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American Sphinx by Joseph J. Ellis
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American Sphinx (original 1996; edition 1998)

by Joseph J. Ellis

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1,880243,662 (3.96)57
Member:cvanhasselt
Title:American Sphinx
Authors:Joseph J. Ellis
Info:Vintage (1998), Kindle Edition, 464 pages
Collections:Your library, Kindle Books
Rating:*****
Tags:presidents, history-United States

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American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph J. Ellis (1996)

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Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
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 |
Good review of Thomas Jefferson's character. Not a chronological look at Jefferson's life. Rather the author looks at various times in Jefferson's life and the incidents that occurred during them, to elucidate his political and world view.

This book contains a fair amount of what some deride as historic-psychobabble - the tendency to try and psychoanalyze historic figures to find the origins of their greatness or perfidy (depending on your point of view). In this case, while it does at times feel like the author is attempting to use it to justify examples of Jefferson's blatant hypocrsy (slavery, debt, constitutional interpretation), in this case his arguments are backed up by logical interpretation of the evidence he uses. Not saying I agree with all of it, but it is a worthy attempt.

Definitely worth reading for anyone with an interest in Thomas Jefferson. ( )
  mybucketlistofbooks | Jan 10, 2015 |
Dont remember if I liked it or not.
  badgerbacker | Jul 17, 2014 |
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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.

(summary from another edition)

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