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Author: Christopher Hitchens
Published in 2005 (Hardback) Amazon vendor; 8.99 GBP including postage.
Duration: 188 pages.
For Brian Lamb: a great Virginian and a great American, a fine democrat as well as a good republican, who has striven for an educated electorate.
By the above publishing date (2005) 'Hitchens the brand' is eminent. A colour signature of an orangey, red band or strip on the book design jacket signifies Hitchens on the shelf identity. Years later he brands his name within his titles as he gets more in the public eye - egotism, self righteous opportunism? There maybe some truth in this, albeit, I doubt Hitchens saw it as his main objective. His usual writing prose as being; audacious, quick to the crux of the argument, ceasing the moral ground, and delivering precision witticisms, takes on a different approach in this book. Perhaps the passage of time automatically engineers a form of personal opinion ambiguity - instead historical facts play a cohesive role, to back-up a premise or create a premise; while writing: Thomas Jefferson, Author of America. The book will eliminate any obvious Hitchens solipsism, which possibly could be festering if you've read Christopher Hitchens books: 'Arguably'; or 'Hitch 22'. This biography of Thomas Jefferson isn't over elaborated chronologically either - thankfully. It doesn't digress and get wrapped up with the era's revolutionary colonic hardships, yet does offer the readership a strong cohesive taster what it was like culturally during the time the American's 'Declaration of Independence' was drawn up and thereafter.
A recognizable respect for the third US President is portrayed eloquently by Hitchen's pen - you can imagine Hitchen's silently nodding admirably how Thomas Jefferson pressed on with the 'Bill of Crime and Punishment'; whereby Jefferson was one of the first head of authorities to scientifically research and stipulate the difference between 'murder and manslaughter'. He was a notable architect for a righteous led penal system - Who even as a governor of Virginia didn't extend such liberalism to the African descent - Liberalism if it suits him? Although during the time (1778) of great ethnic and social divide; such reforms would be outweighed and therefore paralyzed by personal wealth and ownership. 'Thomas Jefferson: Author of America' - is unlike Hitchens biography of George Orwell; 'Why Orwell Matters?' Due to reason he purposefully doesn't update Jefferson's concepts and forge a partisan unity relevant for the twenty first century and to his own rhetoric, as believable as it is. Refreshing so to speak - Hitchens refrained from modernizing the era's correspondences and documentations - a respect for the era Thomas Jefferson resided in, and conveyed the comprehension that knowledge was limited, (compared to the twenty first century) - scientific research and development was on the cusp of a 'golden age' - Darwinism; was close to unraveling the fruits of Homo - Sapiens origin. Among the visionaries came the fraudsters, those deemed to have a narrative to sell - wanting a piece of the science pie. Credible pioneers at the time under the umbrella of Georges Leclerc, 'Comte De Buffon' (1707 - 88). A Frenchman, who outlandishly perceived North America as being only fit for natural history and animals - Buffon, being a kind of aristocrat Zoologist, but educated in Medicine and Law; most took heed in his views. He'd provocatively announced the American's didn't have a plausible advocate in the arts, sciences and philosophy. In response Jefferson excavated a skeleton of a mammoth, exercising vigor - not that size matters. Thomas Jefferson had a pedantic wit; no-one knows what happened to shell of the mammoth. Science hadn't evolved to the point where the bones would've been a great significance in American research. The excavation is a myth in American Indian folklore, admired by Jefferson - it was one of the endeavors which helped stitched and embody the 'American Dream'.
Written from the eyes of a Briton, (a British tourist in America) - Under the sub-title; 'Eminent Lives' - essayist style by Hitchens; bringing to the fore the ultimate: 'Author of America' - the spiritual script of the 'Declaration of Independence'. Surely, such gravitas script is solely appropriate for the silver screen, one of Hitchens American adorations, (including 'Route 66'). The American Revolution, (colony wars) was a year on, when the congress committee drew up the declaration. John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston along with the Virginian Thomas Jefferson completed the group. Not of a modest disposition Jefferson was given the charge of drafting up the Declaration, this fact was only noted several years after the July 4th 1776, as misinformation foiled the rightful owner of the script. Hitchens's poetic prowess turns on like a switch as he announces the 'Declaration' script creator, had taken barely seventeen days to work on the Declaration. At his disposal was a slave valet named Jupiter.
I can't help but feel Hitchens attempt to make Thomas Jefferson seem like a 'second coming of Jesus'; grated me somewhat. Sporadically, Hitchens continues 'superfluous in context in our current milieu', words such as 'the creator, and deity' appear supernatural. Jefferson wrote: 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' - and the not so modest sounding 'Jefferson Bible' - discovered in 1895, written in the twilight years of Jefferson's life - for Historians in the era, it was no surprise Jefferson had penned a so-called 'Christian System' . This isn't too far removed from the Hitchens realm of religious fascination, albeit an atheist - Hitchens vast knowledge of a plethora of religions would've struck a cord, in response to the 'Jefferson Bible' - a cut and paste from various doctrines. This begs me to view his 'second coming of Jesus' wordage as an elongated pedantic 'Hitch' witticism, an in-joke for Hitchens, Dawkins and his disciples.
Monticello, Virginia, was the home of Thomas Jefferson; it was designed and built by Jefferson in the early 1770's, it depicts a lifetime of memento's and artifacts: a place where Thomas Jefferson is wholly personified. His wife Martha Wayles Skelton lived there with his six children (two only survived into adulthood) The 'Neo-classical' architecture imitates Jefferson's politics, his own spiritual beliefs, his resounding use of contradiction. He claimed to be a pro-European in mind and soul, yet Monticello is anything but; he was an American, an antler crazed American. One by which historian, James Parton claimed; "If Jefferson is wrong, America is wrong. If America is right, Jefferson is right". Hitchens questions the premise and announces 'who can say a nation is 'right?' By announcing such claims who can be this superior hierarchy? No 'being' can be infamous for saying such implausible facts. Hitchens however didn't delve down the 'Route 66' of morals, as he did with William Jefferson Clinton's character assassination attempt, concerning his political nemesis; 'Monicagate' in regards to this Jefferson: whose DNA was evident in the 'Heming' offspring of his servant Sally Heming in 1996. He'd possibly fathered several children with Heming.
Ironically, the third US President, Thomas Jefferson died on American Independence Day on July 4th 1826; his last words were: "Is it the fourth?" - Unknown at the time in Massachusetts, the second US President. Jefferson's rival, John Adams, coincidently died on the same day, at the age of ninety. His last words were: "Thomas Jefferson still survives." In many ways Thomas Jefferson still does. A great read from polemic author Christopher Hitchens.