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

by Jon Meacham (Author)

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1,829646,882 (3.98)57
"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)
Member:SJenkins
Title:Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
Authors:Jon Meacham (Author)
Info:Random House (2012), Edition: 1, 800 pages
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Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham (2012)

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Good historical information but the author has an annoying habit of taking a sentence from something Jefferson wrote (or someone said he said) and psychoanalyzing him based on that one sentence. It got to be really really annoying. ( )
  TanyaRead | May 3, 2021 |
Thomas Jefferson is one of the most important figures behind the formation of the United States and it's early history. He was also a man of contradictions: he authored the Declaration of Independence, yet he owned slaves; he never acknowledged his children with his slave Sally Hemings yet he freed those children in his will; he hated conflict but strove for power and control; he advocated for limited government but took decisive unprecedented executive action when he felt it was necessary. This book was a fascinating look at Jefferson's life and the art of power as exercised by Jefferson. Carefully researched and using Jefferson family papers this book paints a complete picture of our third President, presenting the good and the bad portions of his life and character, and placing them in the context of his time.
( )
  SteveKey | Jan 8, 2021 |
An interesting read and such a difference from current leadership or what passes as leadership ( )
  ibkennedy | Mar 13, 2020 |
I slowed way down, even though I liked it. Enjoyable reading to replace the myths I learned in school with the story of a real man. ( )
  EnoughYear | Jan 16, 2020 |
The last few decades have not been kind to the reputation of Thomas Jefferson. Recent biographies of John Adams and Alexander Hamilton have extolled their subjects' virtues at Jefferson’s expense. Further, strong evidence that he probably fathered children with Sally Hemings has lent weight to public perceptions of the man's hypocrisy. Jon Meachem’s Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power offers a balanced view, one that acknowledges his subject's flaws while recognizing his greatness as a founding father and U.S. president.

Meachem’s biography is a substantive work of nearly 500 pages (not including 200 pages of notes and bibliography). While I cannot judge its accuracy, it is an extraordinarily detailed and well- documented account of Jefferson’s life, replete with endnotes for the serious reader. The image of Jefferson that emerges is that of a human being in all his complexity – a flawed giant if you will, who dreamed large and accomplished great things, as one of the founders of a nation. As a modern reader not steeped on politics of the era, I was intrigued to learn of the bitter political quarrels that divided the early nation, and the vitriol that characterized political debate. I was also interested to learn just how effective Jefferson was as a politician, despite strong opposition, weak resources, and the precarious situation the colonies and resultant nation faced. One need only remember that Jefferson doubled the size of the newly formed United States, and expanded its outlook to the Pacific, to acknowledge his stamp on the country's history.

This work is extensive as a biography, but less so as a history of the times in which Jefferson lived. Events are recounted insofar as they involved Jefferson. Thus, much of the Revolutionary War occurs off-stage, as it were, directly involving Jefferson only when he was forced to flee Monticello barely ahead of the British troops. As for the difficult issue of slavery, Meachem is no apologist, but somewhat redresses the balance of recent criticism by describing the multiple occasions in which Jefferson proposed a national ban on slavery, at risk to his own political career. The seeming contradiction between his protagonist’s public and private life is left a mystery, against which commentators are free to project their own interpretations. (As the author pointed out in a recent public lecture [quoting Arthur Schlesinger], self- righteousness is easy; it is also cheap.)

I found this a dense but informative work, from which I learned a great deal. I would certainly recommend it to any serious reader who wishes to learn more about this complex, brilliant, and accomplished man. ( )
3 vote danielx | Jan 3, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 65 (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.

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