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

by Jon Meacham

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Title:Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
Authors:Jon Meacham
Info:Random House (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 800 pages
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Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham (2012)

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Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
Jon Meacham presents a compelling history of America's 3rd President, a well educated and rounded man who was one of the cornerstones of the founding of America. Philospher, politician, student, leader, frankly the term "Renaissance man", would be perfectly applicable.

This book is an interesting read, but I give it 4 stars instead of 5 due to the author's cheerleading and very obvious agenda of describing his subject's virtues in a way that makes him seem as if the future of America was totally reliant on him and that others like Washington - described as having limited intelligence, or Hamilton - described as despising democracy had very little. However, still a interesting read on one of the more interesting persons at the start of America's history. ( )
  bhuesers | Mar 29, 2017 |
Having read "Hamilton" I was interested in his nemesis, Thomas Jefferson. As in Hamilton, the writer of this book paints a positive picture of Jefferson, a man born of a wealthy slave holding family in Virginia. Jefferson was a man of many talents as a farmer, architect, writer, and politician. He always appeared to be resistant to the idea of leadership, but managed to become a leader. Jefferson was one who spoke little, seemed to tell people what they wanted to hear, yet almost always got his way.

The book paints a picture of his life on the plantation, his years in France, and his years as the first Secretary of State and President.

I read this book as a comparison to Hamilton which I thoroughly enjoyed. Perhaps I had overdosed on the Revolutionary War, but this one did not capture my attention as the Hamilton book did. Jefferson was a complete opposite to Hamilton. Born an aristocrat, he championed the common man where Hamilton was born a common man and led the Federalist cause mistrusting the those. The distinctions between the two were great, but both brought the balance necessary for our government at the time.

Jefferson was also a man of great contradiction especially in regard to his slaves, particularly his almost life long relationship with Sally Hemings who bore him several children.

Must admit, I did quit reading soon after his presidency and "skimmed" the rest. ( )
  maryreinert | Feb 5, 2017 |
Historically and personally interesting biography of Thomas Jefferson and the times in which he lived. If it wasn't for his stubborn and persistent efforts to keep America a government by the people, we might be a monarchy today. It's astonishing how few men of his day worked tirelessly and for most of their productive lifetimes to fend off enemies who would take over the young states or western parts of the US and to ensure that this country didn't become what the colonists had just left behind.

I found some wry humor in the fact that the political parties haven't changed much in 200 years as far as mud-slinging before elections and opposing each other at every turn. Jefferson understood that opposing parties are essential to our democracy. Jefferson was a fascinating person in both his public and private lives. The book reveals his family life, his quiet hours, his concerns and thoughts, his friendships, and more. This is the most highly researched book I've ever read.

This was a slow read for me, not exactly a page-turner. However, I feel enriched intellectually for the read and will always remember the lessons and history I learned. If more of us would read this kind of history, we would appreciate our country in new ways. What we have today was hard-won and lives were dedicated to providing our freedoms, whole lifetimes, in fact. War isn't the only way to achieve great things. It's definitely not the best way.

Thomas Jefferson's gentle, congenial, and highly intelligent manner belied a steely conviction that served us well. He authored the Declaration of Independence and procured much of the western US for the young states. Jefferson spent some years in France, living as an ambassador. There are many other surprising revelations in this literary biography.

Recommended for anyone who enjoys history, especially of how the US came to be what it is today, and how it almost didn't.

( )
  Rascalstar | Jan 21, 2017 |
Took me a bit longer than normal to finish this book, but that's because it's so thorough and informative. A wonderful history of the personal life and political contributions of one of the founding fathers. ( )
  Bricker | Jan 11, 2017 |
The complex life and the politics of the third President of the United States in a dramatic period in history are brought to the fore in Jon Meacham’s Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power. After nearly twenty years in which Jefferson’s reputation has taken a hit through both scientific revelations and new biographies of his fellow Founders, the pragmatic philosopher who still yearned to daydream comes into better light 200 years after his time in office.

Meacham approached his book as a pure biography of Jefferson not a history of the times, which meant that only events that directly affected Jefferson or his immediately family were focused upon. Thus while Jefferson’s own story began in 1743, Meacham sets the stage with a family history that was also a history of colonial Virginia both politically and culturally. Throughout the next 500 pages, Meacham follows Jefferson in and out of Virginia with stops in Philadelphia, Paris, New York, and finally Washington D.C., but through everything a special focus was on how he developed his political acumen to achieve the vision he had for the United States in the world.

Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings is discussed throughout the book when important moments in both their lives cross. While Hemings is not the focus of the book, the ‘relationship’ is interwoven by Meacham into Jefferson’s complicated thoughts on slavery that is more thoroughly detailed towards the end of the book and is some of the best analysis in the book. Yet, the focus on Jefferson’s political skill in comparison to his contemporaries and his time resulted in a fairly quick book to read (505 pages) that had extensive notes that could have added more to the body of the book and given the book more depth is the basic drawback of the book.

Over the last decade, a new round of biographies of the Founding Fathers has brought praise and more attention to the actual human beings we think of when we hear their names. Jon Meacham’s Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power is a fascinating read of a man whose words and actions are both celebrated and controversial. ( )
  mattries37315 | Sep 30, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 56 (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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