Perhaps the most hotly debated character in American history, Jefferson stands as an enigma representing different and often contradictory ideas. This concise biography answers many of the contradictions of Jefferson's fruitful life. Specifically, it finds continuity in his evolving philosophy of political economy. Because Jefferson was not a man intellectually tied to a single ideology, he was able to embrace competing persuasions that seem to us incompatible today. Indeed, Jefferson's rhetoric was more a matter of time and circumstance than an element of absolute belief. The Jefferson that emerges is not only a facile thinker but also a consummate politician.
Norman K. Risjord is emeritus professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he taught for over three decades. He is author of Chesapeake Politics, 1781-1800; The Old Republicans: Southern Conservatism in the Age of Jefferson; Representative Americans; and Jefferson's America, 1760-1815. Professor Risjord has also written several widely-adopted college and high school history textbooks. He is the general editor of the American Profiles series for Madison House.