Monday, June 23, 2014

Presidential Biography: Jefferson

Photo of Thomas Jefferson

While sitting under a canopy of trees in Arkansas, I finished Jon Meacham's biography of our third president entitled Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power.

After reading the biographies of Washington and Adams, I was left pondering: Who was the real Jefferson?  Was he Ellison's 'snake in the grass' or was he Ferling's benign politician.

Well, although Meacham never referred to Jefferson in such negative terms, he did explore Jefferson's duality.  He was probably both.

There were definitely two sides to the man.  One the idealist and the other the pragmatist.  He was the declarer of independence who enslaved others.  He was the great republican who willingly wielded executive power.  In that, he's like the rest of us who do not always act in accordance with our more noble impulses.

Whatever his faults, his talent and greatness stand with the talent and greatness of Washington and Adams.  Plus, he is infinitely more interesting.  I would love to have dined at Monticello on French food amongst the art and the books and the distinguished guests and experienced some of the Jefferson charm.

Meacham's book was my favorite presidential biography to date (including those I've read in previous years).  It was a fascinating book about a fascinating man.

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