimension of Jefferson s world WIs there anything new to say about Thomas Jefferson and slavery The answer is a resounding yes Master of the Mountain, Henry Wiencek s eloquent, persuasive book based on new information coming from archaeological work at Monticello and on hitherto overlooked or disregarded evidence in Jefferson s papers opens up a huge, poorly understood dimension of Jefferson s world We must, Wiencek suggests, follow the money.So far, historians have offered only easy irony or paradox to explain this extraordinary Founding Father who was an emancipationist in his youth and then recoiled from his own inspiring rhetoric and equivocated about slavery who enjoyed his renown as a revolutionary leader yet kept some of his own children as slaves But Wiencek s Jefferson is a man of business and public affairs who makes a success of his debt ridden plantation thanks to what he calls the silent profits gained from his slaves and thanks to a skewed moral universe that he and thousands of others readily inhabited We see Jefferson taking out a slave equity line of credit with a Dutch bank to finance the building of Monticello and deftly creating smoke screens when visitors are dismayed by his apparent endorsement of a system they thought he d vowed to overturn It is not a pretty story Slave boys are whipped to make them work in the nail factory at Monticello that pays Jefferson s grocery bills Parents are divided from children in his ledgers they are recast as money while he composes theories that obscure the dynamics of what some of his friends call a vile commerce Many people of Jefferson s time saw a catastrophe coming and tried to stop it, but not Jefferson The pursuit of happiness had been badly distorted, and an oligarchy was getting very rich Is this the quintessential American story
Master of the Mountain Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves Is there anything new to say about Thomas Jefferson and slavery The answer is a resounding yes Master of the Mountain Henry Wiencek s eloquent persuasive book based on new information coming from ar

  • Title: Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves
  • Author: Henry Wiencek
  • ISBN: 9780374299569
  • Page: 385
  • Format: Hardcover
  • 1 thought on “Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves”

    1. My husband said that he had never heard me say, "Wow," so many times while reading a book. Henry Wiencek is a master of research. He has waded through letters, memoirs, farm records, archeological discoveries, as well as Jefferson's own books and writings, and the most popular books about him. What I felt at the end of Master of the Mountain was proof that Thomas Jefferson was a master of spin. The world of Monticello mirrors the America we live in today, with some at the top, and many more at t [...]

    2. To quote the book’s description, “Is there anything new to say about Thomas Jefferson and slavery?” The answer, apparently, is yes.Jefferson has forever been portrayed as an anti-slavery man somehow caught/stuck in a system he hated. In other words, he had hundreds of slaves but it was the way of the world then. Poor Jefferson, ahead of his time. Alas it is clear early on there were plenty, PLENTY, of people freeing slaves, wanting to free slaves, imploring Jefferson to do exactly that. Ma [...]

    3. This book has fired up my imagination and awakened a desire to dig deeper into American history in search of what really happened. Thomas Jefferson has been knocked off his pedestal and in the future will be known to me as the great prevaricator. It seems that the political art of "spin" is not a modern phenomena. Jefferson left numerous written documents expressing his desire to end the practice of slavery of human beings. It is a false legacy. Jefferson profited mightily from the abhorent inst [...]

    4. This book made me mad. And it made me want to scrape Jefferson's face off Mount Rushmore. Turns out the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence didn't really think or live by the belief that "all men are created equal." Historians have long been kind to Jefferson -- focusing on some of his earlier pronouncements against slavery -- and turning a blind eye to how he lived his life. Some quotes from the book that I want to remember:"Jefferson constantly moved the boundaries on his moral map t [...]

    5. Mr. Jefferson did some good things, and he did some not so good things. This historical study does a lot to illuminate the latter. I liked the sections about the archaeological diggings being done at Monticello beyond the view of the tourists going there. The historical research is well-researched with lots of footnotes, but the writing isn't too scholarly or inaccessible for the lay reader like me. So, I came away with some key new insights and appreciate the candor. History buffs should like t [...]

    6. Apparently this book caused quite some controversy upon its publication, although I must confess I fail to see why. It could surely only cause upset amongst those who still cling to the naive, mythologised version of Thomas Jefferson as the moral compass of the Revolution, the upright and honourable Sage, the enemy of the slavery and the frustrated emancipationist. Jefferson is part and parcel of America's foundation myth, and it is somehow therefore important that he and the other Founders be s [...]

    7. Interesting to find that 241 people have marked this: "to read" or given it stars without a review. So I am writing the first review.Author Henry Wiencek writes this book with lots of detail from many sources in order to substantiate his conclusions that differentiate the common view of Jefferson from what he thinks is a more considered view now that Jefferson's lifetime is further away from us historically. Jefferson is an enigma who begins political life believing a liberal view of "man as bei [...]

    8. This book has forever changed the way I will think of the guy who wrote the Declaration of Independence. It's a compelling and utterly damning picture of a man we have been taught to admire on the most lofty plain. When it came to slavery, he said one thing and did quite the opposite. History books, especially those used in classrooms, need to be revised to show his true beliefs about the economy and commerce of slavery. This is a very good book, well-researched and written in a very accessible [...]

    9. Both this book and The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed explain how slavery worked - especially the economics. I always wondered how could it be profitable for a master to enforce his will upon a mass of people. Why didn't they revolt or run away? Why did slave owners work so hard and risk everything to maintain the "institution" of slavery at the same time that they claimed that maintainance of their slaves was "bankrupting" them? Thomas Jefferson stated often [...]

    10. While I continue to respect Thomas Jefferson for many reasons this book shows that he was a flawed human being (as we all are) and his words and actions on the subject of slavery were completely oppositional. He was a firebrand in his early years(Declaration of Independence era). As he became important in political office it appears that self interest took the forefront while he continued to placate abolitionists and our foreign helpers like Lafayette, who truly believed in the equality of all m [...]

    11. This was significantly better than the George Washington biography. Mainly because the author doesn't like Jefferson and so is able to be more honest.Slave owners are monsters, Founding Fathers or not they are monsters. TJ was simply smarter than GW. He knew how to write deceptively. He knew how to hide or obfuscate his true beliefs under wordy enlightened sounding explanations. He lied a wjole heckuvlot. That this view persists is due largely to a supersize portion of White Fragility helped by [...]

    12. Spellbinding. Weincek looks beyond Jefferson's written and spoken words about slavery to what he actually did. Specifically, he looks at the state of things at Monticello, Jefferson's remarkable home and plantation. What is revealed with regards to slavery is very different from what Jefferson wrote (especially early in his career) and the carefully cultivated reputation that he maintained for centuries after the founding of the U.S. In brief, his expressed dislike of slavery was overcome by his [...]

    13. In 2003, historian Henry Wiencek tackled the difficult subject of America's Founding Fathers and slavery with his excellent and penetrating An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America. In 2012, he revisited the topic to take on a Founder who comes out much worse for the contest in Thomas Jefferson in Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves. Wiencek delivers another fascinating look at a troubling part of the American past in examining how the auth [...]

    14. A clarifying work, this is a comprehensive study of Thomas Jefferson's changing thought about slavery and his unchanging practice of it. It is probably the definitive work on slavery as it existed at Monticello. The author, by closely following chronologically the changes in Jefferson's thought, convincingly resolves the contradiction between the young idealist who wrote that 'all men are created equal' and the mature Jefferson, the world-renowned icon of freedom, whose wealth consisted in slave [...]

    15. Last October, I went to Austin for the Texas Book Festival, a gathering of authors and booksellers on the state capitol grounds. One of the authors that I heard speak was Henry Wiencek, the author of this book. He has been criticized by Jeffersonian scholars for looking at the slavery issue from a modern perspective and he is definitely not pro-Jefferson in this book. Wiencek did a lot of research for this book, combing through the archives at Monticello as well as citing practically every histo [...]

    16. Our 2008 visit to Monticello was brought back to me by this book. I recall feeling both amazed and amused by Jefferson's inventions and innovations in his relatively small mansion. I deeply respect the pivotal role he played in the birth of our country, especially as the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and was inclined to accept that he was a captive of his times (ironically) with regard to his ownership of slaves. Yet when we embarked on the optional side tour of the remain [...]

    17. While this was a good read, I don't feel I really learned that much about Jefferson beyond what was brought to light by the Sally Hemmings discoveries and just an overall assumption that people of that era could be both slave owners and want to free the slaves and not do either very well.What I will take away from the book, however, is a few different little bon motsFor instance, coopers (those who made barrels) were very important to early lighter-than-air travel because hydrogen was created by [...]

    18. A strong historical synthesis of Jefferson, and his complex relationship with the institution of slavery. The 1990s saw a lot of new research on this topic after the discovery of genetic links between the Jeffersons and the Hemmings, one of the premiere "house slave" families at Monticello. The book does cover this topic, but it is not the central theme, but instead focuses on the great dichotomy between the slaves at Monticello, Jefferson's vacillations between slave holder and emancipator (he [...]

    19. I will be truthful here, I am a big fan of Thomas Jefferson. I believe he was pivotal in setting a system of government that was fair and in line with natural law. With that said, this book exposes a side of Jefferson that is dark and disturbing. Wiencek has obviously done a lot of research on Jefferson's slave owning time. Much of the first half of the book relies on Jefferson's "Farm Book"The book is riddled with words such as: probably, perhaps, maybe and assuming. That turns me off. As for t [...]

    20. I'm not a Jefferson scholar by any means, and while I do appreciate the volume of research work Wiencek has clearly done here, I struggled to get through this non-linear compilation of historical facts. Master of the Mountain doesn't tell a straight-forward story, it dumps all connected gossip about Jefferson and his slaves jumbled up since the time they lived to the present. It seemed to me that his painstaking rehash of so much murky controversial research out there, dimmed whatever light Wien [...]

    21. Brilliant. Well-researched and utterly revealing analysis of the thought process going on in the mind of a slave-holding founding father. "Mr. Jefferson" is currently interpreted as the renaissance man who wrote the words of the Declaration of Independence, ran the country, designed and built beautiful buildings, and founded the University of Virginia, now referred to as "Mr. Jefferson's Academical Village" by those who go for that kind of Disney-esque baloney. On top of that, he is interpreted [...]

    22. I don't have any original thoughts to share on the subject of this book, I think it's all been said. Every American should read it; every American should have the understanding that our founding fathers were flawed human beings, who despite themselves created a form of government--or better yet, the ideal of a form of representative government--that may or may not stand the test of time. That they were able to do so AT ALL is a tribute to their determination. Jefferson understood that the peculi [...]

    23. Published by HighBridge Company in 2012Read by Brian HolsoppleDuration: 11 hours, 5 minutes.UnabridgedI am a history teacher. My favorite area of study is the American Civil War but the American Revolution comes in at a close second. I cannot even count the number of books that I have read about the Revolutionary Era and I thought that I had a pretty solid handle on Jefferson - until I read this book.I had always pictured Jefferson as aRead more at: dwdsreviews/2013/

    24. Truly an excellent an devastating dissection of Jefferson's hypocrisy on the question of slavery. It also offers an excellent perspective on plantation life in 18th century that goes equally far towards refuting the myth that slavery was a dying institution until the invention of the cotton gin.

    25. Thomas Jefferson could be persecuted forever, on this subject but given the times and feelings back then, What has changed, now? Nothing!He did some great things, and he did some not to wise and stupid things. He was not perfect. Good story, loved the book.

    26. The man who wrote the words "All Men Are Created Equal" doesn't come off too well in this close study of his role as "master" to 600 souls in the course of his lifetime.

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