cover image A Revolutionary Friendship: Washington, Jefferson, and the American Republic

A Revolutionary Friendship: Washington, Jefferson, and the American Republic

Francis D. Cogliano. Harvard Univ, $37.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-674-29249-9

Historian Cogliano (Emperor of Liberty) considers the relationship between George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in this measured and clarifying account. Analyzing the Virginians’ earlier lives as planters and slaveholders and their wartime careers, Cogliano shows that the two “were in broad agreement about the aims and objectives of the resistance movement in Virginia” from roughly 1769 until the war ended in 1783. Afterward, Washington and Jefferson “became political confidants,” whose shared commitments included “the process of Native displacement.” During Washington’s first presidential administration, he chose Jefferson as his secretary of state. But Washington and Jefferson drifted apart, with disagreement over the root causes of the Whiskey Rebellion contributing to their “estrangement.” In the polarizing 1790s, as their political opposition solidified, their friendship “crumbled.” (However, Jefferson minimized their feud after Washington died, leading Cogliano to suggest that “in death the men achieved the reconciliation that had eluded them in life.”) Among other intriguing details, Cogliano pinpoints the 1779 capture of the British governor of Detroit, an event with little influence on the war, as the moment that brought the two men into close correspondence for the first time. This deeply researched and accessible narrative sheds new light on a consequential friendship. (Feb.)