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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meet Thomas Jefferson
How many biographies of Thomas Jefferson do we really need? What else is there to say and how many ways are there to say it? I had asked myself the same questions but "Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power" occupies a niche that I have not found to be filled before.

Author Jon Meacham promises to show us the political genius of Thomas Jefferson, the son who...
Published 21 months ago by James Gallen

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3.0 out of 5 stars I Wanted to Like it ...
Padded with random trivia and repetitious references to the appearance and manner of Jefferson, comments about slavery viewed from the perspective of our own times and not in the context of the 18th century, too many long letters, and recurring gratuitous comments regarding the exercise of power and control, with the most ludicrous reference being when Jefferson is on his...
Published 10 months ago by Robert B


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meet Thomas Jefferson, Nov. 22 2012
By 
James Gallen (St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.) - See all my reviews
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How many biographies of Thomas Jefferson do we really need? What else is there to say and how many ways are there to say it? I had asked myself the same questions but "Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power" occupies a niche that I have not found to be filled before.

Author Jon Meacham promises to show us the political genius of Thomas Jefferson, the son who assumed leadership of his family upon the death of his father, the student who learned at the feet of George Wythe, the young Burgess who admired the rhetoric of Patrick Henry and who absorbed the political skills of his seniors, the delegate to the Continental Congress who authored the Declaration of Independence and the initial draft of "TheDeclaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms", the governor who organized Virginia's defenses and fled in disgrace from the raiders of Banastre Tarlton, the husband and father who withdrew to domestic tranquility of the mountaintop until, as a grief stricken widower, he accepted his country's call to diplomatic service in France. It was in France that he came to love his second country even while he watched it descend into the throes of Revolution and Terror. Called home to serve as the first Secretary of State, Jefferson gradually became the leader of the opposition, even to Washington and, as second Vice-President, to the Adams administration. After enduring a bitter campaign and contentious balloting in the House of Representatives he emerged as a President committed to limiting the size and scope of the national government who, never the less, used the Navy he wanted to abolish against North African pirates and bought Louisiana, even though he doubted his constitutional power to do so. Readers are shown a politician who uses allies and editors when are helpful and who cuts his ties when they become liabilities. In retirement we are introduced to the Sage of Monticello who still cares for his country, builds a university for his commonwealth and reconciles with his erstwhile friend and political foe, John Adams. Finally we watch those two molders of America die on the Fiftieth Independence Day. Such is the stuff of which a political genius is made.

We have heard all that before. What is it that Jon Meacham brings to the Jefferson canon that was not there before? I think that it is the way that he presents the Jefferson story. Meacham's prose carriers the reader along as it flows naturally down the river of Jefferson's life. The periodic assessments of Jefferson's actions and legacies provide the reader with opportunities to reflect on just what Jefferson did and accomplished. The seeming absence of an agenda is a welcome contrast to many recent Jefferson books. If this tome has a weakness its willingness to accept as fact matters that remain within the realm of controversy. Throughout the book Meacham writes of the relations between Jefferson and Sally Hemings and the children they had together. It is only in the Notes and Acknowledgments that he concedes that "The 1998 DNA findings and subsequent scholarly reevaluation that established the high likelihood of his sexual relationship with his slave Sally Hemings." A reader who did not persevere that far would never know that there was any doubt about the relationship.

So what is it that makes this book unique, that makes it worth reading another Jefferson biography? I think that it is the way it makes Jefferson seem real, someone the reader comes to know, to appreciate and admire. This book makes the reader not just a researcher or an observer but a companion, a friend, even an intimate. That is what makes this a unique contribution to the Jefferson lore that any Jefferson fan or historian needs to read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great Read, Jan. 31 2013
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This book is very informative and gives you a very good picture of the difficulties that Jefferson and others encoountered in setting up on of the worlds greatest demoracies of all times. It wasn't a pushover and the author clearly lets the reader know what and who was involved in early American history.
Every American should read this book so they can appreciate what Jefferson himself, albeit not a puritian of his days, but a great statesman who knew what he wanted and what he wanted for his country. You will not agree with ever thing Jefferson did to win his battles. But he always had the good of his country in mind.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning narrative, Dec 26 2012
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I know the book has been widely praised for its style and scholarship and rightfully so. I personally found myself sensitive to the following two elements. The author provides us with a keen sense of the importance of this presidency in shaping the future course of American history. Its not entirely the great man theory but Jefferson attracted a significant following which enabled the politics of optimistic democracy American style.
Secondly this book brings back to life the manners and mores of an exciting moment in history, the early days of the American republic.
A wonderful book not just for history buffs
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3.0 out of 5 stars I Wanted to Like it ..., Oct. 6 2013
Padded with random trivia and repetitious references to the appearance and manner of Jefferson, comments about slavery viewed from the perspective of our own times and not in the context of the 18th century, too many long letters, and recurring gratuitous comments regarding the exercise of power and control, with the most ludicrous reference being when Jefferson is on his death bed insisting that he swat flies away by himself because he liked to be in control. Puzzling holes in the narrative, such as when Aaron Burr is pursued by the law for the killing of Alexander Hamilton, roaming far and wide in the country, his actions even suggestive of a revolt, a coup, but suddenly, much later, Burr is said to have 'left Washington'. Was he forgiven? Were the charges dropped?
John Adams, after losing the vote for the presidency to Jefferson, is in Washington for months until the day of Jefferson's inauguration, but abruptly leaves town early in the morning and does not attend the ceremony. The author seems to naively accept Adams' explanation that due to the death of his son quite some time ago, he is in so much grief that he cannot attend even though he managed to fulfill his duties as president before fleeing at 5 o'clock in the morning of his last day of service, thereby avoiding attendance at the inauguration.
After reading about some of the reasons and rationalizations which led to the Revolution, including the fact that many of the major players owed money to Britain and didn't want to pay, I must say that I found myself often rooting for the British.
An interesting fact revealed in the book is that the British Governor Lord Dunsmore, in the prelude to the Revolutionary War, threatened to free the slaves should colonial unrest continue, which of course terrified the colonists. A colonist wrote: "Hell itself could not have vomited anything more black than his design of emancipating our slaves". "Colonists ... began their preparations for war ... Jefferson among them". (Certainly this was the inspiration for the offer similarly made by Lincoln in his Emancipation Proclamation when he 'freed the slaves' - but only to be freed in the Confederate States, and not in the border states that had not seceded, and provided that they accepted his 'encouragement' that the slaves serve in the Union Army, which they dutifully did).
The book is at least one-half fill, is a tedious read, and is simply not interesting; an often anachronistically politically correct narrative of little substance. I looked forward to enjoying this biography, but didn't, though I did struggle through to the end
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4.0 out of 5 stars i love the story behind the famous person, Sept. 14 2013
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i enjoy history and love to read about the details of a persons evolution. i enjoyed learning about Thomas Jefferson and how he came to power as well as his personal life.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't bring him to life, March 22 2013
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This review is from: Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power (Kindle Edition)
I finished this effort but it didn't give me a great feeling for Jefferson's importance and how it came about. Well written but not particularly dynamic. For the unacquainted it would work but for those truly curious, there are older, better volumes.
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