Thomas Jefferson: Psychobiography of an American Lion

M. Andrew Holowchak, PhD
Retired, philosophy/history, Lynchburg, Virginia, USA

Series: American History, Culture and Literature
BISAC: BIO011000



Volume 10

Issue 1

Volume 2

Volume 3

Special issue: Resilience in breaking the cycle of children’s environmental health disparities
Edited by I Leslie Rubin, Robert J Geller, Abby Mutic, Benjamin A Gitterman, Nathan Mutic, Wayne Garfinkel, Claire D Coles, Kurt Martinuzzi, and Joav Merrick


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The sort of assessment Holowchak aims to do in this book is both historical and psychological, so the book is in large measure a psy-chobiography. Holowchak aims to enter into the mind of Thomas Jefferson by perusal and critical assessment of significant events in his life and singular, but representative writings from Jefferson’s nearly 20,000 letters, numerous bills, addresses, messages, autobi-ography, and Notes on Virginia.

How does one begin a psychobiography of such a singular fig-ure?

It is difficult to do justice to Jefferson from a historical per-spective and it is doubly difficult to do justice to Jefferson from a psychological perspective. One who is adept in historical insights usually lacks psychological perspective, and conversely. Moreover, one who has a capacity for psychological perspective is handcuffed by not having access to the dynamic psychotherapeutic setting—an invaluable asset for a psychotherapist. Furthermore, Jefferson was a complex figure. A slaveholder, he was a lifelong critic of slavery. An aristocrat, he always championed democratic sentiments. A na-tionalist, he was also cosmopolitan. A conservative moralist, he was revolutionist. An agrarian, he manufactured his own nails. And so, any psychological depiction and assessment of the man must ac-commodate paradox and ambivalence, though there are numerous things—e.g., liberty, progress, and human moral goodness—about which he certainly was not ambivalent.

In this book, Holowchak offers historical insights and psycho-logical perspective on Jefferson. He depicts a man with several psychological quirks—with definite neurotic tendencies—yet one who throughout his numerous adventures in life, and many set-backs, kept things together. With profound recognition that the things he saw in nature were due to the hand of deity, Jefferson observed, measured, and recorded what he saw. He even at times saw fit to critique nature, when he recognized that humans could work with nature to make things more serviceable for human needs. Jefferson was always in the business of accommodating na-ture for human needs.

Holowchak ends the book with some thoughts on Jefferson’s moral outlook and character.
(Imprint: Nova)


Chapter 1. “It Was My Great Good Fortune”: Jefferson’s Formative Years

Chapter 2. “My Fate Depends on Adnileb’s Present Resolutions”: Young Jefferson in Love

Chapter 3. “Burthens to Those Appointed to Them”: Early Political Years

Chapter 4. “It is a Good World on the Whole”: Jefferson’s Cosmos

Chapter 5. “Throwing a Morsel of Meat into the Kettle”: An American in Paris

Chapter 6. “The Welfare of the Governed”: Secretary of State

Chapter 7. “With What Majesty Do We There Ride above the Storms”: Monticello

Chapter 8. “The Essential Principles of Our Government”: President Jefferson

Chapter 9. Jefferson’s Simeon’s Song: The Retirement Years

Chapter 10. “Make a Dam…the Freshet Can’t Wash Away”: Thomas Jefferson, Philosopher


For scholars in history, psychology, and philosophy as well as mavens of Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson, psychotherapy, neurosis

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