A work of scholarly revisionism that attempts to make the case that Founding Father Thomas Jefferson was a serial killer.
Jefferson, the third president of the United States and the author of the Declaration of Independence, is generally considered to be of the greatest Americans in history. However, debut author Cooper contends that he was not only a morally dubious character, but also a likely serial murderer. The author compiles a list of people who died under mysterious circumstances or were clearly murdered, who were also in close proximity to Jefferson, and whom Jefferson had significant motive to kill. His principal incentive, Cooper asserts, was the aggrandizement of his inheritance—in some cases, his massive storehouse of books, which would later be donated to the Library of Congress. Jefferson also sometimes killed people out of simple acrimony, Cooper says, such as the journalist James Thomson Callender; three editors of the Virginia Gazette; and John Robinson, a prominent Virginia politician. (In the last case, the author argues that Jefferson even secretly penned his obituary.) Cooper aims to settle other mysteries as well, such as what Jefferson was up to in the second half of 1766, a period that’s all but undocumented. Ultimately, Cooper claims that Jefferson was never considered a suspect due to his fame. Overall, the author offers a thesis that is tantalizingly original, and he combs through a mountain of available documentary evidence with forensic zeal. However, despite his impressively dogged efforts, Cooper’s case remains a thoroughly circumstantial one, and as a result, it’s far from persuasive. Also, the study concludes with a series of appendices, and some of these appear to be entirely unrelated to the author’s principal argument, including a transcript of President Donald Trump’s remarks about a white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017.
A frequently entertaining but equally implausible historical study.