Thomas Jefferson, Champion of the People Essay - Critical Context

Clara Ingram Judson

Critical Context

Jefferson’s career is a topic in all textbooks on the history of the United States. Unfortunately, most of them only cover his life as a politician and statesman, thus omitting his other skills. Judson terms Jefferson “the greatest creative genius of his time.” In the course of her book, Judson mentions several of Jefferson’s accomplishments in agriculture, his musical ability, his study of plants, his care in designing Monticello and the campus of the University of Virginia, and his constant study of all subjects. Several of his inventions are also included: the dumb waiter, the letter press, a polygraph and drawing table, a bed that pulled up out of the way in the daytime, and the great clock over his front door. Because of the many facets of Jefferson’s life, students need more material than what can be found in textbooks.

Judson became a well-known writer of biographies for young adults, generally profiling notable American leaders in politics, business, and science. She focused on individuals from all eras of American history, from Colonial times in George Washington, Leader of the People (1951) to the nineteenth century in Soldier Doctor: The Story of William Gorgas (1942) and Andrew Carnegie (1964). All of her subjects have shared the common traits of confidence, perseverance, and genius in one or more fields of endeavor. Thomas Jefferson, Champion of the People is no exception to this trend in Judson’s prolific literary career. Jefferson’s constant quest for new knowledge and his talents at organization may inspire young readers to further their education and to develop effective study skills.