Library Journal (06/01/2012):
Executive editor of Random House, former editor of Newsweek, and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning American Lion, plus other best sellers, Meacham has the wherewithal to write a big biography of our third President, especially with the subtitle The Art of Power. He aims not to be critical/revisionist but instead to paint a full, birth-to-death portrait of Jefferson's political and intellectual accomplishments. Copyright 2012 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
Publishers Weekly (07/16/2012):
Another Jefferson biography (right on the heels of Henry Wiencek's Master of the Mountain)! Fortunately, Meacham's is a fine work, deserving a place high on the list of long biographies of its subject even if rivaled by such shorter ones as Richard B. Bernstein's Thomas Jefferson. Like David McCullough's John Adams (to which it can be seen as a counterpart), Meacham's book is a love letter to its subject. While he's fully conversant with long-held skepticism about aspects of Jefferson's character (his dissimulation, for instance) and his stance toward slavery, Meacham gives him the benefit of the doubt throughout (on, for example, his Revolutionary War governorship of Virginia and the draconian 1807 embargo). To Meacham, who won a Pulitzer for his American Lion, Jefferson was a philosopher/politician, and "the most successful political figure of the first half century of the American republic." Those words only faintly suggest the inspirational tone of the entire work. Meacham understandably holds Jefferson up as the remarkable figure he was. But in the end, as fine a rendering of the nation's third president as this book may be, it comes too close to idolization. Jefferson's critics still have something valid to say, even if their voices here are stilled. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Nov.) Copyright 2012 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
Kirkus Reviews (08/15/2012):
A Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer lauds the political genius of Thomas Jefferson. As a citizen, Jefferson became a central leader in America's rebellion against the world's greatest empire. As a diplomat, he mentored a similar revolution in France. As president, he doubled the size of the United States without firing a shot and established a political dynasty that stretched over four decades. These achievements and many more, Time contributing editor Meacham (American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, 2008, etc.) smoothly argues, would have been impossible if the endlessly complicated Jefferson were merely the dreamy, impractical philosopher king his detractors imagined. His portrait of our most enigmatic president intentionally highlights career episodes that illustrate Jefferson's penchant for balancing competing interests and for compromises that, nevertheless, advanced his own political goals. Born to the Virginia aristocracy, Jefferson effectively disguised his drive for control, charming foes and enlisting allies to conduct battles on his behalf. As he accumulated power, he exercised it ruthlessly, often deviating from the ideals of limited government he had previously--and eternally--articulated. Stronger than any commitment to abstract principle, the impulse for pragmatic political maneuvering, Meacham insists, always predominated. With an insatiable hunger for information, a talent for improvisation and a desire for greatness, Jefferson coolly calculated political realities--see his midlife abandonment of any effort to abolish slavery--and, more frequently than not, emerged from struggles with opponents routed and his own authority enhanced. Through his thinking and writing, we've long appreciated Jefferson's lifelong devotion to "the survival and success of democratic republicanism in America," but Meacham's treatment reminds us of the flesh-and-blood politician, the man of action who masterfully bent the real world in the direction of his ideals. An outstanding biography that reveals an overlooked steeliness at Jefferson's core that accounts for so much of his political success. COPYRIGHT(2012) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
*Starred Review* Of the Founding Fathers, Washington remains unassailable in terms of character and leadership. Jefferson, on the other hand, has taken and continues to take hits from historians concerning his seeming hypocrisy in advocating the fundamental right of personal liberty. Meacham, Pulitzer Prizewinning author of American Lion (2008), a fresh estimation of Andrew Jackson, brings to bear his focused and sensitive scholarship, rich prose style, and acute sense of the need to ground his subject in time and place and observe him in his natural habitat. He must be seen in context, Meacham insists. The Jefferson that emerges from these astute, dramatic pages is a figure worthy of continued study and appreciation. He thirsted for power and greatness, butand this defines a consummate politicianhe understood that his goals could be achieved only by compromise. The survival of the American experiment in democracy was his abiding concern throughout his political career. Meacham carefully squares that with Jefferson's thinking about slavery by, again, placing those opinions within the conditions of the day. The reader leaves this very impressive book having been plunged fully into the whole Revolutionary eraspecifically, having gained a valuable sense of the uncertainty of the independence movement. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: An extensive author tour and a national media campaign, as well as Meacham's reputation as the author of American Lion, will bring interested readers into the library.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2012, American Library Association.)
Library Journal (09/01/2012):
Pulitzer Prize-winner Meacham (executive editor & executive vice president, Random House; American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House) claims that previous Jefferson scholars have not grasped the authentic Jefferson. Meacham unmasks a power-hungry, masterful, pragmatic leader who was not above being manipulative to achieve his goal: an enduring, democratic republic defined by him. A brilliant philosopher whose lofty principles were sometimes sidelined for more realistic goals, Meacham's Jefferson, neither idol nor rogue, is a complex mortal with serious flaws and contradictions. Despite his dedication to human liberty, he would not impose practical measures to end slavery. Here, Jefferson's political instincts trumped his moral and philosophical beliefs, and he lived uncomfortably with that contradiction, believing that slavery would eventually end but unable to create a balance between human freedom and political unity. Meacham believes that what some recent writers have viewed as hypocrisy was actually genius. Failing to solve the conundrum of slavery, Jefferson creatively and successfully applied power, flexibility, and compromise in an imperfect world. VERDICT General and academic readers will find a balanced, engaging, and realistic treatment of the forces motivatingthe third President, the subject of unending fascination and debate. [See Prepub Alert, 5/10/12.]--Margaret Kappanadze, Elmira Coll. Lib., NY Copyright 2012 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
Shelf Awareness (12/04/2012):
Thomas Jefferson was full of contradictions: philosopher and politician, thinker and farmer, writer of the Declaration of Independence and slave owner. Jon Meacham, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Lion, clearly understands what a complicated man Jefferson was. In Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, Meacham tries neither to lionize nor to denigrate his subject but to present him as a man who sought ultimate good yet was willing to compromise in order to succeed. Fearing a monarchical revival, Jefferson spent decades fighting against a strong central government, which led to the creation of a two-party American political system that endures to this day.
As Meacham points out, although Jefferson hated confrontation, he almost always managed to get his way through his skillful application of intellect and intrigue. From his privileged childhood through his college days in Williamsburg; his governorship of Virginia; his terms as ambassador, secretary of state, vice president and president, Jefferson was always planning and scheming and one step ahead of most of the people around him.
Meacham's deft portrayal of Jefferson's character and personal life lends a humanity to Jefferson that is clear, even 200 years later. Meacham creates a vision of a man who was unmistakably a genius, gifted in the art of power, whose impact upon American history cannot be understated. COPYRIGHT(2012) Shelf Awareness, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Thomas Jefferson's eloquent writings have made him revered as the nation's premier spokesman for democracy. A man of the Enlightenment, he pursued an extraordinary range of interests and served in the nation's highest offices; a man of contradictions, he cultivated the image of a philosopher who was above the political fray. And yet, as Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham demonstrates in Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, our third president was as much a man of action as he was of ideas.
Meacham's Jefferson, at his core, was a politician who eagerly sought office where he could work toward the future he envisioned for his country. In his meticulously researched and very readable book, Meacham writes, "The closest thing to a constant in his life was his need for power and control. He tended to mask these drives so effectively . . . the most astute observers of his life and work had trouble detecting them."
Once in office he emphasized one overarching political concern: the survival and success of popular government. More than George Washington or John Adams, he believed in the possibilities of human beings governing themselves. Like all effective politicians, he articulated the ideal but acted pragmatically, as in the case of the Louisiana Purchase. The philosophical Jefferson thought there first should be a constitutional amendment authorizing the president to purchase new territory. But when it seemed Napoleon might change his mind, the realist Jefferson immediately went ahead with the deal without an amendment. His personal political style was smooth, although he relied on his allies to be more confrontational. Indeed, Meacham believes Jefferson led so quietly that popular history tends to downplay his presidential achievements.
The book also examines Jefferson's hypocrisy on slavery. He knew slavery was morally wrong but he could not bring himself to sacrifice his own way of life on an issue whose time, as he saw it, had not yet come. After attempts early in his career to limit slavery, he gave up trying, concluding that to pursue it would end whatever future he might have in public life.
Jefferson comes alive in this discerning and elegant biography, surely one of the best single volumes about him written in our time. COPYRIGHT(2012) BookPage, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Biographical Note: "[Jefferson's] life is a riveting story of our nation's founding--an improbable turn of events that seems only in retrospect inevitable. Few are better suited to the telling than Jon Meacham. . . . Captivating."--
"[Meacham] brings to bear his focused and sensitive scholarship, rich prose style ... The Jefferson that emerges from these astute, dramatic pages is a figure worthy of continued study and appreciation ... [a] very impressive book."--
Booklist (Starred Review)
"An outstanding biography that reveals an overlooked steeliness at Jefferson's core that accounts for so much of his political success."--
"Jon Meacham understands Thomas Jefferson. With thorough and up-to-date research, elegant writing, deep insight, and an open mind, he brings Jefferson, the most talented politician of his generation--and one of the most talented in our nation's history--into full view. It is no small task to capture so capacious a life in one volume. Meacham has succeeded, giving us a rich presentation of our third president's life and times. This is an extraordinary work."--Annette Gordon-Reed, author of
The Hemingses of Monticello
Jon Meacham received the Pulitzer Prize for his 2008 biography of Andrew Jackson,
American Lion. He is also the author of the
New York Times bestsellers
Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, American Gospel, and
Franklin and Winston. Meacham, who teaches at Vanderbilt University and at The University of the South, is a fellow of the Society of American Historians. He lives in Nashville and in Sewanee with his wife and children.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Praise for Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
"Fascinating and insightful ... Many books have been written about Jefferson's life, but few have created such a vivid portrait ... Meacham immerses the reader in that period of history to explain Jefferson's behavior during an era when the nation was as contradictory as he was ... extraordinary ... essential."--
The Associated Press
"[A]ccomplishes something more impressive than dissecting Jefferson's political skills by explaining his greatness, a different task from chronicling a life, though he does that too -- and handsomely. Even though I know quite a lot about Jefferson, I was repeatedly surprised by the fresh information Meacham brings to his work. Surely there is not a significant detail out there, in any pertinent archive, that he has missed."--Joyce Appleby,
"[Meacham] argues persuasively that for Jefferson the ideal of liberty was not incompatible with a strong federal government, and also that Jefferson's service in the Congress in 1776 left him thoroughly versed in the ways and means of politics ... Meacham wisely has chosen to look at Jefferson through a political lens, assessing how he balanced his ideals with pragmatism while also bending others to his will. And just as he scolded Jackson, another slaveholder and champion of individual liberty, for being a hypocrite, so Meacham gives a tough-minded account of Jefferson's slippery recalibrations on race ... Where other historians have found hypocrisy in Jefferson's use of executive power to complete the Louisiana Purchase, Meacham is nuanced and persuasive.."--Jill Abramson,
The New York Times Book Review
"[Meacham] does an excellent job getting inside Jefferson's head and his world ... Meacham presents Jefferson's life in a textured narrative that weaves together Jefferson's well-traveled career."--
"A big, grand, absorbing exploration of not just Jefferson and his role in history but also Jefferson the man, humanized as never before. [Grade: ] A-."--
"Impeccably researched and footnoted ... a model of clarity and explanation."--
"[Meacham] captures who Jefferson was, not just as a statesman but as a man ... By the end of the book, as the 83-year-old Founding Father struggles to survive until the Fourth of July, 1826, the 50th anniversary of his masterful Declaration, the reader is likely to feel as if he is losing a dear friend ... [an] absorbing tale."--
Christian Science Monitor
"Absorbing . . . Jefferson emerges in the book not merely as a lofty thinker but as the ultimate political operator, a master pragmatist who got things done in times nearly as fractious as our own."--
"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, author of
Team of Rivals
"Jon Meacham resolves the bundle of contradictions that was Thomas Jefferson by probing his love of progress and thirst for power. Here was a man endlessly, artfully intent on making the world something it had not been before. A thrilling and affecting portrait of our first philosopher-politician."--Stacy Schiff, author of
Cleopatra: A Life
"A true triumph. In addition to being a brilliant biography, this book is a guide to the use of power. 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, author of
"This is probably the best single-volume biography of Jefferson ever written; it is certainly the most readable."--Gordon Wood, author of
The Radicalism of the American Revolution
"This is Jon Meacham's best book yet. Evocatively written and deeply researched, it sheds brilliant light on facets of Thomas Jefferson we haven't seen before, gives us original and unexpected new insights into his identity and character, and uses the irresistible story of this talented, manipulative, complicated man to bring us life lessons on universal subjects from family and friendship to politics and leadership. The Sage of Monticello made a considerable effort to turn his life into a mystery, but in a splendid match of biographer with subject, Meacham has cracked the Jefferson code."--Michael Beschloss
Table of Contents:
A Note on the Text -- Prologue The World's Best Hope -- Part I. The Scion Beginnings to Spring 1774 -- 1. A Fortunate Son -- 2. What Fixed the Destinies of My Life -- 3. Roots of Revolution -- 4. Temptations and Trials -- 5. A World of Desire and Denial -- Part II. The Revolutionary Spring 1774 to Summer 1776 -- 6. Like a Shock of Electricity -- 7. There Is No Peace -- 8. The Famous Mr. Jefferson -- 9. The Course of Human Events -- 10. The Pull of Duty -- Part III. Reformer and Governor Late 1776 to 1782 -- 11. An Agenda for Liberty -- 12. A Troublesome Office -- 13. Redcoats at Monticello -- 14. To Burn on Through Death -- Part IV. The Frustrated Congressman Late 1782 to Mid-1784 -- 15. Return to the Arena -- 16. A Struggle for Respect -- 17. Lost Cities and Life Counsel -- Part V. A Man of the World 1785 to 1789 -- 18. The Vaunted Scene of Europe -- 19. The Philosophical World -- 20. His Head and His Heart -- 21. Do You Like Our New Constitution? -- 22. A Treaty in Paris -- Part VI. The First Secretary of State 1789 to 1792 -- 23. A New Post in New York -- 24. Mr. Jefferson Is Greatly Too Democratic -- 25. Two Cocks in the Pit -- 26. The End of a Stormy Tour -- Part VII. The Leader of the Opposition 1793 to 1800 -- 27. In Wait at Monticello -- 28. To the Vice Presidency -- 29. The Reign of Witches -- 30. Adams vs. Jefferson Redux -- 31. A Desperate State of Affairs -- Part VIII. The President of the United States 1801 to 1809 -- 32. The New Order of Things Begins -- 33. A Confident President -- 34. Victories, Scandal, and a Secret Sickness -- 35. The Air of Enchantment! -- 36. The People Were Never More Happy -- 37. A Deep, Dark, and Widespread Conspiracy -- 38. This Damned Embargo -- 39. A Farewell to Ultimate Power -- Part IX. The Master of Monticello 1809 to the End -- 40. My Body, Mind, and Affairs -- 41. To Form Statesmen, Legislators and Judges -- 42. The Knell of the Union -- 43. No, Doctor, Nothing More -- Epilogue All Honor to Jefferson -- Author's Note and Acknowledgments -- Notes -- Bibliography -- Illustration Credits -- Index.
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New York Times Book Review - The Washington Post - Entertainment Weekly - The Seattle Times - St. Louis Post-Dispatch - Bloomberg Businessweek
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.
Praise for Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
"This is probably the best single-volume biography of Jefferson ever written."
--Gordon S. Wood
"A big, grand, absorbing exploration of not just Jefferson and his role in history but also Jefferson the man, humanized as never before."
"[Meacham] captures who Jefferson was, not just as a statesman but as a man. . . . By the end of the book . . . the reader is likely to feel as if he is losing a dear friend. . . . [An] absorbing tale."
--The Christian Science Monitor
"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
Entertainment Weekly 11/09/2012 pg. 100 (EAN 9781400067664, Hardcover)
Library Journal 06/01/2012 pg. 79 (EAN 9781400067664, Hardcover)
Publishers Weekly 07/16/2012 pg. 158 (EAN 9781400067664, Hardcover)
Kirkus Reviews 08/15/2012 (EAN 9781400067664, Hardcover) - *Starred Review
Booklist 09/01/2012 pg. 29 (EAN 9781400067664, Hardcover) - *Starred Review
Library Journal 09/01/2012 pg. 108 (EAN 9781400067664, Hardcover)
New York Times Book Review 11/11/2012 pg. 1 (EAN 9781400067664, Hardcover)
People Weekly 12/03/2012 pg. 55 (EAN 9781400067664, Hardcover)
New York Times Book Review 11/18/2012 pg. 26 (EAN 9781400067664, Hardcover)
NY Times Notable Bks of Year 12/02/2012 pg. 26 (EAN 9781400067664, Hardcover)
Kirkus Best Nonfiction 12/01/2012 pg. 27 (EAN 9781400067664, Hardcover)
Shelf Awareness 12/04/2012 (EAN 9781400067664, Hardcover)
Kirkus Reviews Fall Preview 08/15/2012 pg. 26 (EAN 9781400067664, Hardcover) - *Starred Review
Booklist Editors Choice/Adult 01/01/2013 pg. 7 (EAN 9781400067664, Hardcover)
BookPage 11/01/2012 (EAN 9781400067664, Hardcover)
Wilson Nonfiction Catalog 04/04/2018 (EAN 9781400067664, Hardcover)