Registration for this book talk is now full, but the presentation will be livestreamed on Facebook, YouTube, and our website.
Join us in celebrating the publication of Revolutionary Friendship: Washington, Jefferson, and the American Republic by Frank Cogliano, Interim Director of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, Saturday, February 17th, 2024, at 4:30pm.
Following welcome remarks from Monticello's new president Jane Kamensky, Cogliano will speak about this new publication before being joined in conversation by Professors Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter Onuf. Audience question and answer to follow.
Held in the Howard and Abby Milstein Theater at Monticello’s David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center, after the talk guests will enjoy a light reception and have an opportunity to purchase a copy of the book.
About the Book
Martha Washington’s worst memory was the death of her husband. Her second worst was Thomas Jefferson’s awkward visit to pay his respects subsequently. Indeed, by the time George Washington had died in 1799, the two founders were estranged. But that estrangement has obscured the fact that for most of their thirty-year acquaintance they enjoyed a productive relationship. Precisely because they shared so much, their disagreements have something important to teach us.
In constitutional design, for instance: Whereas Washington believed in the rule of traditional elites like the Virginia gentry, Jefferson preferred what we would call a meritocratic approach, by which elites would be elected on the basis of education and skills. And while Washington emphasized a need for strong central government, Jefferson favored diffusion of power across the states. Still, as Frank Cogliano argues, common convictions equally defined their relationship: a passion for American independence and republican government, as well as a commitment to westward expansion and the power of commerce. They also both evolved a skeptical view of slavery, eventually growing to question the institution, even as they took only limited steps to abolish it.
What remains fascinating is that the differences between the two statesmen mirrored key political fissures of the early United States, as the unity of revolutionary zeal gave way to competing visions for the new nation. A Revolutionary Friendship brilliantly captures the dramatic, challenging, and poignant reality that there was no single founding ideal—only compromise between friends and sometime rivals.
About the Author
Frank Cogliano is Professor of American History at the University of Edinburgh where he serves as the University’s Dean International (North America). During the 2023-24 academic year he is serving as the interim Saunders Director of the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello. He received his B.A. in history from Tufts University and earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in history from Boston University. He has taught at universities in the United States, England, and Scotland and has been a member of the History Department at the University of Edinburgh since 1997. He has served as the president of the Scottish Association for the Study of America and as the chair of the program committee of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic. Cogliano was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 1999 and as a Member of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts in 2022.
A specialist in the history of the American Revolution and the early United States, Revolutionary Friendship: Washington, Jefferson and the American Republic is his tenth book. Along with Patrick Griffin, Christa Dierksheide and Eliga Gould he edits the Revolutionary Age series for the University of Virginia Press.
Frank Cogliano is committed to engaging a wide audience with the study of history. For many years he was a workshop leader for schoolteachers, and co-hosts the American history podcast The Whiskey Rebellion. He is the incoming president of the Open History Society in Edinburgh. He has made numerous media appearances, commenting on U.S. history, politics and international relations, for the BBC and other outlets. He has made multiple appearances on the BBC’s flagship In Our Time Program.
About the Panelists
Annette Gordon-Reed is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard. Gordon-Reed won sixteen book prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize in History in 2009 and the National Book Award in 2008, for The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (W.W. Norton, 2008). In addition to articles and reviews, her other works include Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (UVA Press, 1997), Vernon Can Read! A Memoir, a collaboration with Vernon Jordan (PublicAffairs 2001), Race on Trial: Law and Justice in American History (Oxford University Press, 2002), a volume of essays that she edited, Andrew Johnson (Times Books/Henry Holt, 2010), “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination with Peter S. Onuf (Liveright Publishing, 2016), and, most recently, On Juneteenth (Liveright Publishing, 2021).
Gordon-Reed was the Vyvyan Harmsworth Visiting Professor of American History at the University of Oxford (Queens College) 2014-2015. Between 2010 and 2015, she was the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. She was the 2018-2019 President of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR). She is the current President of the Ames Foundation. A selected list of her honors includes a fellowship from the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, a Guggenheim Fellowship in the humanities, a MacArthur Fellowship, the National Humanities Medal, the National Book Award, the Frederick Douglass Book Prize, and the George Washington Book Prize, and the Anisfeld-Wolf Book. Gordon-Reed was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011 and was a member of the Academy’s Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences. In 2019, she was elected as a member of the American Philosophical Society.
Peter Onuf is the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor Emeritus in the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia, the Senior Research Fellow at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies (Monticello), and recently was a Mellon Distinguished Scholar in Residence, American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts. A specialist in the history of the early American republic, Onuf is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where he received his A.B. in 1967 and Ph.D. in 1973, and has taught at Columbia University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Southern Methodist University before arriving in Virginia in 1990. In 2008-2009 Onuf was Harmsworth Professor of American History at the University of Oxford; in 2014, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Onuf’s early scholarship, focusing on federalism and territorial expansion, includes The Origins of the Federal Republic: Jurisdictional Conflicts in the United States (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1983) and Statehood and Union: A History of the Northwest Ordinance (Indiana University Press, 1987). He collaborated with his brother, international relations theorist Nicholas G. Onuf, on Federal Union, Modern World: The Law of Nations in an Age of Revolutions, 1776-1814 (Madison House, 1993) and Nations, Markets, and War: Modern History and the American Civil War (University of Virginia Press, 2006), and is the author, coauthor, editor, or co-editor of numerous other publications.
Onuf’s work on Thomas Jefferson’s political thought, culminating in Jefferson’s Empire: The Language of American Nationhood (University Press of Virginia, 2000) and The Mind of Thomas Jefferson (2007, also Virginia), grows out of earlier studies on the history of American federalism, foreign policy, and political economy. He and co-author Annette Gordon-Reed published Most Blessed of Patriarchs: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination (Liveright, 2016); his Jefferson and the Virginians: Democracy, Constitutions, and Empire was published in 2018 by Louisiana State University Press. With Ed Ayers and Brian Balogh, Onuf was a founding co-host of the public radio program “Backstory with the American History Guys” (www.backstoryradio.org).