Wibberley tells his readers that he intended to include several features in his biography of Jefferson. The author wanted to “discover how he [young Thomas] got to be Jefferson, how his mind started to work.” To accomplish this goal, Wibberley tells more than the events of Jefferson’s life. He reveals what was happening in the Colonies at that time and what people in different regions thought about those events. He introduces characters who influenced young Jefferson and shows how Jefferson reacted to their influence. He explains the issues that the colonists faced and, in doing so, delves into the analytical methods that Jefferson learned to use when he developed arguments.
Wibberley then sets all this information in the format of a novel, “a novelist’s story of Jefferson.” He creates dialogue, rehearses ideas, and lets motives show through the acts that they provoked.
Jefferson had encyclopedic talents and interests. He was a philosopher, scientist, political leader, farmer, builder, architect, musician, and family man. Wibberley does not tell all these stories, instead showing Jefferson primarily as an emerging political leader. He includes parts of the other stories only when they are important for the growth of this political thinker.
The first person to influence Jefferson was his father, Peter. Wibberley presents Peter Jefferson as a hardworking man whose thoughts were ahead of their time and whose sense of social responsibility prompted him to serve his colony and his neighbors...
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Wibberley’s book is unlike others that describe the youth of Thomas Jefferson in that Wibberley is especially interested in showing Jefferson’s relationship to the events and people of his time. Jefferson preferred privacy to public life, and writers often present him in that manner. Wibberley chose to emphasize Jefferson’s public efforts, however, showing him as a serious young man who was very aware of the momentous events that were under way in his lifetime. He was also willing to study languages, philosophy, history, and law to understand what those events really meant. This story is that of Thomas Jefferson as leader.
Wibberley went on to write three more volumes about Jefferson’s life: A Dawn in the Trees: Thomas Jefferson, the Years 17761789 (1964), The Gales of Spring: Thomas Jefferson, the Years 17891801 (1965), and Time of the Harvest: Thomas Jefferson, the Years 18011826 (1966). In 1968, all four books in this set were published together under the title Man of Liberty: A Life of Thomas Jefferson. Wibberley, a prolific author of books for juveniles and young adults, also wrote a series of Red Badge Detective novels under the pseudonym of Leonard Holton, as well as other young adult books under his middle names of Patrick O’Connor. Yet it is Young Man from the Piedmont and another biography, The Life of Winston Churchill (1965), for which he is best remembered.