Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power Epub ✓ Thomas

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power Epub ✓ Thomas


10 thoughts on “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

  1. Elyse Walters Elyse Walters says:

    In Jefferson s early days of life we learn that he was born into a reputable known family Author Jon Meacham tells us that it was said that Jefferson studied 15 hours a day, rising at dawn and reading until 2 o clock each morning At twilight in Williamsburg he exercised by running to a stone a mile from town at Shadwell, he rowed a small canoe of his own across the Rivanna River and climbed the mountain he was to callMonticello For Jefferson laziness was a sin Like his father, he believed i In Jefferson s early days of life we learn that he was born into a reputable known family Author Jon Meacham tells us that it was said that Jefferson studied 15 hours a day, rising at dawn and reading until 2 o clock each morning At twilight in Williamsburg he exercised by running to a stone a mile from town at Shadwell, he rowed a small canoe of his own across the Rivanna River and climbed the mountain he was to callMonticello For Jefferson laziness was a sin Like his father, he believed in the virtues of riding and of walking, holding that a vigorous body helped create a vigorous mind Not less than two hours a day should be devoted to exercise, and the weather should be little regarded Jefferson was always asking questions He was interested in all topics from literature, science, mechanics, architecture, mathematics, horticulture philosophy, music, politics, art, and women He shunned organized religion He was also well versed in linguistics speaking several languages Jefferson soon became known as a walking encyclopedia There was juicy drama between he and women At times I thought I was reading a fiction story There were stories about his connections with woman including rejections before marriage to a slave Sally Hemings that he had a relationship with after his wife died and fathered one of her children By age 31.the year was 1774.Jefferson was a husband to Martha Wayles, a father eventually they had six children , a planter, legislator, and thinker He he moved to higher ranks of political skill I m still a newbie when it comes to reading about our past presidents certainly not even close to being a historian.so, I m aware I don t come to these books with a depth of knowledge as others might but little by little I m soaking in past U.S Political history I might have to read these books religiously for another 10 years before I might be able to add my contextual thoughts to what I m learning I m still learning the basics..the highlights achievements Lewis and Clark Voyage of Discovery , Louisiana Purchase, avoided a war with England, played a role in the revolution, etc , his personal character and personal history I appreciate that Meacham s writing much like David McCullough presents an enjoyable storytelling easy flowing writing style Jefferson was another early President one of our founding fathers He stood for ideals but settled the best of realities He wasn t much of a speaker but he could write.Plus we get the story of how Jefferson ended up writing the Declaration of Independence Informative I learned a lot about Jeffersons strengths and imperfections read many quotes and most, I admired Jefferson s critical skills his words his writing and his analyzing issues of power Whew a little spent but in a good way parts of this book were dry for me compared to the storytelling of the last few Presidents I read lately, and I couldn t figure out if I just needed past President break or if this was a little less consistently engaging Still had its juicy moments though and I ve been working my tush off My next political adventure I own the physical book plus have a library audiobook.will be Valiant Ambition George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the fate of the American revolution Then I hope to read Mayflower , also by Nathaniel Philbrick a few fiction novels always on the burner


  2. Matt Matt says:

    Seeking to continue my trek to better understand the birth of America and its Founding Fathers, I tackled Meacham s biography on Thomas Jefferson Choosing to infuse literary breath into one of the key actors in much of the early creation of the state and its constitutional foundations, Meacham not only offers an over arching narrative, but delves into the corners of Jefferson s life, allowing the reader to have a better and well rounded approach to this key historical figure While Meacham offe Seeking to continue my trek to better understand the birth of America and its Founding Fathers, I tackled Meacham s biography on Thomas Jefferson Choosing to infuse literary breath into one of the key actors in much of the early creation of the state and its constitutional foundations, Meacham not only offers an over arching narrative, but delves into the corners of Jefferson s life, allowing the reader to have a better and well rounded approach to this key historical figure While Meacham offers Jefferson s life through nine lenses, dividing his life into smaller anddigestible portions, three significant themes emerge as central arcs to better depict Jefferson s life A synthesis of the text sees Jefferson as a committed man, a stalwart politician, and a sharp statesman These themes emerge throughout the text, even with the firm chronological flow of Meacham s tome A biography worthy of examination for the reader looking to better understand Jefferson and the rumours swirling around his earlier historical depictions.That Jefferson is a man committed to all he undertakes cannot be denied, based on Meacham s text The biography moves forward to show that Jefferson, who came from a well established family, grew up with a strong thirst for knowledge Jefferson always sought to open his mind to new ideas and to learn from whomever he could He read and spoke as one would imagine a Greek thinker might have done 2 millennia earlier, always asking questions and building his ideas on those who influenced his life From there, Jefferson became a man not only of knowledge, but one who dabbled in many areas literature, politics, science, innovation, and even architecture His passions extended outside of the esoteric, finding his greatest love in women While Meacham hints at Jefferson s fondness for the opposite sex, there is little to deter the reader from feeling that Martha Wayles was the love of his young life Their marriage, a decade long, was filled with passion and six children, though few survived Jefferson took her death personally and used his depression to fuel his aforementioned passions While rumours around his involvement with Sally Hemings, Meacham handles it with the greatest aplomb, addressing it not as a tabloid scandal but presenting its inevitable occurrence Whether the Jefferson Hemings interaction was based on an amorous connection or strictly a power relationship cannot be definitively known, though Meacham does mention reports of the strong physical resemblance of Hemings children to Jefferson and how his time on his estate matched with the pregnancies This did not mar Jefferson s life or the high regard in which he was seen His personal life and interests were strongly supported by Meacham throughout the tome, including his final years at the Monticello estate, where a detailed architectural and design discussion ensues Jefferson s connection to his personal beliefs are well rooted in his final years, as he sought to better understand the emancipation movement and the American move towards the abolition of slavery Meacham argues throughout the tome that Jefferson was a man like no other, with his own interests that fuelled his mind to the bitter end.Born in Virginia at a time of strong political sentiment and eventual rebellious sentiments towards the British, it is no wonder that Jefferson found himself at the centre of the controversies in his political life While he served in the House of Burgesses, where another Virginian named Washington made his mark, Jefferson began to hone his political skills and formulated his deeply rooted beliefs Meacham argues that Jefferson s passion with the written word acted to propel the revolutionary movement forward as he helped to create the ideas behind the Declaration of Independence and penned the final document himself This authorship saw him gain much favour within the Colonies, but he became a hunted man by the British Red Coats His political life resurrected itself after the War of Independence when he headed to Philadelphia as a delegate to the Continental Congress, but soon crossed the Atlantic to work for the new America in Paris Jefferson took that time to critique the constitutional document presented by the Congress and added his concerns Jefferson saw the intricacies of the new America and sought to individualise it from the British influence so prominent in the Colonies Jefferson s political side reared its head again after he accepted a position in Washington s Cabinet at Secretary of State, but becamepowerful upon his departure from that body As Jefferson saw himself as a Democratic Republican not the oxymoronic phrase it would have today , he realised that there was a need to stand for an independent minded form of government in America that did not promote a monarchy of some sort, as promoted by the Federalists He battled the likes of John Adams on this point and, as Meacham illustrates, sought to ensure that the shackles of British oppression did not seep back in with the appearance of a crowned or hereditary monarch in the collective colonial unit Meacham shows Jefferson s passion for political ideals throughout the narrative and promotes the importance of the first political schism and party politics in 1796 Meacham depicts Jefferson s political knowledge on numerous occasions throughout the tome, leaving no doubt about his political importance in early America.The image of strong statesman seems a foregone conclusion when examining Jefferson s political acumen, though the terms differ greatly In his time as Secretary of State, Jefferson sought to work effectively with the European allies that helped secure a colonial victory, while also mending fences with the British Jefferson utilised some of his time in the position to build strong ties and promote the new America, while also ensuring that this new state did not fall prey to those wishing to strike on a weakened and somewhat scattered colonial collective Meacham shows that Jefferson s ideas became his ideals, from which he would not stray This left him no choice but to leave the role when the Federalists rooted their monarch centric views within Washington s Cabinet and Jefferson found himself at odds with the likes of John Adams However, he hoped to push his republican ideas from the outside and eventually in the vice presidential role, which clashed thoroughly with the aforementioned Adams It was this that fuelled the great election of 1800, pitting Federalists against the Republican ideals on which Jefferson stumped so heavily This is also the election that required a deadlock breaking in the House of Representatives, as Meacham depicts both in the preface and withdetail within the tome, where discussion of bribery and promises begat the final sway needed to secure victory Meacham illustrates that Jefferson sought to push a hands off approach to the state by positing that there need be time for Americans to find their niche Jefferson scaled back the military and navy as well, feeling that the revolutionary times were past Meacham discusses the great embargo with Britain, after a naval clash, and how the president sought to keep war off the table, no matter the public outcry for its use All this pales in Meacham s great argument surrounding the height of Jefferson s statesman role the acquisition of the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon While this might seem a little awkward, discussing land as the highlight of a presidential career, Meacham presents it in such a way as to show how Jefferson used the new constitution to develop its Living Tree doctrine even though the phrase had not yet been coined in Britain The treaty for obtaining the land had to be ratified in the Senate, but Jefferson went ahead and made the arrangements This constitutional see saw battle helped hone the precedent of executive decision making and legislative agreement It happens all the time with multinational treaties and was, as the history buff will remember, the downfall of Wilson s League of Nations Meacham utilises this example to show how Jefferson could run an effective state, while not dictating his preconceived notions to ensure success Perhaps it was this that helped solidify the republican movement and helps Meacham argue the position so effectively.It is quite difficult not to play a comparison game when the reader has delved into numerous biographies about actors whose lives intertwined Having read McCullough s John Adams and Chernow s Washington, the comparisons rise unsteadily to the surface Length is the first and greatest discrepancy here Applause to Meacham for succinctly laying out the life and times of Jefferson, while highlighting many important aspects While Meacham admits he had not sought to write a life and times of the third president, such was the final project, which skims over many of the areas that were of greatest importance I would have hoped fortime on the Continental Congress and creation of the constitutional documents, for these were areas of greatest importance to Jefferson in years to come I would also have loved a further fleshing out of the personal life of Jefferson during his down years and not brief linkages Had I not read the other two biographies, I would likely not be making these comments, but I cannot unread what I had put in front of me and, like life in general, I bring these experiences to the forefront as I delve deeper in my understanding of the political and historical actors who shaped the world That being said, Meacham is a wonderful wordsmith and weaves a wonderful tale from start to finish A plethora of sources and first hand accounts pepper the text and bring the story to life in ways that few could do with such ease.One additional theme from the biography comes from its epilogue and author s note Meacham argues that while Jefferson s views were his own, he could garner much support from those around him, both at the time and in the decades centuries to come Washington and Adams had the greatest respect for the man, as did the likes of Lincoln, FDR, Truman, Kennedy, and Reagan Jefferson s views could appeal to those across the political spectrum, for they were rooted not in strict ideology, but in nation building and sovereignty While America had its share of ups and downs, these political giants all turned to Jefferson s Declaration and subsequent republican sentiments to shape the country in the 21st century For this, his legacy parallels Washington, though for different reasons.Kudos, Mr Meacham for this wonderful biographical piece Thomas Jefferson came to life in this depiction and for that you deserve the greatest of praise I look forward to examiningof your work at a future time.Like hate the review An ever growing collection of others appears at


  3. David Beeson David Beeson says:

    Looking around the gathered Nobel Prize winners he had invited to a White House dinner, John F Kennedy declared, 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 That quotation, included by Jon Meacham in his enthralling biography of Jefferson, gives a measure of the man, and the man fully deserves such a biography Not that it s a simple ha Looking around the gathered Nobel Prize winners he had invited to a White House dinner, John F Kennedy declared, 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 That quotation, included by Jon Meacham in his enthralling biography of Jefferson, gives a measure of the man, and the man fully deserves such a biography Not that it s a simple hagiography Meacham paints his subject in the round, not glossing over the difficult moments in his life story, such as the 1781 moment when, as governor of Virginia, his retreat before the British troops of the bloodthirsty Banastre Tarleton led to serious criticism of his performance, which would never be entirely expunged.But Meacham goes further He shows that as well as being a philosopher and a man of principle, capable of drafting the inspiring sentiments of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was also a practical politician perfectly prepared to act in ways that some might regard as contrary to those principles, when concrete circumstance demanded it of him I entirely sympathise with his denunciation of the Alien and Sedition Acts of his predecessor as president, and rival, John Adams I equally admire him for having the courage to take decisions on his own responsibility to defend his nation against British hostility and to extend its territory through the Louisiana purchase, although by doing so he increased the power of the executive presidency far beyond anything Adams had attempted.The ability to adhere to key principles, and to uphold them sincerely, while at the same time reaching the compromises needed for the real exercise of political authority, is a talent few have attained and which the world would do well to rediscover today Jefferson had it in spades.Of course, at times this brilliantly skillful duality can look perilously like self contradiction or even hypocrisy Nowhere is that clearer than in the matter of slavery and,particularly, the longstanding relationship Jefferson maintained with one particular slave, Sally Hemings, with whom he had several children Like Washington or Patrick Henry give me liberty or give me death , Jefferson could perfectly well see that slavery was shameful and his new nation would at some stage need to lance that boil he could equally well see the contradiction between that sense of horror and his continuing to own slaves and, in Hemings s case, to maintain a sexual relationship with one of them a sexual relationship with someone over whom he had power of ownership.Meacham does not skirt around these matters but simply states the facts, points to Jefferson s silence on the Hemings issue, and talks about the hints at justification that came from his pen slavery was simply not an issue that could be tackled at that time, or not for a bearable political cost though the political cost that would in the end be borne, in a bitter civil war and the first assassination of a president, was arguably vastly higher for having been delayed In passing, it s worth noting that John Dickinson, fellow revolutionary and member of the Continental Congress from Pennsylvania, hung behind Jefferson in willingness to break decisively from Britain, but far outpaced him in this other, harder field when he freed his slaves Jefferson only ever freed the Hemings and then only on his death.What emerges from Meacham s work is therefore a complete picture of a man, a man of towering intellect and courage, which the clear presentation of his failings highlights all thestrongly in contrast And Meacham presents all this in the most readable of prose or, in my case listenable, since I chose an audio edition Both the subject matter and the way the story is told mean that anyone who likes biography and is interested in the man or his times, has to put Thomas Jefferson the Art of Power, at the top of their must read list


  4. Diane Diane says:

    This is a marvelous biography of Thomas Jefferson, who is arguably America s most complicated Founding Father Jefferson is famous for many reasons, but he is often summed up by this contradiction He wrote all men are created equal in the Declaration of Independence, and yet he owned slaves As Jon Meacham noted, it seems Jefferson meant only white, land owning men were created equal A few years ago I had the chance to visit Monticello, Jefferson s home in Virginia, and I ve been interested This is a marvelous biography of Thomas Jefferson, who is arguably America s most complicated Founding Father Jefferson is famous for many reasons, but he is often summed up by this contradiction He wrote all men are created equal in the Declaration of Independence, and yet he owned slaves As Jon Meacham noted, it seems Jefferson meant only white, land owning men were created equal A few years ago I had the chance to visit Monticello, Jefferson s home in Virginia, and I ve been interested in reading a detailed biography about him ever since I listened to this book on audio, which was read beautifully by the late, great Edward Hermann I ve listened to several audiobooks by Hermann, and he s just a fantastic reader.I loved this book on Jefferson, and was fascinated by the stories it told It s also a great complement to David McCullough s biography of John Adams Highly recommended for fans of history.Personal Note The thing I like about reading history is how comforting it is, because it provides context as to how we got where we are today Unless you ve been living off the grid for two years, you know we live in trying political times, both in America and around the world But these history books show that there have ALWAYS been trying times America s democracy has ALWAYS been messy and complicated Our politics have been ugly and contentious since this country was founded I m not excusing the behavior of any current leaders but as Meacham writes somewhat comfortingly in his new book, The Soul of America, is as a country, we ve come through dark times before and we can do it again if we follow our better angels I m not religious, but I ll say Amen to that


  5. Daniel (Attack of the Books!) Burton Daniel (Attack of the Books!) Burton says:

    It took me a long time to begin to like Jon Meacham s portrait of Thomas Jefferson in Thomas Jefferson The Art of Power As I finished it, however, I found myself a reluctant admirer, appreciative of Meacham s style and of the biography, not to mention of the man.Meacham is the author of two previous books on American presidents, winning the Pulitzer prize for his look at Andrew Jackson American Lion Andrew Jackson in the White House With The Art of Power he delves into the life of one of the It took me a long time to begin to like Jon Meacham s portrait of Thomas Jefferson in Thomas Jefferson The Art of Power As I finished it, however, I found myself a reluctant admirer, appreciative of Meacham s style and of the biography, not to mention of the man.Meacham is the author of two previous books on American presidents, winning the Pulitzer prize for his look at Andrew Jackson American Lion Andrew Jackson in the White House With The Art of Power he delves into the life of one of the most beloved of founding fathers As he notes in the closing pages of the epilogue, Jefferson has been evoked byrecent American presidents and political figures on both sides of the spectrum, proving to be an inspiration for radically different understandings of government and culture This seems to me, and Meacham endorses the idea, to be due to Jefferson s versatility in his lifetime Rather than a idealogue bound to one philosophy, Jefferson was a pragmatic politician, and while he believed in the principles of freedom he espoused in the words he penned in the declaration, the means he chose to approach and uphold those principles changed depending on his position.As they say, where you stand depends on where you sit and examples from Jefferson s life are plentiful.As a member of the opposition party and vice president during the Adams Administration, Jefferson vigorously opposed the Alien and Sedition Acts as a blot on the liberty and freedom promised by the Bill of Rights And yet, as President, he did not fully wipe out the effects of those First Amendment inhibiting laws He allowed those punished under the law to be set free, but did not immediately return the fines that had been levied from them During this same time as vice president, Jefferson wrote the Kentucky resolution James Madison wrote the Virginia resolution of the same time in which he argued, through the proxy of the Kentucky legislature, that the Alien and Sedition were unconstitutional and that the states held the right, and the duty, to declare any acts of Congress that were not authorized by the constitution unconstitutional It was a divisive argument from the man who drafted the Declaration of Independence, says Meacham, coming from the voice of the man who believed secession fatal to America instead of the man who wrote about the primacy of states rights Later, as president, Jefferson the man who had trumpeted the rights of states over the act of the national legislature acted with executive authority outside of the bounds then available to him, sending military expeditions against the Barbary states and accomplishing the Louisiana Purchase, all without Congressional approval Jefferson was to Washington and Adams what Dwight Eisenhower was to Franklin D Roosevelt and Harry Truman a president who reformed but essentially ratified an existing course of government.Jefferson wasn t so interested in doggedly following the rules and norms of his ideology as he was in, for lack of a better way to put it, finding what worked and finding a way to do it For man whose life was a study in contrasts or hypocrisy, depending on your view , pragmatism was necessary He drafted the Declaration of Independence, yet his earliest memory was of a slave handing him down on pillow to ride in a carriage and he never freed the slaves that he owned, even in death He trumpeted states rights, but expanded the scope of the federal government when the opportunity was his He loved his family dearly, but had no qualms pursuing the married woman of another man and possibly destroying hers Indeed, this comes to the thesis of Meacham s book, less a biography than a portrait Jefferson hungered for greatness, and he welded power usually through written word to obtain it A benevolent welder of what power he held, Jefferson s overriding description is that of a Renaissance man with boundless interests and whose overriding concern was the fate of democratic republicanism in America, for to his end he worried about the return of monarchical government, an influence that Meacham found as influential on Jefferson s thinking as the Cold War was on American Presidents from Truman to George H.W Bush.The short comings of Meacham s biography are few, and he does not seem interested in hiding them Setting out to restore Jefferson s image, somewhat tarnished in recent years by revelations of his sexual relationship with Sally Hemings and acclaimed biographies of Jefferson s rivals Hamilton, Adams, and Washington, especially in recent years, Meacham writes withthan a little hero worship, arguing that while there have been many great presidents, none would be as interesting to spend time with as Jefferson, whose career touched on far wider a range than did his contemporary political rivals, or even of other politicians since Indeed, he is persuasive, and it s a fascinating picture that is difficult to dismiss Yes, Jefferson is a slave owner, a pragmatic politician, and an occasional philanderer But he is also a man who at his heart believed in the justice and goodness of man and who to his last day would welcome the friendship of any man who would accept his hand in fellowship.Thomas Jefferson The Art of Power is an excellent read, and Jon Meacham has written a fascinating and shining portrait of our third president and the lifetime he spent learning to weld, and then using, power


  6. Roy Lotz Roy Lotz says:

    I did not enjoy this book But my opinion might not be entirely fair, since it is colored by having read biographies of Alexander Hamilton and John Adams two of Jefferson s political foes right before this, by two authors Chernow and McCullough whom I vastly prefer This meant that I brought some strong preconceptions to the experience.Nevertheless, I came to this book with a great deal of hope Jefferson had come off rather badly in the two above mentioned biographies I wanted to see the oth I did not enjoy this book But my opinion might not be entirely fair, since it is colored by having read biographies of Alexander Hamilton and John Adams two of Jefferson s political foes right before this, by two authors Chernow and McCullough whom I vastly prefer This meant that I brought some strong preconceptions to the experience.Nevertheless, I came to this book with a great deal of hope Jefferson had come off rather badly in the two above mentioned biographies I wanted to see the other side of the man, the side that so many have admired In fact, I played the audiobook recording of this book on a family trip down to Virginia, on our way to visit Jefferson s home, Monticello, thinking that Meacham s biography would whet our thirst for Jefferson history.The effect was the opposite All of us came away with a strong distaste for Jefferson, as well as dissatisfaction for Meacham s apologetic treatment of the man But before getting into differing opinions of Jefferson of which there are endless I shall talk about the writing, of which there may beagreement To do justice to Jefferson the man would require a great deal of psychological subtly Jefferson was reserved, withdrawn, even sphinx like, a man full of contradictions In the hands of an acute writer, Jefferson would make for a fascinating character study Yet Meacham is almost wholly uninterested in psychology Jefferson is paintedvividly in his cameos in the Hamilton and Adams biographies than he is here.To my mind, Jefferson was a man whom one could never take at face value, yet Meacham is often content to do just that To pick just one example, in the exchange between Jefferson and Abigail Adams on the scurrilous writings of James Callender, Meacham is content to repeat Jefferson s bland and disingenuous excuses of his support for Callender s vilifications of John Adam s character that he bailed Callender out of jail merely because they held similar political views Such instances are repeated throughout the book, with Meacham accepting as honest what I often read as intentionally misleading or simply duplicitous.In any case, even if Jefferson is put to one side, no other personage in this book comes alive, as do so many in the above named biographies John Adams a raging personality of epic proportion is hardlyexciting than the taciturn George Washington I was particularly disappointed at the lack of attention paid to Jefferson s close and important relationship with James Madison, who is absent far too often in these pages, and who leaves hardly any impression whatever.Meacham also lacks interest in drama Good biographies can pull you into the historical moment, and make you feel how contingent the outcome of important events was on the quirks of personality or even simple chance Yet in this book everything is a fait accompli Difficult and arduous accomplishments, moments of danger and discord, are all summarized and narrated with a kind of mellow assurance that these events were destined to come to pass The result is a book that is emotionally flat.I would have excused these faults if Meacham had dug deep into the historical background or the political issues But these, too, are given only a superficial treatment Not nearly enough context is given, for example, for the reader to understand exactly why the Declaration of Independence was such a revolutionary document at that time The same can be said for the Virginia Statute of Religious Liberty.Instead, Meacham prefers to resort to strings of vague, Latinate adjectives and to draw grand sounding conclusions This is his habitual mode The following passage, from the Prologue, gives a taste of this tone In pursuit of his ends, Jefferson sought, acquired, and wielded power, which is the bending of the world to one s will, the remaking of reality in one s own image Our greatest leaders are neither dreamers nor dictators They are, like Jefferson, those who articulate national aspirations yet master the mechanics of influence and know when to depart from dogma.This tendency often leads him to substitute clich s for insight America has always been torn between the ideal and the real, between noble goals and inevitable compromise So was Jefferson In his head and in his heart, as in the nation itself, the perfect warred with the good, the intellectual with the visceral In him as in America, that conflict was, and is, a war without end.To me, this is neither good prose nor does it provide any valuable information You could say all of the same things about virtually any nation or political leader And in any case I do not think it is even true Were all of Jefferson s goals noble Is compromise inevitable Is the war between the ideal and the real actually similar to the conflict between the intellectual and the visceral What does this even mean This passage is hardly even valid as a platitude This leads me to what is my core criticism of the book Jon Meacham s understanding of Jefferson Meacham s central point is that Jefferson was a man of high ideals, but someone who was willing to compromise on his ideals in order to be an effective politician This is the Art of Power Thus, all of Jefferson s pronouncements of principle are taken at face value, and all of his actions that do not align with his stated valued are excused as shrewd maneuvering.Yet there is a difference between compromising on one s vision and doing just the opposite Consider Jefferson s presidency After having spent the last twelve years whipping up fears of overbearing federal power, Jefferson signed the Louisiana Purchase and instituted a trade embargo two huge expansions of federal power Meacham would have us see these moves as capitulations to circumstances But I think Jefferson s tendency to flout the dictates of his own pen are too numerous to excuse To pick another example, although he often styled himself above politicking and libel, Jefferson frequently employed others to write attacks on his enemies as in the case of James Callender.Here is another example After stoking fear of a national army, and after his strong advocacy of the separation of the legislative and executive powers, once in office Jefferson himself asked a senator to introduce a bill approving military force a direct contradiction of his stated principles on both counts Characteristically, Jefferson also requested that the senator burn his note to him, so as not to appear to be meddling in the legislature This is what Meacham has to say on the subject His adversaries might see such maneuvers as hypocritical and underhanded, but in Jefferson s mind he was doing the right thing the right way To seize power grandly would threaten the democratic ethos of the country an ethos he thought essential As an apology for Jefferson s actions, this makes little sense to me First, it hardly matters whether Jefferson thought he was doing the right thing in his mind We all are Second, to consider the mere ethos of democracy important while seizing power is certainly not democratic in any meaningful sense This is typical of the whole book where Meacham sees a flexible and enlightened politician, I see a person totally unwilling to live by the principles that he professes.This is, of course, most flagrantly true in the case of slavery an area in which Jefferson is inexcusable To do Meacham credit, he does not attempt to justify Jefferson s life of slaveholding Nevertheless, I think he paid far too little attention to Jefferson s domestic situation, which was totally dominated by slaves as workers, servants, a sexual partner, and even his own children.I see the issue of slavery as the most telling fact of Jefferson s psychology, showcasing his ability to compartmentalize his thoughts None of his actions were self consistent He wrote that slavery was evil and must end one day But he did nothing to end it At the same time, he thought that blacks could never co exist with whites, all while having a life built upon the backs of slaves, living in constant contact with them If he really believed that slaves were genetically inferior, as he wrote, how could he have had children with Sally Hemings, one of his slaves Could he really believe that his own children with Hemings were naturally inferior And if he did not, how could he totally relegate these children, his own blood, to a subservient or an invisible role in his life These questions leave me with a rather disturbing image Meacham, however, sees Jefferson as a flawed hero whose vision of artful politics has much to teach us Jefferson did likely leave the world better than he found it And, believe me, I find many aspects of Jefferson extremely admirable In many ways I aspire to Jefferson s wide interests and his intellectual greatness But I think that any honest reckoning of the man will have to deal with these darker shades of his character The vision of politics that Meacham offers, where high principles exist mostly as rhetoric or ethos, is not for me


  7. Steve Steve says:

    I wanted to devour this book the way I had with bios of the other Founding Fathers, but this one wasof a slog than I anticipated Meacham does a good job connecting all the big historical touchstones of Jefferson s remarkable life writing the Declaration of Independence check serving as an ambassador to France check serving in Washington s cabinet check winning election as the third president of the U.S., negotiating the Louisiana Purchase, and founding the University of Virginia I wanted to devour this book the way I had with bios of the other Founding Fathers, but this one wasof a slog than I anticipated Meacham does a good job connecting all the big historical touchstones of Jefferson s remarkable life writing the Declaration of Independence check serving as an ambassador to France check serving in Washington s cabinet check winning election as the third president of the U.S., negotiating the Louisiana Purchase, and founding the University of Virginia in his later years check, check and check But what s missing is the literary sweep and human drama behind these events, things that David McCullough and Joseph Ellis brought to their subjects with exceptional skills Adams and Washington, respectively The Lewis and Clark expedition is barely a footnote here, perhaps because the author knew Stephen Ambrose had already told Jefferson s role in that adventure about as well as any writer could We don t get a whole lot of new insight into Jefferson s relationship with Sally Hemings for that matter To be fair, the book does pick up some narrative steam when Jefferson finally reaches the White House, but that is so far into the book that it s hard to justify the rest of the story s plodding pace A big disappointment for me


  8. Shelly♥ Shelly♥ says:

    I loved this book Really delves into the psyche of Thomas Jefferson, chipping to the core on the things that make him tick Meacham spends a lot of time in Virginia laying the groundwork for Jefferson s character how he loved control but hated conflict And then he builds the bridge to the presidency detailing his struggles with the executive powers that Hamilton put upon the presidency during Washington s terms and then how he embraced these very powers in his own Presidency We get to kno I loved this book Really delves into the psyche of Thomas Jefferson, chipping to the core on the things that make him tick Meacham spends a lot of time in Virginia laying the groundwork for Jefferson s character how he loved control but hated conflict And then he builds the bridge to the presidency detailing his struggles with the executive powers that Hamilton put upon the presidency during Washington s terms and then how he embraced these very powers in his own Presidency We get to know the persona of Jefferson his love of good food, fine wine and the company of others His charm and casualness invited his enemies to even enjoy dinner with him and call him cordial.Meacham also tip toes through the waters of Sally Hemmings and her family Speaks of Jefferson s faults and foibles slavery and debt He recounts most of the major Jefferson sticking points Callendar, Hamilton, Maria Cosway, Adams friendship It s all there, along with other little tidbits of Jefferson lore Agree that we really needed a readable one volume Jefferson bio to stand along those of Adams and Washington and Hamilton This may very well be it.Received an ARC from the publisher All opinions expressed are my own


  9. Rincey Rincey says:

    PSA Edward Hermann narrates the audiobook as well as a lot of other audiobooks and it is a delightful way to consume this biography.


  10. David Eppenstein David Eppenstein says:

    I have read several biographies either about TJ or where he was a significant character In all of these works I have been searching for the source of his publicly perceived greatness In this book I feel I have come a bit closer to understanding it but I, as yet, cannot accept it Why, of all the Founders, does TJ merit monumental recognition alongside Washington in our nation s capital Reading this book I have added to my knowledge of this man Yes, he was truly intelligent, creative, and tal I have read several biographies either about TJ or where he was a significant character In all of these works I have been searching for the source of his publicly perceived greatness In this book I feel I have come a bit closer to understanding it but I, as yet, cannot accept it Why, of all the Founders, does TJ merit monumental recognition alongside Washington in our nation s capital Reading this book I have added to my knowledge of this man Yes, he was truly intelligent, creative, and talented but so were many others This book informs me that this icon was a simply a self centered, self indulgent, patrician control freak waving the banner of populism His contributions to the Revolution were minor compared to those of others His greatest presidential accomplishment was the Louisiana Purchase but this feat was just good luck Where is his political greatness Granted, monarchy was the Red Menace and England the Evil Empire of TJ s day but he saw or accused anybody that disagreed with him to be a monarchist Adams, a monarchist Adams was his friend and he stabbed this friend in the back to advance his interests TJ was a deceitful snake with no stomach or courage to confront his critics or opponents Yes, he had many talents but do his talents excuse his lack of character This was an exceptionally well researched and written book but I come away from it still believing TJ was our first sleazy president


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Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power ➾ [Download] ➻ Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power By Jon Meacham ➷ – Capitalsoftworks.co.uk In this magnificent biography, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of American Lion and Franklin and Winston brings vividly to life an extraordinary man and his remarkable times Thomas Jefferson The Art In this magnificent biography, the The Art PDF/EPUB ½ Pulitzer Prize winning author of American Lion and Franklin and Winston brings vividly to life an extraordinary man and his remarkable times Thomas Jefferson The Art of Power gives us Jefferson the politician and president, Thomas Jefferson: PDF/EPUB or 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 Such is the art of power Thomas Jefferson hated Jefferson: The Art PDF/EPUB æ confrontation, and yet his understanding of power and of human nature enabled him to move men and to marshal ideas, to learn from his mistakes, and to prevail Passionate about many things women, his family, books, science, architecture, gardens, friends, Monticello, and Paris Jefferson loved America most, and he strove over and over again, despite fierce opposition, to realize his vision the creation, survival, and success of popular government in America Jon Meacham lets us see Jefferson s world as Jefferson himself saw it, and to appreciate how Jefferson found the means to endure and win in the face of rife partisan division, economic uncertainty, and external threat Drawing on archives in the United States, England, and France, as well as unpublished Jefferson presidential papers, Meacham presents Jefferson as the most successful political leader of the early republic, and perhaps in all of American history The father of the ideal of individual liberty, of the Louisiana Purchase, of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and of the settling of the West, Jefferson recognized that the genius of humanity and the genius of the new nation lay in the possibility of progress, of discovering the undiscovered and seeking the unknown From the writing of the Declaration of Independence to elegant dinners in Paris and in the President s House from political maneuverings in the boardinghouses and legislative halls of Philadelphia and New York to the infant capital on the Potomac from his complicated life at Monticello, his breathtaking house and plantation in Virginia, to the creation of the University of Virginia, Jefferson was central to the age Here too is the personal Jefferson, a man of appetite, sensuality, and passion The Jefferson story resonates today not least because he led his nation through ferocious partisanship and cultural warfare amid economic change and external threats, and also because he embodies an eternal drama, the struggle of the leadership of a nation to achieve greatness in a difficult and confounding worldAdvance praise for Thomas Jefferson The Art of Power Jon Meacham resolves the bundle of contradictions that was Thomas Jefferson by probing his love of progress and thirst for power This is a thrilling and affecting portrait of our first philosopher politician Stacy Schiff This terrific book allows us to see the political genius of Thomas Jefferson better than we have ever seen it before In these endlessly fascinating pages, Jefferson emerges with such vitality that it seems as if he might still be alive today Doris Kearns Goodwin From the Hardcover editionMED ONE OF THE BEST books OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review The Washington Post Entertainment Weekly The Seattle Times St Louis Post Dispatch.

    Load results Apple Footer Apple Support power Thomas Jefferson hated Jefferson: The Art PDF/EPUB æ confrontation, and yet his understanding of power and of human nature enabled him to move men and to marshal ideas, to learn from his mistakes, and to prevail Passionate about many things women, his family, books, science, architecture, gardens, friends, Monticello, and Paris Jefferson loved America most, and he strove over and over again, despite fierce opposition, to realize his vision the creation, survival, and success of popular government in America Jon Meacham lets us see Jefferson s world as Jefferson himself saw it, and to appreciate how Jefferson found the means to endure and win in the face of rife partisan division, economic uncertainty, and external threat Drawing on archives in the United States, England, and France, as well as unpublished Jefferson presidential papers, Meacham presents Jefferson as the most successful political leader of the early republic, and perhaps in all of American history The father of the ideal of individual liberty, of the Louisiana Purchase, of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and of the settling of the West, Jefferson recognized that the genius of humanity and the genius of the new nation lay in the possibility of progress, of discovering the undiscovered and seeking the unknown From the writing of the Declaration of Independence to elegant dinners in Paris and in the President s House from political maneuverings in the boardinghouses and legislative halls of Philadelphia and New York to the infant capital on the Potomac from his complicated life at Monticello, his breathtaking house and plantation in Virginia, to the creation of the University of Virginia, Jefferson was central to the age Here too is the personal Jefferson, a man of appetite, sensuality, and passion The Jefferson story resonates today not least because he led his nation through ferocious partisanship and cultural warfare amid economic change and external threats, and also because he embodies an eternal drama, the struggle of the leadership of a nation to achieve greatness in a difficult and confounding worldAdvance praise for Thomas Jefferson The Art of Power Jon Meacham resolves the bundle of contradictions that was Thomas Jefferson by probing his love of progress and thirst for power This is a thrilling and affecting portrait of our first philosopher politician Stacy Schiff This terrific book allows us to see the political genius of Thomas Jefferson better than we have ever seen it before In these endlessly fascinating pages, Jefferson emerges with such vitality that it seems as if he might still be alive today Doris Kearns Goodwin From the Hardcover editionMED ONE OF THE BEST books OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review The Washington Post Entertainment Weekly The Seattle Times St Louis Post Dispatch."/>
  • Hardcover
  • 759 pages
  • Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
  • Jon Meacham
  • English
  • 24 July 2019
  • 1400067669

About the Author: Jon Meacham

Jon Meacham is the editor The Art PDF/EPUB ½ of Newsweek, a Pulitzer Prize winning bestselling author and a commentator on politics, history, and religious faith in America.


10 thoughts on “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

  1. Elyse Walters Elyse Walters says:

    In Jefferson s early days of life we learn that he was born into a reputable known family Author Jon Meacham tells us that it was said that Jefferson studied 15 hours a day, rising at dawn and reading until 2 o clock each morning At twilight in Williamsburg he exercised by running to a stone a mile from town at Shadwell, he rowed a small canoe of his own across the Rivanna River and climbed the mountain he was to callMonticello For Jefferson laziness was a sin Like his father, he believed i In Jefferson s early days of life we learn that he was born into a reputable known family Author Jon Meacham tells us that it was said that Jefferson studied 15 hours a day, rising at dawn and reading until 2 o clock each morning At twilight in Williamsburg he exercised by running to a stone a mile from town at Shadwell, he rowed a small canoe of his own across the Rivanna River and climbed the mountain he was to callMonticello For Jefferson laziness was a sin Like his father, he believed in the virtues of riding and of walking, holding that a vigorous body helped create a vigorous mind Not less than two hours a day should be devoted to exercise, and the weather should be little regarded Jefferson was always asking questions He was interested in all topics from literature, science, mechanics, architecture, mathematics, horticulture philosophy, music, politics, art, and women He shunned organized religion He was also well versed in linguistics speaking several languages Jefferson soon became known as a walking encyclopedia There was juicy drama between he and women At times I thought I was reading a fiction story There were stories about his connections with woman including rejections before marriage to a slave Sally Hemings that he had a relationship with after his wife died and fathered one of her children By age 31.the year was 1774.Jefferson was a husband to Martha Wayles, a father eventually they had six children , a planter, legislator, and thinker He he moved to higher ranks of political skill I m still a newbie when it comes to reading about our past presidents certainly not even close to being a historian.so, I m aware I don t come to these books with a depth of knowledge as others might but little by little I m soaking in past U.S Political history I might have to read these books religiously for another 10 years before I might be able to add my contextual thoughts to what I m learning I m still learning the basics..the highlights achievements Lewis and Clark Voyage of Discovery , Louisiana Purchase, avoided a war with England, played a role in the revolution, etc , his personal character and personal history I appreciate that Meacham s writing much like David McCullough presents an enjoyable storytelling easy flowing writing style Jefferson was another early President one of our founding fathers He stood for ideals but settled the best of realities He wasn t much of a speaker but he could write.Plus we get the story of how Jefferson ended up writing the Declaration of Independence Informative I learned a lot about Jeffersons strengths and imperfections read many quotes and most, I admired Jefferson s critical skills his words his writing and his analyzing issues of power Whew a little spent but in a good way parts of this book were dry for me compared to the storytelling of the last few Presidents I read lately, and I couldn t figure out if I just needed past President break or if this was a little less consistently engaging Still had its juicy moments though and I ve been working my tush off My next political adventure I own the physical book plus have a library audiobook.will be Valiant Ambition George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the fate of the American revolution Then I hope to read Mayflower , also by Nathaniel Philbrick a few fiction novels always on the burner

  2. Matt Matt says:

    Seeking to continue my trek to better understand the birth of America and its Founding Fathers, I tackled Meacham s biography on Thomas Jefferson Choosing to infuse literary breath into one of the key actors in much of the early creation of the state and its constitutional foundations, Meacham not only offers an over arching narrative, but delves into the corners of Jefferson s life, allowing the reader to have a better and well rounded approach to this key historical figure While Meacham offe Seeking to continue my trek to better understand the birth of America and its Founding Fathers, I tackled Meacham s biography on Thomas Jefferson Choosing to infuse literary breath into one of the key actors in much of the early creation of the state and its constitutional foundations, Meacham not only offers an over arching narrative, but delves into the corners of Jefferson s life, allowing the reader to have a better and well rounded approach to this key historical figure While Meacham offers Jefferson s life through nine lenses, dividing his life into smaller anddigestible portions, three significant themes emerge as central arcs to better depict Jefferson s life A synthesis of the text sees Jefferson as a committed man, a stalwart politician, and a sharp statesman These themes emerge throughout the text, even with the firm chronological flow of Meacham s tome A biography worthy of examination for the reader looking to better understand Jefferson and the rumours swirling around his earlier historical depictions.That Jefferson is a man committed to all he undertakes cannot be denied, based on Meacham s text The biography moves forward to show that Jefferson, who came from a well established family, grew up with a strong thirst for knowledge Jefferson always sought to open his mind to new ideas and to learn from whomever he could He read and spoke as one would imagine a Greek thinker might have done 2 millennia earlier, always asking questions and building his ideas on those who influenced his life From there, Jefferson became a man not only of knowledge, but one who dabbled in many areas literature, politics, science, innovation, and even architecture His passions extended outside of the esoteric, finding his greatest love in women While Meacham hints at Jefferson s fondness for the opposite sex, there is little to deter the reader from feeling that Martha Wayles was the love of his young life Their marriage, a decade long, was filled with passion and six children, though few survived Jefferson took her death personally and used his depression to fuel his aforementioned passions While rumours around his involvement with Sally Hemings, Meacham handles it with the greatest aplomb, addressing it not as a tabloid scandal but presenting its inevitable occurrence Whether the Jefferson Hemings interaction was based on an amorous connection or strictly a power relationship cannot be definitively known, though Meacham does mention reports of the strong physical resemblance of Hemings children to Jefferson and how his time on his estate matched with the pregnancies This did not mar Jefferson s life or the high regard in which he was seen His personal life and interests were strongly supported by Meacham throughout the tome, including his final years at the Monticello estate, where a detailed architectural and design discussion ensues Jefferson s connection to his personal beliefs are well rooted in his final years, as he sought to better understand the emancipation movement and the American move towards the abolition of slavery Meacham argues throughout the tome that Jefferson was a man like no other, with his own interests that fuelled his mind to the bitter end.Born in Virginia at a time of strong political sentiment and eventual rebellious sentiments towards the British, it is no wonder that Jefferson found himself at the centre of the controversies in his political life While he served in the House of Burgesses, where another Virginian named Washington made his mark, Jefferson began to hone his political skills and formulated his deeply rooted beliefs Meacham argues that Jefferson s passion with the written word acted to propel the revolutionary movement forward as he helped to create the ideas behind the Declaration of Independence and penned the final document himself This authorship saw him gain much favour within the Colonies, but he became a hunted man by the British Red Coats His political life resurrected itself after the War of Independence when he headed to Philadelphia as a delegate to the Continental Congress, but soon crossed the Atlantic to work for the new America in Paris Jefferson took that time to critique the constitutional document presented by the Congress and added his concerns Jefferson saw the intricacies of the new America and sought to individualise it from the British influence so prominent in the Colonies Jefferson s political side reared its head again after he accepted a position in Washington s Cabinet at Secretary of State, but becamepowerful upon his departure from that body As Jefferson saw himself as a Democratic Republican not the oxymoronic phrase it would have today , he realised that there was a need to stand for an independent minded form of government in America that did not promote a monarchy of some sort, as promoted by the Federalists He battled the likes of John Adams on this point and, as Meacham illustrates, sought to ensure that the shackles of British oppression did not seep back in with the appearance of a crowned or hereditary monarch in the collective colonial unit Meacham shows Jefferson s passion for political ideals throughout the narrative and promotes the importance of the first political schism and party politics in 1796 Meacham depicts Jefferson s political knowledge on numerous occasions throughout the tome, leaving no doubt about his political importance in early America.The image of strong statesman seems a foregone conclusion when examining Jefferson s political acumen, though the terms differ greatly In his time as Secretary of State, Jefferson sought to work effectively with the European allies that helped secure a colonial victory, while also mending fences with the British Jefferson utilised some of his time in the position to build strong ties and promote the new America, while also ensuring that this new state did not fall prey to those wishing to strike on a weakened and somewhat scattered colonial collective Meacham shows that Jefferson s ideas became his ideals, from which he would not stray This left him no choice but to leave the role when the Federalists rooted their monarch centric views within Washington s Cabinet and Jefferson found himself at odds with the likes of John Adams However, he hoped to push his republican ideas from the outside and eventually in the vice presidential role, which clashed thoroughly with the aforementioned Adams It was this that fuelled the great election of 1800, pitting Federalists against the Republican ideals on which Jefferson stumped so heavily This is also the election that required a deadlock breaking in the House of Representatives, as Meacham depicts both in the preface and withdetail within the tome, where discussion of bribery and promises begat the final sway needed to secure victory Meacham illustrates that Jefferson sought to push a hands off approach to the state by positing that there need be time for Americans to find their niche Jefferson scaled back the military and navy as well, feeling that the revolutionary times were past Meacham discusses the great embargo with Britain, after a naval clash, and how the president sought to keep war off the table, no matter the public outcry for its use All this pales in Meacham s great argument surrounding the height of Jefferson s statesman role the acquisition of the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon While this might seem a little awkward, discussing land as the highlight of a presidential career, Meacham presents it in such a way as to show how Jefferson used the new constitution to develop its Living Tree doctrine even though the phrase had not yet been coined in Britain The treaty for obtaining the land had to be ratified in the Senate, but Jefferson went ahead and made the arrangements This constitutional see saw battle helped hone the precedent of executive decision making and legislative agreement It happens all the time with multinational treaties and was, as the history buff will remember, the downfall of Wilson s League of Nations Meacham utilises this example to show how Jefferson could run an effective state, while not dictating his preconceived notions to ensure success Perhaps it was this that helped solidify the republican movement and helps Meacham argue the position so effectively.It is quite difficult not to play a comparison game when the reader has delved into numerous biographies about actors whose lives intertwined Having read McCullough s John Adams and Chernow s Washington, the comparisons rise unsteadily to the surface Length is the first and greatest discrepancy here Applause to Meacham for succinctly laying out the life and times of Jefferson, while highlighting many important aspects While Meacham admits he had not sought to write a life and times of the third president, such was the final project, which skims over many of the areas that were of greatest importance I would have hoped fortime on the Continental Congress and creation of the constitutional documents, for these were areas of greatest importance to Jefferson in years to come I would also have loved a further fleshing out of the personal life of Jefferson during his down years and not brief linkages Had I not read the other two biographies, I would likely not be making these comments, but I cannot unread what I had put in front of me and, like life in general, I bring these experiences to the forefront as I delve deeper in my understanding of the political and historical actors who shaped the world That being said, Meacham is a wonderful wordsmith and weaves a wonderful tale from start to finish A plethora of sources and first hand accounts pepper the text and bring the story to life in ways that few could do with such ease.One additional theme from the biography comes from its epilogue and author s note Meacham argues that while Jefferson s views were his own, he could garner much support from those around him, both at the time and in the decades centuries to come Washington and Adams had the greatest respect for the man, as did the likes of Lincoln, FDR, Truman, Kennedy, and Reagan Jefferson s views could appeal to those across the political spectrum, for they were rooted not in strict ideology, but in nation building and sovereignty While America had its share of ups and downs, these political giants all turned to Jefferson s Declaration and subsequent republican sentiments to shape the country in the 21st century For this, his legacy parallels Washington, though for different reasons.Kudos, Mr Meacham for this wonderful biographical piece Thomas Jefferson came to life in this depiction and for that you deserve the greatest of praise I look forward to examiningof your work at a future time.Like hate the review An ever growing collection of others appears at

  3. David Beeson David Beeson says:

    Looking around the gathered Nobel Prize winners he had invited to a White House dinner, John F Kennedy declared, 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 That quotation, included by Jon Meacham in his enthralling biography of Jefferson, gives a measure of the man, and the man fully deserves such a biography Not that it s a simple ha Looking around the gathered Nobel Prize winners he had invited to a White House dinner, John F Kennedy declared, 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 That quotation, included by Jon Meacham in his enthralling biography of Jefferson, gives a measure of the man, and the man fully deserves such a biography Not that it s a simple hagiography Meacham paints his subject in the round, not glossing over the difficult moments in his life story, such as the 1781 moment when, as governor of Virginia, his retreat before the British troops of the bloodthirsty Banastre Tarleton led to serious criticism of his performance, which would never be entirely expunged.But Meacham goes further He shows that as well as being a philosopher and a man of principle, capable of drafting the inspiring sentiments of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was also a practical politician perfectly prepared to act in ways that some might regard as contrary to those principles, when concrete circumstance demanded it of him I entirely sympathise with his denunciation of the Alien and Sedition Acts of his predecessor as president, and rival, John Adams I equally admire him for having the courage to take decisions on his own responsibility to defend his nation against British hostility and to extend its territory through the Louisiana purchase, although by doing so he increased the power of the executive presidency far beyond anything Adams had attempted.The ability to adhere to key principles, and to uphold them sincerely, while at the same time reaching the compromises needed for the real exercise of political authority, is a talent few have attained and which the world would do well to rediscover today Jefferson had it in spades.Of course, at times this brilliantly skillful duality can look perilously like self contradiction or even hypocrisy Nowhere is that clearer than in the matter of slavery and,particularly, the longstanding relationship Jefferson maintained with one particular slave, Sally Hemings, with whom he had several children Like Washington or Patrick Henry give me liberty or give me death , Jefferson could perfectly well see that slavery was shameful and his new nation would at some stage need to lance that boil he could equally well see the contradiction between that sense of horror and his continuing to own slaves and, in Hemings s case, to maintain a sexual relationship with one of them a sexual relationship with someone over whom he had power of ownership.Meacham does not skirt around these matters but simply states the facts, points to Jefferson s silence on the Hemings issue, and talks about the hints at justification that came from his pen slavery was simply not an issue that could be tackled at that time, or not for a bearable political cost though the political cost that would in the end be borne, in a bitter civil war and the first assassination of a president, was arguably vastly higher for having been delayed In passing, it s worth noting that John Dickinson, fellow revolutionary and member of the Continental Congress from Pennsylvania, hung behind Jefferson in willingness to break decisively from Britain, but far outpaced him in this other, harder field when he freed his slaves Jefferson only ever freed the Hemings and then only on his death.What emerges from Meacham s work is therefore a complete picture of a man, a man of towering intellect and courage, which the clear presentation of his failings highlights all thestrongly in contrast And Meacham presents all this in the most readable of prose or, in my case listenable, since I chose an audio edition Both the subject matter and the way the story is told mean that anyone who likes biography and is interested in the man or his times, has to put Thomas Jefferson the Art of Power, at the top of their must read list

  4. Diane Diane says:

    This is a marvelous biography of Thomas Jefferson, who is arguably America s most complicated Founding Father Jefferson is famous for many reasons, but he is often summed up by this contradiction He wrote all men are created equal in the Declaration of Independence, and yet he owned slaves As Jon Meacham noted, it seems Jefferson meant only white, land owning men were created equal A few years ago I had the chance to visit Monticello, Jefferson s home in Virginia, and I ve been interested This is a marvelous biography of Thomas Jefferson, who is arguably America s most complicated Founding Father Jefferson is famous for many reasons, but he is often summed up by this contradiction He wrote all men are created equal in the Declaration of Independence, and yet he owned slaves As Jon Meacham noted, it seems Jefferson meant only white, land owning men were created equal A few years ago I had the chance to visit Monticello, Jefferson s home in Virginia, and I ve been interested in reading a detailed biography about him ever since I listened to this book on audio, which was read beautifully by the late, great Edward Hermann I ve listened to several audiobooks by Hermann, and he s just a fantastic reader.I loved this book on Jefferson, and was fascinated by the stories it told It s also a great complement to David McCullough s biography of John Adams Highly recommended for fans of history.Personal Note The thing I like about reading history is how comforting it is, because it provides context as to how we got where we are today Unless you ve been living off the grid for two years, you know we live in trying political times, both in America and around the world But these history books show that there have ALWAYS been trying times America s democracy has ALWAYS been messy and complicated Our politics have been ugly and contentious since this country was founded I m not excusing the behavior of any current leaders but as Meacham writes somewhat comfortingly in his new book, The Soul of America, is as a country, we ve come through dark times before and we can do it again if we follow our better angels I m not religious, but I ll say Amen to that

  5. Daniel (Attack of the Books!) Burton Daniel (Attack of the Books!) Burton says:

    It took me a long time to begin to like Jon Meacham s portrait of Thomas Jefferson in Thomas Jefferson The Art of Power As I finished it, however, I found myself a reluctant admirer, appreciative of Meacham s style and of the biography, not to mention of the man.Meacham is the author of two previous books on American presidents, winning the Pulitzer prize for his look at Andrew Jackson American Lion Andrew Jackson in the White House With The Art of Power he delves into the life of one of the It took me a long time to begin to like Jon Meacham s portrait of Thomas Jefferson in Thomas Jefferson The Art of Power As I finished it, however, I found myself a reluctant admirer, appreciative of Meacham s style and of the biography, not to mention of the man.Meacham is the author of two previous books on American presidents, winning the Pulitzer prize for his look at Andrew Jackson American Lion Andrew Jackson in the White House With The Art of Power he delves into the life of one of the most beloved of founding fathers As he notes in the closing pages of the epilogue, Jefferson has been evoked byrecent American presidents and political figures on both sides of the spectrum, proving to be an inspiration for radically different understandings of government and culture This seems to me, and Meacham endorses the idea, to be due to Jefferson s versatility in his lifetime Rather than a idealogue bound to one philosophy, Jefferson was a pragmatic politician, and while he believed in the principles of freedom he espoused in the words he penned in the declaration, the means he chose to approach and uphold those principles changed depending on his position.As they say, where you stand depends on where you sit and examples from Jefferson s life are plentiful.As a member of the opposition party and vice president during the Adams Administration, Jefferson vigorously opposed the Alien and Sedition Acts as a blot on the liberty and freedom promised by the Bill of Rights And yet, as President, he did not fully wipe out the effects of those First Amendment inhibiting laws He allowed those punished under the law to be set free, but did not immediately return the fines that had been levied from them During this same time as vice president, Jefferson wrote the Kentucky resolution James Madison wrote the Virginia resolution of the same time in which he argued, through the proxy of the Kentucky legislature, that the Alien and Sedition were unconstitutional and that the states held the right, and the duty, to declare any acts of Congress that were not authorized by the constitution unconstitutional It was a divisive argument from the man who drafted the Declaration of Independence, says Meacham, coming from the voice of the man who believed secession fatal to America instead of the man who wrote about the primacy of states rights Later, as president, Jefferson the man who had trumpeted the rights of states over the act of the national legislature acted with executive authority outside of the bounds then available to him, sending military expeditions against the Barbary states and accomplishing the Louisiana Purchase, all without Congressional approval Jefferson was to Washington and Adams what Dwight Eisenhower was to Franklin D Roosevelt and Harry Truman a president who reformed but essentially ratified an existing course of government.Jefferson wasn t so interested in doggedly following the rules and norms of his ideology as he was in, for lack of a better way to put it, finding what worked and finding a way to do it For man whose life was a study in contrasts or hypocrisy, depending on your view , pragmatism was necessary He drafted the Declaration of Independence, yet his earliest memory was of a slave handing him down on pillow to ride in a carriage and he never freed the slaves that he owned, even in death He trumpeted states rights, but expanded the scope of the federal government when the opportunity was his He loved his family dearly, but had no qualms pursuing the married woman of another man and possibly destroying hers Indeed, this comes to the thesis of Meacham s book, less a biography than a portrait Jefferson hungered for greatness, and he welded power usually through written word to obtain it A benevolent welder of what power he held, Jefferson s overriding description is that of a Renaissance man with boundless interests and whose overriding concern was the fate of democratic republicanism in America, for to his end he worried about the return of monarchical government, an influence that Meacham found as influential on Jefferson s thinking as the Cold War was on American Presidents from Truman to George H.W Bush.The short comings of Meacham s biography are few, and he does not seem interested in hiding them Setting out to restore Jefferson s image, somewhat tarnished in recent years by revelations of his sexual relationship with Sally Hemings and acclaimed biographies of Jefferson s rivals Hamilton, Adams, and Washington, especially in recent years, Meacham writes withthan a little hero worship, arguing that while there have been many great presidents, none would be as interesting to spend time with as Jefferson, whose career touched on far wider a range than did his contemporary political rivals, or even of other politicians since Indeed, he is persuasive, and it s a fascinating picture that is difficult to dismiss Yes, Jefferson is a slave owner, a pragmatic politician, and an occasional philanderer But he is also a man who at his heart believed in the justice and goodness of man and who to his last day would welcome the friendship of any man who would accept his hand in fellowship.Thomas Jefferson The Art of Power is an excellent read, and Jon Meacham has written a fascinating and shining portrait of our third president and the lifetime he spent learning to weld, and then using, power

  6. Roy Lotz Roy Lotz says:

    I did not enjoy this book But my opinion might not be entirely fair, since it is colored by having read biographies of Alexander Hamilton and John Adams two of Jefferson s political foes right before this, by two authors Chernow and McCullough whom I vastly prefer This meant that I brought some strong preconceptions to the experience.Nevertheless, I came to this book with a great deal of hope Jefferson had come off rather badly in the two above mentioned biographies I wanted to see the oth I did not enjoy this book But my opinion might not be entirely fair, since it is colored by having read biographies of Alexander Hamilton and John Adams two of Jefferson s political foes right before this, by two authors Chernow and McCullough whom I vastly prefer This meant that I brought some strong preconceptions to the experience.Nevertheless, I came to this book with a great deal of hope Jefferson had come off rather badly in the two above mentioned biographies I wanted to see the other side of the man, the side that so many have admired In fact, I played the audiobook recording of this book on a family trip down to Virginia, on our way to visit Jefferson s home, Monticello, thinking that Meacham s biography would whet our thirst for Jefferson history.The effect was the opposite All of us came away with a strong distaste for Jefferson, as well as dissatisfaction for Meacham s apologetic treatment of the man But before getting into differing opinions of Jefferson of which there are endless I shall talk about the writing, of which there may beagreement To do justice to Jefferson the man would require a great deal of psychological subtly Jefferson was reserved, withdrawn, even sphinx like, a man full of contradictions In the hands of an acute writer, Jefferson would make for a fascinating character study Yet Meacham is almost wholly uninterested in psychology Jefferson is paintedvividly in his cameos in the Hamilton and Adams biographies than he is here.To my mind, Jefferson was a man whom one could never take at face value, yet Meacham is often content to do just that To pick just one example, in the exchange between Jefferson and Abigail Adams on the scurrilous writings of James Callender, Meacham is content to repeat Jefferson s bland and disingenuous excuses of his support for Callender s vilifications of John Adam s character that he bailed Callender out of jail merely because they held similar political views Such instances are repeated throughout the book, with Meacham accepting as honest what I often read as intentionally misleading or simply duplicitous.In any case, even if Jefferson is put to one side, no other personage in this book comes alive, as do so many in the above named biographies John Adams a raging personality of epic proportion is hardlyexciting than the taciturn George Washington I was particularly disappointed at the lack of attention paid to Jefferson s close and important relationship with James Madison, who is absent far too often in these pages, and who leaves hardly any impression whatever.Meacham also lacks interest in drama Good biographies can pull you into the historical moment, and make you feel how contingent the outcome of important events was on the quirks of personality or even simple chance Yet in this book everything is a fait accompli Difficult and arduous accomplishments, moments of danger and discord, are all summarized and narrated with a kind of mellow assurance that these events were destined to come to pass The result is a book that is emotionally flat.I would have excused these faults if Meacham had dug deep into the historical background or the political issues But these, too, are given only a superficial treatment Not nearly enough context is given, for example, for the reader to understand exactly why the Declaration of Independence was such a revolutionary document at that time The same can be said for the Virginia Statute of Religious Liberty.Instead, Meacham prefers to resort to strings of vague, Latinate adjectives and to draw grand sounding conclusions This is his habitual mode The following passage, from the Prologue, gives a taste of this tone In pursuit of his ends, Jefferson sought, acquired, and wielded power, which is the bending of the world to one s will, the remaking of reality in one s own image Our greatest leaders are neither dreamers nor dictators They are, like Jefferson, those who articulate national aspirations yet master the mechanics of influence and know when to depart from dogma.This tendency often leads him to substitute clich s for insight America has always been torn between the ideal and the real, between noble goals and inevitable compromise So was Jefferson In his head and in his heart, as in the nation itself, the perfect warred with the good, the intellectual with the visceral In him as in America, that conflict was, and is, a war without end.To me, this is neither good prose nor does it provide any valuable information You could say all of the same things about virtually any nation or political leader And in any case I do not think it is even true Were all of Jefferson s goals noble Is compromise inevitable Is the war between the ideal and the real actually similar to the conflict between the intellectual and the visceral What does this even mean This passage is hardly even valid as a platitude This leads me to what is my core criticism of the book Jon Meacham s understanding of Jefferson Meacham s central point is that Jefferson was a man of high ideals, but someone who was willing to compromise on his ideals in order to be an effective politician This is the Art of Power Thus, all of Jefferson s pronouncements of principle are taken at face value, and all of his actions that do not align with his stated valued are excused as shrewd maneuvering.Yet there is a difference between compromising on one s vision and doing just the opposite Consider Jefferson s presidency After having spent the last twelve years whipping up fears of overbearing federal power, Jefferson signed the Louisiana Purchase and instituted a trade embargo two huge expansions of federal power Meacham would have us see these moves as capitulations to circumstances But I think Jefferson s tendency to flout the dictates of his own pen are too numerous to excuse To pick another example, although he often styled himself above politicking and libel, Jefferson frequently employed others to write attacks on his enemies as in the case of James Callender.Here is another example After stoking fear of a national army, and after his strong advocacy of the separation of the legislative and executive powers, once in office Jefferson himself asked a senator to introduce a bill approving military force a direct contradiction of his stated principles on both counts Characteristically, Jefferson also requested that the senator burn his note to him, so as not to appear to be meddling in the legislature This is what Meacham has to say on the subject His adversaries might see such maneuvers as hypocritical and underhanded, but in Jefferson s mind he was doing the right thing the right way To seize power grandly would threaten the democratic ethos of the country an ethos he thought essential As an apology for Jefferson s actions, this makes little sense to me First, it hardly matters whether Jefferson thought he was doing the right thing in his mind We all are Second, to consider the mere ethos of democracy important while seizing power is certainly not democratic in any meaningful sense This is typical of the whole book where Meacham sees a flexible and enlightened politician, I see a person totally unwilling to live by the principles that he professes.This is, of course, most flagrantly true in the case of slavery an area in which Jefferson is inexcusable To do Meacham credit, he does not attempt to justify Jefferson s life of slaveholding Nevertheless, I think he paid far too little attention to Jefferson s domestic situation, which was totally dominated by slaves as workers, servants, a sexual partner, and even his own children.I see the issue of slavery as the most telling fact of Jefferson s psychology, showcasing his ability to compartmentalize his thoughts None of his actions were self consistent He wrote that slavery was evil and must end one day But he did nothing to end it At the same time, he thought that blacks could never co exist with whites, all while having a life built upon the backs of slaves, living in constant contact with them If he really believed that slaves were genetically inferior, as he wrote, how could he have had children with Sally Hemings, one of his slaves Could he really believe that his own children with Hemings were naturally inferior And if he did not, how could he totally relegate these children, his own blood, to a subservient or an invisible role in his life These questions leave me with a rather disturbing image Meacham, however, sees Jefferson as a flawed hero whose vision of artful politics has much to teach us Jefferson did likely leave the world better than he found it And, believe me, I find many aspects of Jefferson extremely admirable In many ways I aspire to Jefferson s wide interests and his intellectual greatness But I think that any honest reckoning of the man will have to deal with these darker shades of his character The vision of politics that Meacham offers, where high principles exist mostly as rhetoric or ethos, is not for me

  7. Steve Steve says:

    I wanted to devour this book the way I had with bios of the other Founding Fathers, but this one wasof a slog than I anticipated Meacham does a good job connecting all the big historical touchstones of Jefferson s remarkable life writing the Declaration of Independence check serving as an ambassador to France check serving in Washington s cabinet check winning election as the third president of the U.S., negotiating the Louisiana Purchase, and founding the University of Virginia I wanted to devour this book the way I had with bios of the other Founding Fathers, but this one wasof a slog than I anticipated Meacham does a good job connecting all the big historical touchstones of Jefferson s remarkable life writing the Declaration of Independence check serving as an ambassador to France check serving in Washington s cabinet check winning election as the third president of the U.S., negotiating the Louisiana Purchase, and founding the University of Virginia in his later years check, check and check But what s missing is the literary sweep and human drama behind these events, things that David McCullough and Joseph Ellis brought to their subjects with exceptional skills Adams and Washington, respectively The Lewis and Clark expedition is barely a footnote here, perhaps because the author knew Stephen Ambrose had already told Jefferson s role in that adventure about as well as any writer could We don t get a whole lot of new insight into Jefferson s relationship with Sally Hemings for that matter To be fair, the book does pick up some narrative steam when Jefferson finally reaches the White House, but that is so far into the book that it s hard to justify the rest of the story s plodding pace A big disappointment for me

  8. Shelly♥ Shelly♥ says:

    I loved this book Really delves into the psyche of Thomas Jefferson, chipping to the core on the things that make him tick Meacham spends a lot of time in Virginia laying the groundwork for Jefferson s character how he loved control but hated conflict And then he builds the bridge to the presidency detailing his struggles with the executive powers that Hamilton put upon the presidency during Washington s terms and then how he embraced these very powers in his own Presidency We get to kno I loved this book Really delves into the psyche of Thomas Jefferson, chipping to the core on the things that make him tick Meacham spends a lot of time in Virginia laying the groundwork for Jefferson s character how he loved control but hated conflict And then he builds the bridge to the presidency detailing his struggles with the executive powers that Hamilton put upon the presidency during Washington s terms and then how he embraced these very powers in his own Presidency We get to know the persona of Jefferson his love of good food, fine wine and the company of others His charm and casualness invited his enemies to even enjoy dinner with him and call him cordial.Meacham also tip toes through the waters of Sally Hemmings and her family Speaks of Jefferson s faults and foibles slavery and debt He recounts most of the major Jefferson sticking points Callendar, Hamilton, Maria Cosway, Adams friendship It s all there, along with other little tidbits of Jefferson lore Agree that we really needed a readable one volume Jefferson bio to stand along those of Adams and Washington and Hamilton This may very well be it.Received an ARC from the publisher All opinions expressed are my own

  9. Rincey Rincey says:

    PSA Edward Hermann narrates the audiobook as well as a lot of other audiobooks and it is a delightful way to consume this biography.

  10. David Eppenstein David Eppenstein says:

    I have read several biographies either about TJ or where he was a significant character In all of these works I have been searching for the source of his publicly perceived greatness In this book I feel I have come a bit closer to understanding it but I, as yet, cannot accept it Why, of all the Founders, does TJ merit monumental recognition alongside Washington in our nation s capital Reading this book I have added to my knowledge of this man Yes, he was truly intelligent, creative, and tal I have read several biographies either about TJ or where he was a significant character In all of these works I have been searching for the source of his publicly perceived greatness In this book I feel I have come a bit closer to understanding it but I, as yet, cannot accept it Why, of all the Founders, does TJ merit monumental recognition alongside Washington in our nation s capital Reading this book I have added to my knowledge of this man Yes, he was truly intelligent, creative, and talented but so were many others This book informs me that this icon was a simply a self centered, self indulgent, patrician control freak waving the banner of populism His contributions to the Revolution were minor compared to those of others His greatest presidential accomplishment was the Louisiana Purchase but this feat was just good luck Where is his political greatness Granted, monarchy was the Red Menace and England the Evil Empire of TJ s day but he saw or accused anybody that disagreed with him to be a monarchist Adams, a monarchist Adams was his friend and he stabbed this friend in the back to advance his interests TJ was a deceitful snake with no stomach or courage to confront his critics or opponents Yes, he had many talents but do his talents excuse his lack of character This was an exceptionally well researched and written book but I come away from it still believing TJ was our first sleazy president

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