- The Book
- The Editor
- Thomas Jefferson
Merrill Peterson, the eminent Thomas Jefferson scholar of the 20th Century along with Dumas Malone, died in Charlottesville, Virginia in late 2009. Merrill was an early and steady friend of the Light and Liberty project. His insight and encouragement helped secure publication of the book by Random House, support for which I shall always be grateful.
Although careful to adhere to the customs and practices of traditional academic scholarship when researching and writing about Mr. Jefferson, Merrill was, to me, a true friend and admirer of this great American patriot and visionary. He saw clearly the extraordinary nature of Jefferson's talents and achievements, and was certain as to Jefferson's integrity and high moral character. Here is an excerpt from Merrill's book, Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation, published in 1970, and the masterwork that cemented his stature as a towering Jefferson scholar:
“The patriarch died at Monticello, surrounded by his family, at approximately one o’clock in the afternoon on the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. More than any of his great contemporaries, he had given form to the ideas, the values, even the dilemmas of the new nation and thus involved himself with its destiny. He had inspired its democracy, which was egalitarian and progressive and inherently centralizing, yet within a coherent frame of law committed to the protection of individual and provincial rights and to the guardianship of enlightened intelligence. He had inspired the nationality of the Americans, not only the elements of independence and empire, but those of character and ethos as well, yet under an overarching vision of the revolutionary nation’s responsibilities to the freedom and peace and happiness of mankind. He had inspired the new nation with the hopes of the Enlightenment, embracing the paired directives toward nature and progress, science and humanism, power and civility, self-discovery and universality. It was a mighty legacy.” —Merrill Peterson, Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation, page 1008.