Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
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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 Drawing on archives in the United States, England, and France, as well as unpublished Jefferson presidential papers, Meacham presents Jefferson as the most successful political leader of the early republic, and perhaps in all of American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
From the Hardcover edition.
“Jesus … stripped of the purple, as yet naked, and with the crown of thorns on his head. He is sitting.… The persons present seem to be one of his revilers, one of his followers, and the superintendent of the execution. The subject from Mark 15:16–20.” There were portraits of Americus Vespucius, John Adams, and of Jefferson himself (by Gilbert Stuart), two engravings of the Declaration of Independence—one of John Trumbull’s depiction of the signing, the other of the document itself—and busts of
vols. The Public Papers of Woodrow Wilson, Authorized Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1925. Wiltse, Charles M. The Jeffersonian Tradition in American Democracy. American Century Series. New York: Hill and Wang, 1960. First published in 1935 by the University of North Carolina Press. Winik, Jay. The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World, 1788–1800. New York: HarperCollins, 2007. Winterer, Caroline. The Culture of Classicism: Ancient Greece and Rome in American
and mortify him.” Jefferson was reflective yet practical, confident yet realistic in the middle of the maelstrom of 1775. “The continuance and the extent of this conflict we consider as among the secrets of providence; but we also reflect on the propriety of being prepared for the worst events, and, so far as human foresight can provide, to be guarded against probable evils at least,” he said. Perhaps “a few gentlemen of genius and spirit” should be sent to train under General Washington to
completely exhausted, on a pallet that had been brought in during his long fainting fit. My aunts remained constantly with him for some weeks—I do not remember how many.” He could not remain still. “When at last he left his room, he rode out, and from that time he was incessantly on horseback, rambling about the mountain, in the least frequented roads, and just as often through the woods. In those melancholy rambles I was his constant companion—a solitary witness to many a burst of grief, the
POSTERITY an immense correspondence, and I am particularly indebted to The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, published by Princeton University Press and first edited by Julian P. Boyd. I am, moreover, grateful to the incumbent editors of the Papers, especially general editor Barbara B. Oberg, for sharing unpublished transcripts of letters gathered for future volumes. The goal of the Princeton edition was, and continues to be, “to present as accurate a text as possible and to preserve as many of