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

by Jon Meacham

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8834810,031 (4.01)28
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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This put a personal touch on history. Rather than a reading of facts, it put together a life in politics at the founding of the nation. That life continues in America today. Love Jefferson or hate him, he was extremely influential. ( )
  ryanone | Jan 8, 2016 |
Outstanding single-volume biography of a complex and highly intelligent man. Excellent descriptions of the political infighting that was happening to the young United States of America. ( )
  jpb355 | Nov 2, 2015 |
*edited to show how I received the book*
I must note that I received this book through the History Book Club on Goodreads, through the Published as an advance copy, for which I am very grateful to both the History Book Club, and Random House, as well as the author, Mr. Meacham.

This is a magnificent effort from it's very accomplished author. One truly feels as though you have a grasp of the 3rd President of the United States as a man, and a much deeper understanding of his younger days. The book is filled with fascinating passages and I cannot recommend it highly enough. However, I have one small issue which prevents me from giving it a 5th star (see end). The book is ostensibly about his use of personal and political power, and does make the case...without illustrating it. Time again we're told of the manner of management and of manipulation (Meacham is to be lauded for his even-handed and balanced approach to a man you can easily love or hate) but we're only provided a few examples of it. He whets my appetite for knowledge of the mechanics of his administration, but fails to sate it. I realize he might have wanted to avoid ranging into too technical an arena, and to keep the book in the spectrum of potential best-sellers, which he did, and the book has, but Jefferson's Aggressive-Passive methods are largely still a mystery to me at this point. I felt as though I needed about double the content for the period covering his time as Vice-President and President. I imagine that a couple of books on Madison will probably do the trick. However, it is a really good book, so I think in the end it wins back a star simply for being so much better than most of what there is to read. In comparison, it's a superb book. It just came so close to being the perfect accomplishment of it's mission, I wished it could have made that final step. ( )
  wjmcomposer | Nov 5, 2014 |
*edited to show how I received the book*
I must note that I received this book through the History Book Club on Goodreads, through the Published as an advance copy, for which I am very grateful to both the History Book Club, and Random House, as well as the author, Mr. Meacham.

This is a magnificent effort from it's very accomplished author. One truly feels as though you have a grasp of the 3rd President of the United States as a man, and a much deeper understanding of his younger days. The book is filled with fascinating passages and I cannot recommend it highly enough. However, I have one small issue which prevents me from giving it a 5th star (see end). The book is ostensibly about his use of personal and political power, and does make the case...without illustrating it. Time again we're told of the manner of management and of manipulation (Meacham is to be lauded for his even-handed and balanced approach to a man you can easily love or hate) but we're only provided a few examples of it. He whets my appetite for knowledge of the mechanics of his administration, but fails to sate it. I realize he might have wanted to avoid ranging into too technical an arena, and to keep the book in the spectrum of potential best-sellers, which he did, and the book has, but Jefferson's Aggressive-Passive methods are largely still a mystery to me at this point. I felt as though I needed about double the content for the period covering his time as Vice-President and President. I imagine that a couple of books on Madison will probably do the trick. However, it is a really good book, so I think in the end it wins back a star simply for being so much better than most of what there is to read. In comparison, it's a superb book. It just came so close to being the perfect accomplishment of it's mission, I wished it could have made that final step. ( )
  wjmcomposer | Nov 5, 2014 |
A recent best-seller of the greatest mind of America. Little new to the Jefferson scholar, but nice to know there is interest in this man. But for three or four others, Presidents have barely approached the leadership skills of Mr. Jefferson. Unlike recent ones, here was a President who didn't rely on committees to make decisions or speech writers to placate the electorate. ( )
  JVioland | Jul 14, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 50 (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.
Jefferson is the greatest Rubber off of Dust that he has ever met with, that he has learned French, Italian, Spanish, and wants to learn German. - John Adams reporting a fellow delegate's opinion
Some talked, some wrote, and some fought to promote and establish it, but you and Mr. Jefferson thought for us all. - Benjamin Rush to John Adams, Feb 1812
Time wastes too fast: every letter / I trace tells me with what rapidity / Life follows my pen. The days and hours / Of its are flying over our heads like / Clouds of windy day never to return / More every thing presses on / And every / Time I kiss thy hand to bid adieu, every absence which / Follows it, are preludes to that eternal separation / Which we are shortly to make!
Fill paper as you please with triangles and squares: try how many ways you can hang and combine them together...We are not immortal ourselves, my friend; how can we expect our enjoyments to be so? We have no rose without its thorn; no pleasure without alloy. It is the law of our existence; and we must acquiesce.
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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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