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 Drawing on archives in the United States, England, and France, as well as unpublished Jefferson presidential papers, Meacham presents Jefferson as the most successful political leader of the early republic, and perhaps in all of American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.
©2012 Jon Meacham (P)2012 Random House Audio
"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)
"Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power is a true triumph, a brilliant biography. Jon Meacham shows how Jefferson's deft ability to compromise and improvise made him a transformational leader. We think of Jefferson as the embodiment of noble ideals, as he was, but Meacham shows that he was a practical politician more than a moral theorist. The result is a fascinating look at how Jefferson wielded his driving desire for power and control." (Walter Isaacson)
Interested in geneaology, history and writing
Knowing that I would visit Monticello in the near future, I chose this book to refresh my memory about our third President and was not disappointed. My understanding of the genius of this man and America's history was so much clearer and very personal after reading the book. The tour guide seemed to be quoting passage after passage (though I am sure she was not) about his beloved home. I enjoyed it so much that, from time to time, I will relisten to parts of this book. Edward Herrmann was brilliant in his narration.
I would absolutely recommend this book. Jon Meacham and Edward Hermann are a superb combination!
"Washington: A Life" by Ron Chernow. This is also a vividly told story full of historical facts that goes deeper into the man's character (not only his role as our 1st President and leader of our armed forces) more than any other I have come across.
I have not 'listened' to either. I was not aware that Ed Hermann was a narrator, let alone a Master Narrator. In my mind, he is the only person who should ever be privileged to narrate Jon Meacham's work. His sonorous tones are truly masterful, especially when provided with such smart work as we have come to expect from this Author.
I could envision the scenes described, literally unfolding before my eyes. The pictures of the Virginia countryside, the first meetings of the Continental Congress; I was thrilled and drawn in by the drama of the more notable moments before I realized. This is an inspiring and candid portal into one of the most significant periods of not only American, but world history. Jon Meacham has outdone even himself with this one... and that is no small feat
I thoroughly enjoyed every moment in this story. Artfully crafted, full of vivid and resplendent detail. Sublimely narrated by the venerable Edward Hermann.
No matter how you feel about Thomas Jefferson, this book does an excellent job of giving those who read it a chance to really understand who he was and what he did for America. His flaws are discussed without trying to hide or minimize them. He had flaws as does everyone, but the work he did for America is without a doubt so very important to the world we know today. Without Thomas Jefferson America would be far different today. For me, he was the single most important President we ever were lucky enough to have. This book, although definitely favorable, demonstrates how the admiration for Jefferson is deserved. Meacham does a great job of letting the facts and stories of the time demonstrate just how great of a man he was in such a crucial moment in US history. Mix a great story about a great man with the superb narration of Edward Hermann, this book delivers. This will be a multi-read book for me for many years.
Cannot oversell it!
From start to finish one is entranced by Jefferson's ability to maneuver and see things play out before they actually occur.
Jefferson of course.
Mind of Machiavelli, Heart of David
I know that I have much more time to listen than I do to sit & read
His letter to J.Adams where he stated that he preferred newspapers to government assuming an informed populace to keep the politicians feet to the fire. For without that scrutiny politicians become like wolves.
It was heart warming to hear what a great gentleman Jefferson was. He behaved with grace & character under trying circumstances
An excellent listen for those interested in our history so that we can shape the most productive future possible
This is a pretty good biography of Jefferson, but while the author assures us repeatedly that Jefferson was a shrewd politician, he doesn't show us what he means.
Given his successes, it makes sense that Jefferson was a shrewd politician, but either he hid his machinations or it will take another author to reveal them.
Herrmann wasn't given much to work with. The writing is not compelling or memorable.
No. I gave up about a third of the way through.
Closet librarian with diminishing space & time.
Examining the pragmatic brilliance of Jefferson, I enjoyed the examination of his ideals & the compromises he made in order to achieve the foundation of our democracy. Protecting the country from the recurring pressure of monarchists, he had to maneuver at the expense of what he believed. But his confidence that ours is a country in which we can & always will improve gives me hope. He did not deliver the ideal; he expected us to keep working toward it. This work can't possibly address every detail. It offers perspective.
Engaging writing, well read. (Caveat: I listen at 1.25 speed.)
Examination of the contradictions that recurred throughout his life.
Too long for that, although I found myself listening at every opportunity until finished.
I admire Jetterson as much as the next guy and I've never really cared much about the Hemmings business, but Meacham is determined that Jefferson can do no wrong. By the middle of the book, Jefferson sank in my esteem. He lacked moral courage in his persistent refusal to recognize his hypocrisy in making a slave his concubine and he lacked physical courage when he fled from Monticello when the British were coming.
Meacham just keeps whitewashing his failures.
This book was far more honest and realistic then I anticipated. The truth and clarity is outstanding. I have learned many fascinating details not to mention a great deal of guidance which I believe can be extracted from this book. If there were ever a time to read a book on Jefferson, it would be in these modern times. It was fascinating to learn what went on inside this mans head. I feel small knowing his immense mental power and craft. I cannot see such a mind fashioned as he was, and as were so many of his contemporaries coming to pass in these ages. Are we ever to know another great mind such as Jefferson again? Listen to this book I never once shut it off for any other reason then I had to. I promise, it is absolutely engulfing and frankly, one of the most interesting books I've bought in a long time.
Edward Hermann was the perfect narrator. It truly is a top of the line book and Edward Hermann makes it incredibly pleasant to listen to for hours at a time.
Jefferson no doubt
This is one of the best Narrators of our time. No doubt on historical topics as he is the man for the History Channel.
Thomas Jefferson, the man America needed then and now.
A democratic Republic is not a spectators sport, it requires participation all the time.
Jon Meacham has penned an enjoyable biography of the third president, who also (save, possibly, for Benjamin Franklin) was the most talented man of his day -- and perhaps who ever lived. It starts with Jefferson's birth in Shadwell, Virginia, and ends 83 years later not far away at Monticello, which among all of the homes of the Founders most completely reflects its occupant. Of course, Jefferson also designed the structure, and as Meacham notes, spent most of the years until his retirement tinkering with it -- at one point demolishing much of the original building to (eventually) more than double its size.
In between, we have Jefferson the young student; the young lawyer; the delegate to the Continental Congress where he became the primary author of the Declaration of Independence; the Governor of Virginia during the Revolutionary War (one of his least noteworthy roles); a representative to the Confederation Congress; minister to France in the 1780s; Secretary of State during Washington's first term; then leader of the opposition to the Federalists, including his old friend John Adams; and, finally, President. And then he became the Sage of Monticello for his last two decades, managing to found (and design many of the buildings for) the University of Virginia.
Just listing those posts that Jefferson held is itself somewhat exhausting . . . and in addition to his vibrant political contributions to his country, Jefferson was a lawyer, surveyor, naturalist, author, inventor, and architect. Yet his reputation has diminished somewhat in recent years, as popular biographies have exalted his rival John Adams at Jefferson's expense -- and as revelations about his relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings, have become newsworthy, with DNA tests confirming that he indeed fathered many of her children. Meacham does not gloss over this relationship, and instead presents a kind of warts-and-all portrait: a man who thought slavery should be abolished, yet owned as many as 600 slaves himself; who thought there was nothing wrong with evicting Native tribes to make way for white settlement; who served one Federalist president yet came to resist him and his successor; and who opposed the concentration of power in the national government, yet was sanguine about its use when he became chief executive himself.
The Jefferson that emerges here, then, is a complex and contradictory figure -- very much a man of his time, with prejudices that would make him politically incorrect today. Yet he was also one of the most pivotal of the Founders, probably their most eloquent writer, and a man who learned how to use power to achieve what he thought best for his nation -- perpetuating his views through four of the next five presidential administrations.
He is also perhaps the most accessible of the Founders. As Meacham says, while it's hard to imagine having a glass of wine and dinner conversation at Mount Vernon with George Washington, it's easy to imagine doing so at Monticello with Jefferson. Meacham's biography reminds us that, for all his flaws, Jefferson's extraordinary talents, his political contributions to the young republic, and his unceasing opposition to monarchy, lift Jefferson far above his human failings. The book is brought enjoyably to life by Edward Herrmann, who though nearly 70 has a voice that is still strong and clear, and one of the best narrators working today.
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