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Twilight at Monticello

by Contributor on November 17, 2010

This review was submitted by Mike

An enjoyable book I just finished is “Twilight at Monticello: The Final Years of Thomas Jefferson” by Alan Pell Crawford. Published in 2008. The book covers the time period in Jefferson’s life from when he left the Presidency till his death. It was heartening to learn that despite his unquestionable greatness, Jefferson’s family life was just as dysfunctional as the rest of us. His extended family was living with him at Monticello for a number of reasons including a very difficult economy in Virginia. Jefferson himself could not make a go of his family farm. And back then, former presidents did not receive a pension from the government. When Jefferson left office he was on his own.

Jefferson lost money almost every year and was continuously borrowing money to support his life style. He would then be unable to pay back the loans and would ask his creditors to take interest-only payments on these loans. Monticello fell into disrepair, leaking everywhere during rainfalls, causing window and door casings to rot. Much of this part of his life seems to be somewhat of a mess.

A lot of what we learned about Jefferson in high school and in college led one to believe that Jefferson was as close to perfect as possible — The modern day renaissance man. The book spotlights another, very different part of his life. It shows the human frailties that plague us all, even the greatest, and reminds us that in the end, we are all pretty much the same, with the same joys and the same problems.

Upon Jefferson’s death, his family auctioned off most of his possessions in an attempt to pay his debts so that they could remain in residence at Monticello.

Give the book a read.

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