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Thomas Jefferson|Jon Meacham
Thomas Jefferson : The Art of Power
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Overview

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - From Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham, "a big, grand, absorbing exploration of not just Jefferson and his role in history but also Jefferson the man, humanized as never before" (Entertainment Weekly)

"Probably the best single-volume biography of Jefferson ever written."--Gordon S. Wood

A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, The Seattle Times, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, BookPage This magnificent biography brings vividly to life an extraordinary man and his remarkable times, giving us Thomas Jefferson the man, the politician, and the president. A Founder whose understanding of power and of human nature enabled him to move men and marshal ideas, to learn from his mistakes and to prevail, Jefferson was passionate about many things--women, his family, science, architecture, gardening, Monticello, Paris, and more. He strove, despite fierce opposition, to realize his vision: the creation, survival, and success of popular government in America. Drawing on archives in the United States, England, and France, as well as unpublished transcripts of Jefferson presidential papers, Jon Meacham shows us the personal Jefferson, a man of appetite, sensuality, and passion. He also presents Jefferson as the most successful political leader of the early republic, and perhaps in all American history, a leader who found the means to endure and to win. His story resonates today not least because he led his nation through ferocious partisanship amid economic change and external threats. Jefferson also embodies an eternal drama, the struggle of the leadership of a nation to achieve greatness in a difficult and confounding world.

Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400067664
  • ISBN-10: 1400067669
  • Publisher: Random House
  • Publish Date: November 2012
  • Dimensions: 9.45 x 6.57 x 1.66 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds
  • Page Count: 800

Related Categories

Power, politics and public life

Thomas Jefferson’s eloquent writings have made him revered as the nation’s premier spokesman for democracy. A man of the Enlightenment, he pursued an extraordinary range of interests and served in the nation’s highest offices; a man of contradictions, he cultivated the image of a philosopher who was above the political fray. And yet, as Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham demonstrates in Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, our third president was as much a man of action as he was of ideas.

Meacham’s Jefferson, at his core, was a politician who eagerly sought office where he could work toward the future he envisioned for his country. In his meticulously researched and very readable book, Meacham writes, “The closest thing to a constant in his life was his need for power and control. He tended to mask these drives so effectively . . . the most astute observers of his life and work had trouble detecting them.”

Once in office he emphasized one overarching political concern: the survival and success of popular government. More than George Washington or John Adams, he believed in the possibilities of human beings governing themselves. Like all effective politicians, he articulated the ideal but acted pragmatically, as in the case of the Louisiana Purchase. The philosophical Jefferson thought there first should be a constitutional amendment authorizing the president to purchase new territory. But when it seemed Napoleon might change his mind, the realist Jefferson immediately went ahead with the deal without an amendment. His personal political style was smooth, although he relied on his allies to be more confrontational. Indeed, Meacham believes Jefferson led so quietly that popular history tends to downplay his presidential achievements.

The book also examines Jefferson’s hypocrisy on slavery. He knew slavery was morally wrong but he could not bring himself to sacrifice his own way of life on an issue whose time, as he saw it, had not yet come. After attempts early in his career to limit slavery, he gave up trying, concluding that to pursue it would end whatever future he might have in public life.

Jefferson comes alive in this discerning and elegant biography, surely one of the best single volumes about him written in our time.

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