NAMED 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 • Bloomberg Businessweek
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 of Power gives us Jefferson the politician and president, a great and complex human being forever engaged in the wars of his era. Philosophers think; politicians maneuver. Jefferson’s genius was that he was both and could do both, often simultaneously. Such is the art of power.
Thomas Jefferson hated 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 Drawing on archives in the United States, England, and France, as well as unpublished Jefferson presidential papers, Meacham presents Jefferson as the most successful political leader of the early republic, and perhaps in all of American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 world.
Praise for Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
“This is probably the best single-volume biography of Jefferson ever written.”—Gordon S. Wood
“A big, grand, absorbing exploration of not just Jefferson and his role in history but also Jefferson the man, humanized as never before.”—Entertainment Weekly
“[Meacham] captures who Jefferson was, not just as a statesman but as a man. . . . By the end of the book . . . the reader is likely to feel as if he is losing a dear friend. . . . [An] absorbing tale.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“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
Customer ReviewsSee All
Very good bio
Thomas Jefferson is a complicated historical figure and this is a good single-volume biography. I found it even-handed, touching on both the brilliant and tawdry aspects of his life.
I think this book is a particularly good choice for those who may not be familiar with Jeffersonian history. I’m a bit more of an advanced reader of history and for me, the book held few revelations. But my knowledge of Jefferson has been cobbled together from many sources, that’s partly why I listened to it, a good biography helps me to sort out and organize information. This book will give you a nice, not too detailed, not too sketchy overview of the life of Jefferson.
Only the Sally Hemming story caught me by surprise, although I was aware of it, I hadn’t quite grasped the encultured repulsiveness of it. I know people often don’t like to read unflattering things about idolized figures like Jefferson, but I think in order to understand history and make use of it you need to confront its less lovely aspects as well.
The book does not spend a lot of time on detailed set dressing. Nor does it detour into long explanations of the historical backgrounds of important events, it sticks very close to just the facts of Jeffersons role in things. The book leaves it up to the interested reader to pursue more detail as they want it on particular aspects of Jeffersons life and times with supplemental reading. This helps keep the professorial verbiage down and makes the book very accessible.
So to sum up, this book is thorough, succinct and accessible. It’ll tell you everything you really need to know about Jefferson and be a good first step to more in-depth examination of his life and works if you’re interested.
A well written tribute to an America Patriot. Jefferson is examined with many lenses that show how impressive and simple he was in life. The narrator is very good. I highly recommend this book.
An honest book
Just finished this and I found it interesting that we think today is the only era of political turmoil in our nation's history. Jefferson is treated fairly with all his greatness and his flaws. It's a reminder that many of the issues of today have been around since the beginning.
School kids are taught about the Founding Fathers as if they were unified in the same goals. More than a book on Jefferson, this highlights some of the conflicts among Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, and even his respectful differences with Washington.