The contradictions in his populism are striking and make Jefferson the most controversial of presidents: he spoke of inalienable human rights, but he taught his daughters that women were created for men's pleasure, and he believed that whites and blacks could never co-exist peacefully in freedom. Even though his egalitarianism was limited to white men, it represented a sharp break with the outlook and policies his predecessor. The ideological differences between Jefferson and Federalist Presidents George Washington and John Adams led to the establishment of the two-party system that still dominates American politics today.
Jefferson described his election to the presidency as a second American Revolution. For the first time, historian Joyce Appleby, rigorously explores this claim. She argues that our third president did, in fact, radically transform the political landscape of the United States by limiting the power of the government and eradicating the elitist practices inherited from the colonial era. His struggle to transfer influence from the upper class to the common citizen while limiting the power of the American government created a powerful new vision of liberty and democracy.
©2003 Joyce Appleby; (P)2003 Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing, LLC
"Appleby has succeeded in writing as good a brief study of this complex man as is imaginable." (Publishers Weekly)
I love Thomas Jefferson and so enjoyed this book quite a bit. It focused on his presidency but also gave a good overview of the great person he was. Being a lover of the Lewis and Clark expedition, I was disappointed that it barely mentioned the adventure. It did, however, whet my appetite for learning more about Jefferson before and after his presidency.
This would be a better title for this book. I prefer biographies to be chronological and failing that chapters based on a subject and then events that deal with the subject in order. This book seems to be in no order. It seems like the author did some research on the subject and then just started writing with no outline. This makes the book more a collection of random facts than a biography.
For such a short book, it was remarkably repetitive. The contradiction between Jefferson's advocacy of individual rights and ownership of slaves was dealt with ad nauseum; yet there were no new insights. The author acknowledged that there was criticism of the view that Jefferson fathered Sally Heming's kids, but, without examining the arguments, seemed to assume that he did.
The reader should know that this book deals almost exclusively with the presidential years (perhaps that's the intent of this series of books; I've only read this one).
This book is more akin to a series of essays about the Jefferson presidency than to a biography. Evaluated on that level, the book is interesting. Although I found the sporadic pots shots at Federalists in general and John Adams in particular annoying, the essays do provide an interesting commentary on the Jefferson presidency. What they lack, however, is much insight into Jefferson's character.
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