David Center Lecture: "A Revolutionary Friendship: Washington, Jefferson, and the American Republic" with Francis D. Cogliano

7:00 - 8:00 p.m. ET

Please register here to attend. [Note: this will be held in-person at Washington Crossing, and virtually on Zoom]

Wednesday, May 15, 2024 

7:00 - 8:00 p.m. ET

Washington Crossing Historic Park Visitor Center
1112 River Road
Washington Crossing, PA 18977

Frank Cogliano 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 Francis 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.

The talk will be held in-person at Washington Crossing Historic Park. Books will be available for purchase and a book signing with the author will be held after the talk.

The event is free to attend but registration is required. Please register here to attend in-person.

This event is hosted by the David Center for the American Revolution at the American Philosophical Society. This event will take place on Wednesday, May 15, 2024 at 7:00 p.m. ET at the Visitor Center in Washington Crossing.

Can't make it? Join us instead at the APS on Thursday, May 16 at 12:00 p.m. for Lunch at the Library! Details here.

Francis D. Cogliano is the author of Emperor of Liberty: Thomas Jefferson's Foreign Policy. A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and cohost of the American history podcast The Whiskey Rebellion. He is Professor of American History at the University of Edinburgh, and Acting Director of the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello.