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Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Jon Meacham

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6044315,812 (4.01)23
Member:schwager
Title:Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
Authors:Jon Meacham
Info:Random House (2012), Hardcover, 800 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham (2012)

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A fascinating portrait of one of the most dynamic of America's Founding Fathers. Jon Meacham does not attempt to explore every detail of Jefferson's varied life; rather, he focuses on displaying Jefferson's character and political skill. I appreciated Meacham's approach, especially as he showed how some of Jefferson's traits, such as avoidance of conflict, worked to his advance at various points in his life. On the other hand, his realistic description of Jefferson's relationship with his slave Sally Hemings and their children made me wonder whether this president is worth the accolades he's been given. Nevertheless, Meacham gives a very realistic and pragmatic picture of Jefferson, a man who was a legend in his own time. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Jan 27, 2014 |
I found this book one of the weaker biographical works I have read. It is an easy read but it doesn't really go deep enough, doesn't provide enough background information. Sometimes it goes on a tangent, providing long but not very important quotes. I guess it does concentrate more on a character of Thomas Jefferson but I would like to see a more serious work of history. ( )
  everfresh1 | Jan 13, 2014 |
A strong, vivid picture of one of the Founding Fathers of our country. It makes the man seem human and forever at the same time. He was a great and humble man and oft revered.

The book is highly readable and never lets you down. ( )
  koalamom | Dec 21, 2013 |
Meacham goes out of his way to portray the human side of TJ, promoting the impression that, although not perfect, he was darn good. ( )
  davevanl | Oct 31, 2013 |
On the cover, Gordon Wood calls this the "best single-volume biography of Jefferson ever written," and he's probably correct (until the next one comes along a generation from now). Meacham writes in a grand and accessible style, and covers material in such a way that even non-historians can understand the issues involved. For the first time I understand Jefferson's relationship with his wife in a complete way. He does accept the Sally relationship as a loving one and at face value, despite some misgivings I have with the evidence for that affair. Jefferson is much less doctrinaire in this account than others, more of a pragmatist. This is his thesis, his point. Jefferson lives to wield political power without looking like he wields such power. That is his "art," to explain the subtitle.

Great account; easy read; most excellent endnotes (boo endnotes); good bibliography; excellent images in color and black & white (some I've never seen before). ( )
  tuckerresearch | Oct 2, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
Meacham has chosen storytelling over analysis, offering up a genial but meandering narrative. There is some meat in the book, but finding it requires dexterity and doggedness—checking the endnotes after every ten pages or so to see what is missing from the passing panorama. Meacham has read the scholarly literature on Jefferson—some of it critical—but doesn’t let enough of this debate intrude on the storytelling, which nearly always puts Jefferson in the best possible light.
 
Mr. Meacham intends “The Art of Power” as a portrait that “neither lionizes nor indicts Jefferson, but instead restores him to his full and rich role as an American statesman who resists easy categorization.” That sounds bolder than it proves to be. It’s a polite way of staking out middle ground.
 
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Epigraph
A few broad strokes of the brush would paint the portraits of all the early Presidents with this exception. . . . Jefferson could be painted only touch by touch, with a fine pencil, and the perfection of the likeness depended upon the shifting and uncertain flicker of its semi-transparemt shadows. - Henry Adams, History of the United States of America During the Administration of Thomas Jefferson
I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone. - President John F. Kennedy, at a dinner in honor of all living receipients of the Nobel Prize, 1962
Dedication
To Herbert Wentz And, as ever, for Mary, Maggie, Sam, and Keith
First words
(Prologue) He woke at first light.
He was the kind of man people noticed.
Quotations
Knowing human nature - and knowing the Congress, which was human nature writ large - [Jefferson] understood that the Congress would not be able to keep themselves from abusing their power by deciding that everything concerned the national interest.
". . . such proceedings are so common that they cease here to be disgraceful."
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"Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power" gives readers Jefferson the politician and president, a great and complex human being forever engaged in the wars of his era. Philosophers think; politicians maneuver. Jefferson's genius was that he was both and could do both, often simultaneously, catapulting him into becoming the most successful political leader of the early republic, and perhaps in all of American history.… (more)

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