Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by John Meacham

In April, I finished reading Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham. I bought the book after seeing the author interviewed on the Jon Stewart Show. I previously read Meacham's book on Andrew Jackson. This is part of my project to read books about all of the presidents.

Ever since Sharon, Jack and I visited Monticello in 2011, I have been interested in reading a book on Jefferson. The Art of Power focuses more on how rather than what. Although it traces his life, it looks more at the influences on Jefferson's life and how he built and used his stature. For example, although it mentioned the Lewis and Clark expedition, it was only in very general terms. Note of self, I need to read Undaunted Courage. I also need to read a book on the War of 1812. The build-up to the War of 1812 is apparent in Jefferson's second term, but the book only mentions the war in passing.

Jefferson had an amazing life. He was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson served as Governor of Virginia, Minister to France, Secretary of State, Vice President and finally President.

I was struck on two things in particular in the book. First, Jefferson spent five years living in France as the United States Minister. This is the period right before the French Revolution. This had an impact on his world view and how he viewed the role of the individual in government.

Second, I didn't realize that there was battle between the Federalists and the Republicans during the period over the shape that the fledgling government should take. The Federalist continued to push the idea of a monarchy in some shape or form.

I am always fascinated by the interaction of the physical world with the literary world. Having toured Monticello, I particularly enjoyed the sections of the book that were set in his unique bedroom and study. I had the same experience with Wallen at Mount Vernon.

This is a solid book; I enjoyed it. Given that this book does not focus on details, I am going to have to go back and read another Thomas Jefferson biography to fill in some of the holes.

No comments:

Post a Comment