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

by Jon Meacham

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971508,879 (4.02)35
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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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This is my kind of history and my kind of biography. Jefferson's influence achieved crucial impact in his own time and lasting effect ever since. Meacham reveals the complexity of Jefferson's mind and the consistency of his character. The history is full of detail, backed by hundreds of pages of end notes. What I most value from this work is how Jefferson balanced idealism and pragmatism, making big, risky moves at the right key moments during America's infancy. His approach to politics and relationships relied on congeniality even for fierce opponents. His capacity for deep conversation across an unbelievable range of subjects, combined with his disarming nature, won him support from friends and adversaries alike. ( )
  jpsnow | Jul 31, 2016 |
Author Jon Meacham claims this is not intended to be a full scale biography but a study of how Jefferson gained and exercised power. But there is too much narration of Jefferson's very full life with too few insights into how and why he was so successful in so many important times in the early years of America. The period of Jefferson's 8 year presidency is the best part of the book. And in the concluding chapters, Meacham provides some interesting insights into how Jefferson exercised power. While he does not hold back highlighting Jefferson's many faults, he doesn't provide many new insights into the contradictions about the man and the politician. ( )
  kenkarpay | Jul 5, 2016 |
Because I so enjoyed reading Meacham's masterful biography of Andrew Jackson, which I read on May 23, 2009, I decided to read this 2012 biography by him of Jefferson--even though I read Dumas Malone's six-volume biography of Jefferson--5 volumes in 1978 and the final sixth volume on 26 Nov 1981, This Meacham book is meticulously researched and a joy to read, with 174 pages of notes and a 37 page bibliography. The chapters are short , making for easy stopping places. The whole eventful life of Jefferson is covered. I thought after Jefferson's amazing making of the Louisiana Purchase the excitement in his life was over but the book does an excellent job of maintaining interest right up to the end of his presidency in 1809 and through his pleasant years of retirement up to the dramatic conclusion of his life on July 4, 1826--the 50th anniversary of the Declaration when he and John Adams both died. Meacham accepts the facts in regard to Sally Hemmings--I think in six volumes Malone never mentioned he. This is a great work and fun to read. ( )
  Schmerguls | Apr 26, 2016 |
Excellent book on Thomas Jefferson. I believe Meacham fairly portrayed our third president's strengths and weaknesses without hiding any of the contradictions of his life. America is so much a reflection of Jefferson's philosophy and character. ( )
  Jarratt | Mar 7, 2016 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 52 (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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