I bought Alan Pell Crawford’s new book, Twilight at Monticello, on Friday (along with Jacob Heilbrunn’s They Knew They Were Right). I’m looking forward both to reading it and, I hope, reviewing it somewhere. But you don’t have to wait for my review: you can get two opinions of the book from Bill Kauffman, writing in The American Conservative, and Michael Grunwald in the Washington Post. Here’s a snippet from Kauffman’s review:
How wonderfully coincident that just as [Ron] Paul is speaking the hauntingly resonant language of the early Republic, Alan Pell Crawford, Hoosier boy cum historian of his adopted Old Virginia, has published Twilight at Monticello: The Final Years of Thomas Jefferson, a superb and revealing study of Thomas Jefferson in retirement (if not ever repose) that makes Jefferson—the older, wiser, even more radical Jefferson—newly and provocatively relevant.
Crawford did his time on the Hill, working for Sen. James Buckley (“a genuine conservative”) and none other than Congressman Ron Paul (for whom he will vote). In 1980, he anatomized the swindle known as the “New Right” in Thunder on the Right, which made him, for a time, something of a darling of the liberal Left. He would later marry, raise a family, put down roots in Richmond—all those things the New Right claimed to support in those hysterical fundraising letters its bilkers-in-chief composed between cruises at the Brass Rail.
Crawford fell in love with Virginia, the Ancient Dominion, and in 2000 published Unwise Passions, an evocative study of the scandal-ridden Randolphs of Virginia.
Twilight at Monticello is Crawford’s best book and a humanizing corrective to the recent tide of Jefferson damning. This is Jefferson in his late autumn, brooding on the parlous state of republicanism, delighting in the presence of his family, tormented by boils on his backside. His death is rendered with especial poignancy. (In his final months, Jefferson used opium to allay a painful urinary ailment. Imagine the DEA breaking down the doors to Monticello! The medical marijuanans could do no better than to enlist Jefferson.)
Crawford will be giving a talk on his book at the CATO Institute on Feb. 19.