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American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas…
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American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson (1997)

by Joseph J. Ellis

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
A provocative survey of an enlightenment thinker and statesman who could never outdistance his contradictions. My friend Mark Prather selected this for samizdat and a number of us read such and with a formality of discussion. The passage of a couple decades would likely have adjusted those younger impressions. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
Another solid book about one of our great characters in American History. Jefferson is one of the most hypocritical Founding Fathers who was nonetheless great in his time or any. This book focuses mainly on his political views and is much more of a scholarly work than Ellis' later books. I enjoyed the read as a history teache, but I don't think many casual readers of history would be took impressed by it. ( )
  msaucier818 | Apr 9, 2018 |
Thomas Jefferson again! The man had an enormous capacity to write beautiful sentiments and then not live up to them, that’s for sure. Ellis, writing before the DNA testing became definitive, expresses doubt about the Sally Hemings story as inconsistent with Jefferson’s fear of race mixing, but he doesn’t exclude the possibility. Basically, what Jefferson’s detractors see as his two-facedness, his fans see as flexibility and desire to smooth over conflicts. (By telling different people different things.) Most notably, Ellis discusses Jefferson’s free-spending ways in private as contrasted to his fear of public debt; instead of seeing this as a contradiction, he charitably attributes Jefferson’s anti-debt stance to his awareness of his own financial precarity, because Jefferson—like many of his compatriots—didn’t understand the difference between personal and national accounts. So “your debts are paid ‘cause you don’t pay for labor” is only partially true. ( )
  rivkat | May 8, 2016 |
Complex man. I hated the older jefferson but loved the younger Jefferson. ( )
  jerry-book | Jan 26, 2016 |
Recognized to this day as one of the great men of the American revolution. This book tackles the elusive character of Thomas Jefferson. He was against slavery, but owned slaves. He was against a strong government, but was a strong president.

While a very public figure he was also a very private figure. The author here discusses the character and life experiences of Jefferson and the controversies surrounding him. And interesting and thoroughly researched book. ( )
  Chris_El | Mar 19, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joseph J. Ellisprimary authorall editionscalculated
Carson, Carol DevineCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Peale, Charles WillsonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679764410, Paperback)

Well timed to coincide with Ken Burns's documentary (on which the author served as a consultant), this new biography doesn't aim to displace the many massive tomes about America's third president that already weigh down bookshelves. Instead, as suggested by the subtitle--"The Character of Thomas Jefferson"--Ellis searches for the "living, breathing person" underneath the icon and tries to elucidate his actual beliefs. Jefferson's most ardent admirers may find this perspective too critical, but Ellis's portrait of a complex, sometimes devious man who both sought and abhorred power has the ring of truth.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:03 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Offers a reassessment of the life, image, and career of Thomas Jefferson, examining his complex personality, controversies about the man and his beliefs, and his accomplishments.

» see all 3 descriptions

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