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Thomas Jefferson: Draftsman of a Nation

“Jefferson’s story is one every young adult needs to know, and this excellent, well-documented edition is a must-have.” -School Library Journal

“Bober has taken on a vital, but difficult task: writing a history that speaks to young people, black and white alike, in a way that is respectful to both cultures....The detail is rich and the presentation is elegant.”-Annette Gordon-Reed, author of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for The Hemingses of Monticello Monticello.



Excerpt from the Ken Burns Interview:

If you could choose to be present at one moment in Jefferson's life, what moment would it be?

I would love to be there when he was writing the Declaration of Independence. I would love to see him struggling the way I struggle when I write, the way students struggle today for the right, for exactly the right word, the right phrase, trying to match the sound and the sense of each of the words, the cadences... thinking through the ideas that he'd been studying of John Locke, of Montesquieu, all the reading that he had done over the years coming together. He had no notes in front of him, but it was all coming together for him in his head. He had been living this ; he had been thinking about it, he had been studying it, he was ready. He needed not a note in front of him. And he was trying to express, in language used by men, just the common sense of the situation. He was trying to make the rest of the world understand why it was necessary for us to separate from Great Britain. He knew he was risking his life. He knew he could be hanged. And he knew that we needed, as a new nation we would need, the support of the rest of the world, and he was trying to explain why we wanted our independence. And he struggled over each word, writing, crossing out, "interlining," as he said. And then, as a page got too messy, copying it "fair." I think this must have been a wonderful, wonderful time. I would like to be able to watch this and to see what was going on in his mind and to see the way this document evolved. Incidentally, he wrote it in separate sections. And then he put it all together at the end and he didn't necessarily write the first section first.

Where was he when he was doing this?

He was in a little house on Market Street in Philadelphia, writing on this wonderful desk that is considered the single most important iconographic object in American history, this little desk that he had designed himself and had made. Because he was riding back and forth from Philadelphia to Virginia and he was wasting time he had a desk designed on which he could write and read. It had a drawer. It had sand for blotting and nibs for his pen, and he was writing on this. His servant, Bob Hemings, was with him -he would serve him tea while he was working. And Jefferson would bathe his feet in cold water every morning before he began to work, which was something he did all his life. He would play his violin periodically... and he would write without any notes. I would love to have been a little fly on the wall then, watching.