Regular price: $29.95

Membership details Membership details
  • A 30-day trial plus your first audiobook, free.
  • 1 credit/month after trial – good for any book, any price.
  • Easy exchanges – swap any book you don’t love.
  • Keep your audiobooks, even if you cancel.
  • After your trial, Audible is just $14.95/month.
OR
In Cart

Publisher's Summary

History tends to cast the early years of America in a glow of camaraderie when there were, in fact ,many conflicts between the Founding Fathers - none more important than the one between George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Their disagreement centered on the highest, most original public office created by the Constitutional Convention: the presidency. It also involved the nation's foreign policy, the role of merchants and farmers in a republic, and the durability of the union. At its root were two sharply different visions of the nation's future.

Acclaimed historian Thomas Fleming examines how the differing characters and leadership styles of Washington and Jefferson shaped two opposing views of the presidency - and the nation. This clash profoundly influenced the next two centuries of America's history and persists in the present day.

©2015 Thomas Fleming (P)2015 Audible Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    165
  • 4 Stars
    111
  • 3 Stars
    48
  • 2 Stars
    14
  • 1 Stars
    6

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    156
  • 4 Stars
    99
  • 3 Stars
    40
  • 2 Stars
    9
  • 1 Stars
    3

Story

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    176
  • 4 Stars
    83
  • 3 Stars
    35
  • 2 Stars
    8
  • 1 Stars
    9
Sort by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 05-02-15

Very Readable

Thomas Fleming is an author I have not read in the past five plus years. In the past I have read a number of his books both non-fiction and fiction. I have even had correspondence with him regarding one of his books in the past. I have always enjoyed Fleming’s passion for history.

The basic debate between Washington and Jefferson is still an ongoing debate today on the role of government. Fleming states Washington beliefs came out of the problems he had as head of the Army, the problems of funding the Army and the country at the time. Therefore he preferred a strong federal government that could provide a strong military defense for the country and a strong financial foundation for the country. On the other hand, Jefferson preferred a confederation of states instead of a national government.

Fleming paints Washington as the practical farmer and dynamic leader and Jefferson as the dreaming idealist who failed to lead and left the country at the end of his tenure as president, in debt, without income, without an army, and on the verge of war with Britain over a trade embargo.

The book is well written, lightly documented but with the clean, snappy prose that Fleming is noted for. I enjoyed reading the book and dissecting Fleming’s views but I wonder if Jefferson was quite as scatter-brained as Fleming paints him. David Rapkin narrated the book.

20 of 21 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Wow

I thought this would be a fair comparison of Washington and Jefferson. Instead it is nothing but a slam on Jefferson and a book of praise on Washington. Of course Washington is deserving of this praise. I don't deny that. But to say just about everyone of Jefferson's policies were anti-Washington and a detriment to the American people is a little crazy. The author actually states that Jefferson's embargo that caused dismay in Massachusetts is a root cause for the civil war. Really a root cause for the civil war ? This book is nothing but a slam on Jefferson. I'm guessing to jump on the anti-Jefferson bandwagon and to sell copies of his book.

On a better note the narration was very good.

21 of 23 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Great Narrator, awful history.

Wow is this terrible history. I find the originators of the US Government to be fascinating individuals, multi-faceted and complex. Thomas Fleming, on the other hand, seems to view the founding fathers as political footballs, to be deflated and inflated at will. Jefferson, in this treatment, comes across as a sociopathic madman without a shred of consistency or credibility. Even in McCullough's John Adams, where Jefferson is something of a villain, the historical icon comes across as more interesting and genuine.

This author treats absences as evidence, and runs with omissions regardless of supporting evidence. I'm sad that I've spent several weeks of driving trying to listen to this.

21 of 23 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

educational but slanted

What did you like best about The Great Divide? What did you like least?

The author provides a LOT of historical information regarding both Washington and Jefferson that aren't generally provided in even a college level American history class. However, the author is also clearly vitriolic regarding Jefferson. Instead of providing the contrast between a very "libertarian" type view of government as espoused by Jefferson and a more centrist view of Federalism by Washington, the author ascribes to Jefferson an almost pathologically anarchistic position. It's clear from the writing that the author prefers Federalism with a president who is strong rather than a president who merely is the figurehead for Congress, but he allows no middle ground.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

A more dispassionate view of both the "Federalist" and "anti federalist' positions of these two presidents would have provided a more balanced historical view of how these two shaped the country that is the United States. Jefferson certainly was not without his conflicts and hypocrisies, and his views of majority rule (no matter what), but he was hardly pathological. Conversely, Washington, who favored a very strong Central Federalism, is portrayed as without flaw, which would have been unique in the annals of humanity.

Which character – as performed by David Rapkin – was your favorite?

The narrator doesn't portray a character, but his narration is clear, understandable and sustained well throughout this book. It never seems "too long" and he clearly portrays the author's position regarding Washington and Jefferson.

Did The Great Divide inspire you to do anything?

I hope to find some additional in depth views of both Washington and Jefferson - by other writers who both concur and differ with Fleming's position in favor of Federalism and Washington over Jefferson.

Any additional comments?

well worth the purchase.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • vmhutch
  • Colchester, VT USA
  • 12-24-15

the inherent conflict lives on

The inherent conflict lives on between the executive and the legislative branch to this very day. If you are a knee-jerk lover of Jefferson you will probably hate this book. If you think Washington was merely a puppet of his 'evil' advisor, Hamilton, you will probably hate this book. But, if you want to understand why the revolutionary generation revered Washington and why posterity, those generations who came of age under the Virginians Jefferson, Madison and Monroe, dismissed him - read this book. The narrator, however, leaves much to be desired.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Not a Fair Analysis

This is not an accurate study of the differences between Jefferson and Washington, but a book dedicated to bashing and discrediting Jefferson, one of the greatest figures in American history.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Clearly biased but still informative

I am not an expert in the history of Washington and Jefferson, but Fleming’s hatred of Jefferson is so obvious that it makes me question his accuracy. From what I can tell, he does not manipulate facts but heavily spins them, perhaps leaving out some context that would make Jefferson and his actions more understandable. I am left curious about Fleming’s political point of view, wondering if his hatred of Jefferson is based on his own political beliefs and agenda, or if it is simply the antipathy of a historian to one of his subjects. The book seems worth reading, but I am left wanting to see his interpretations discussed, contextualized and debated. Rarely are the biases of a historian so blatant and intrusive.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Good but biased history

The contrasting tales of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson is thought provoking. But the narrative is so tilted in favor of Washington that it deviates from history into polemic. I'm firmly in the Washington camp, but the author goes too far. He extrapolates from Washington's superior leadership to an argument for vast presidential power. While this book is a worthwhile read, you should read Drift by Rachel Maddow as a counterbalance. Or just take a look at who is holding the office of the president right now. Limits on presidential power are a necessity.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great Complement...

to John Ferling's Jefferson And Hamilton and Charles Slack's Liberty's First Crisis. These three books, read one after the other, provide a wonderful view of the very real struggles of personality and policy that faced the all too human founding fathers. A very interesting and intriguing read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Tough to Finish

Any additional comments?

The book could be summarized in four words: Washington good, Jefferson bad.

While the narration leaves much to be desired, it's the awful historiography and lazy writing that make this book so difficult to finish.

All of Fleming’s characters are one-dimensional. For example, Jefferson’s hyperbolic writing, particularly in his personal letters, is offered proof of his melodramatic, overemotional, and unrealistic view of the world. Fleming refuses to examine the way in which Jefferson used language and imagery in his political discourse. At the same time, Washington’s outburst of rage in cabinet meetings and Hamilton’s similar eruptions are minimized as unimportant.

Snide remarks about the “devious” Jefferson, over against the “majestic” and “masterful” Hamilton, Washington, etc. are on every page. One is left with the impression that everything is Jefferson’s fault (Fleming goes as far as to blame the Civil War on Jefferson and Madison).

Fleming assumes that because Jefferson and Madison took a different view of the Constitution from the Federalists, particularly in regards to the relationship between the States and the Federal government, they, therefore, “despised it.” Their contributions to its development (and Madison’s advocacy for it’s ratification), are dismissed primarily because they don’t fit Fleming’s narrative.

Fleming’s insight on liberty as Jefferson’s religion is a good one, but it gets overshadowed by the one-dimensional Jefferson that Fleming portrays. It’s true that Jefferson had an idealized view of the French Revolution. But Fleming attempts to explain everything Jefferson ever did in light of that, which gets exhausting.

The author can’t even get basic historical facts correct. For example, he says at one point that 1,000,000 soldiers died during the American Civil War. This is basic stuff.

For a more balanced treatment of this early-American history, read Jon Meacham, John Ferling, or even McCullough (who is pretty fair, even though his sympathies seem to lie with Washington and Adams over Jefferson).

1 of 1 people found this review helpful