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Negro President: Jefferson and the Slave Power
by Garry Wills
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0618343989, Hardcover)Garry Wills' "Negro President": Jefferson and the Slave Power, despite its title, is not a profile of the Jefferson Presidency. Rather, the book offers a richly detailed study of the United States' tragic constitutional bargain with slavery, and meanders through the lives of several key figures in antebellum American history along the way.
While Thomas Jefferson does play a significant role in Wills' book, the real heroes are the relatively unknown abolitionist Timothy Pickering and, to a lesser degree, John Quincy Adams. Pickering offered a consistent voice of opposition to Jefferson's often secret campaign against Federalist power. Though he could never match Jefferson's charismatic persona, Pickering succeeded in his battle to undo Jefferson's embargo of England--an embargo that Pickering recognized as Jefferson's attempt to undermine the economic prosperity and power of the North. Pickering's ill-fated attempt to secede from the Union, while misguided, would fuel the latter-day abolitionist John Quincy Adams to threaten a similar revolution as the Civil War loomed.
Ultimately, "Negro President" is a book that recovers slavery as a context for understanding early American political life. At times Willis focuses too much on Jefferson, Pickering, or Adams, and the discussion is derailed by his fascination for the moral successes and failures of each personality. Nevertheless, the book addresses a long-neglected subject in American studies and will prove invaluable to readers interested in understanding America's early struggle to balance Northern versus slave-state power. --Patrick O'Kelley
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:23 -0400)
Offers a new look at Thomas Jefferson and his presidency, his election due to the "slave power" vote, the relationship between the power of the slave states and his administration's policies, and the opposition he faced.
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