Book Review: Thomas Jefferson The Art of Power by Jon Meacham

13533740Title: Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

Author: Jon Meacham

Genre: History, Politics, Biography, Memoir, American History

Publisher: Random House

Published: November 13, 2012

Page Amount: 759 pages

Blurb From Goodreads: 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.

Why Read: As many of you know, my mind has been on US presidents of old lately. With my country leaning more and more towards plutocracy and a frightening reality of mob rule, I find it helpful to remember our presidents from the early years and think about what made America different, and how have we changed since then? Thomas Jefferson is a polarizing character, and after reading the Hamilton biography – I can’t help but think I’m a little bias. But reading this helped me acquire a better understanding of what it might have been like to be Thomas Jefferson.

Review: Where do I begin? Jefferson. He was born in a Virginian family, and somehow against all odds – he became the president of a young nation, which had not existed when he was born. He was a loner, a man of silent fortitude, plagued by migraines (at least we think), and seized by the notion that what we do – we must do for the betterment of our country in the future. That was Jefferson. Meacham works with what we have, which is quite a lot. Jefferson was prolific writer, and I found myself fascinated as Meacham walked me through each and every moment in Jefferson’s life that led him to his ultimate destiny as our president.

It’s tempting to start at the what-if’s and muse at the if-only’s but Meacham doesn’t stop and consider those small asides. In that sense, the book is concise in writing. There’s always a straight pathway for the reader to take, and without pause, you can walk right through Jefferson’s life. He was the governor of Virginia, and then the first Secretary of State. His wife died and he never remarried, because he promised her that their children would not suffer a horrific stepmother. His time in France was tantamount to life-changing. He made an enemy of Alexander Hamilton, and a life-long (except for their long fight) friendship with John Adams. Seriously, they died separately on July 4 in 1826. What.

The book is beautifully composed and even though the information could have more depth, more research — there will never be a book that can chronicle one man’s life purely. There are always uncertainties and often there are conflicting viewpoints. Meacham does what he can to reduce the questions, and as a reader, it’s comforting to follow along and be lead throughout Jefferson’s life. I learned so much reading this biography, and it really helped me to understand why he made some of the choices as president that he did. Why he was pro-French revolution and anti-National Bank. The book was a seriously fantastic read and I would do anything to read it against without having read it before. I recommend it to everyone and anything with a pulse, because it’s Jefferson.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

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