Sunday, November 10 at 4:00 pm

Speaker Series: James B. Conroy, Author of Jefferson’s White House

Join us as we welcome James B. Conroy, author of Jefferson’s White House: Monticello on the Potomac on Sunday, November 10 at 4:00 p.m.

In the aftermath of the American Revolution, the republic’s formative years were a time of deep division as powerful, privileged men in the Federalist Party attacked democracy itself and promoted an American plutocracy protected by law, a crackdown on immigration, strict limits on the right to vote, the suppression of vigorous dissent, and an army prepared to subdue it.  Jefferson’s White House: Monticello on the Potomac, focuses on the mansion in Jefferson’s time and the people who passed through it, male and female, white, black, and red; the political strains and culture wars that were pulling the country apart; and Jefferson’s use of the house to pull it back together, reverse a trend toward oligarchy, and restore a sense of civility and common purpose to the American body politic.

With dozens of color slides, Conroy’s presentation recreates the White House in Jefferson’s day, the village in which it stood, and the imperfectly brilliant man who used it to heal his country and save democracy when the republic was new and at risk.  The focus is on Jefferson, the house he transformed from a barren shell to a magnificent salon in a wide spot in the wilderness, and the men, women and children, slave and free, who came to know him there. What they saw and heard from Thomas Jefferson as a friend, an enemy, a leader, a host, an architect, a father, a grandfather, an employer, and an owner of human beings as he fought for his country’s soul sheds light on him and them. 

Jim Conroy is a co-founder of Donnelly, Conroy & Gelhaar, LLP, one of Boston’s leading litigation law firms.  In 2014 he was elected a Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society in recognition of his first book, Our One Common Country: Abraham Lincoln and the Hampton Roads Peace Conference of 1865, about Lincoln’s peace talks with Confederate leaders on a riverboat in Virginia near the end of the Civil War.  Our One Common Country was a finalist for the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize, awarded to the author of the best book of the year on Lincoln or the Civil War era.  Conroy’s second book, Lincoln’s White House: The People’s House in Wartime, won the Lincoln Prize and the Abraham Lincoln Institute’s annual book award.  Peter Onuf, Thomas Jefferson Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Virginia, has called Conroy’s newly released third book, Jefferson’s White House: Monticello on the Potomac, an “invaluable contribution” to our understanding of Thomas Jefferson, an “ambitious, enlightening, and brilliantly realized project.”

Conroy is a graduate of the University of Connecticut and served for six years as a photographer and journalist in anti-submarine aviation units in the United States Navy Reserve.  While working on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. as a speechwriter, press secretary, and chief of staff, he earned a master’s degree in international relations at George Washington University and a law degree, magna cum laude, at the Georgetown University Law Center.

Conroy has lived in Hingham, Massachusetts with his wife, Lynn since 1982.  Their daughter, Erin, is a lawyer at the Food and Drug Administration in Washington.  Their son, Scott, is a political journalist-turned-script-writer who lives with his wife, the NBC News reporter Jo Ling Kent, in Los Angeles. Conroy is a member of Hingham’s Historical Commission and its Community Preservation Committee and has chaired its Government Study Committee, its Task Force on Affordability, and its Advisory Committee, which counsels the Hingham Town Meeting, an exercise in direct democracy through which the town has governed itself since 1635, well before Conroy’s time.

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