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Publisher's Summary

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 Drawing on archives in the United States, England, and France, as well as unpublished Jefferson presidential papers, Meacham presents Jefferson as the most successful political leader of the early republic, and perhaps in all of American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

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Opposition in All Things

Thomas Jefferson's story is our story. Growth comes through opposition. The world is a better place when contending views are respected and considered. Washington and Hamilton were right. Jefferson and Madison were right. Adams was right. And, we have the United States to show for it.

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a highly readable and modern take on Jefferson

I would have liked a greater effort to assess the meaning of Jefferson's many contradictions.

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Fantastic book

This book did little to shine a new light on Jefferson, but I found Herrmann's reading of Meacham's writing kept me engaged the entire book. The story of Thomas Jefferson is something every American should study. We are all products both good and bad of his America.

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History understood

Enjoyed this book immensely. Wonderful portrait of this complex man. Clear and straight forward. Author did not appear to have an agenda. Helped me to better understand this important period of our history. Narration was superlative. No negatives.

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The man to look up to in life

This is one of the best book anyone - Male or female, student or worker, businessman or worker, can and should read or listen. The story was so captivating, it was hard to put it away.
Amazing man he was, with flaws and virtues of a common man. But with extraordinary qualities.

Would listen again.

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Not as personal as I thought it would be.

This was more a political look at Jefferson than I wanted. the author himself stated that Jefferson's life was much more then just his politics. I wanted to get a more in-depth look at his science and philosophy and home life and this just really didn't do that.

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Very good and factual

the story of Jefferson is told interestingly and thoroughly from thorough research. The epilogue is excellent. We would like more summary and evaluation as the story unfolds. what happens when a certain action is taken. why was that action taken.

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Great read, very enjoyable

I very much enjoyed the writer. It is a great book about a greater man.

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incredible story...

We should be biographies in school to learn American history. Raced through the book only to feel sad that it ended.

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  • William
  • Blue Springs, MO, United States
  • 08-26-16

interesting and fair

this portrayal of Jefferson is accurate, and that it portrays both his pros and cons. It doesn't shy away from the relationships that he had throughout his life. But it also highlight some of the important things that he did to found America. A good read, and a good performance.