‘Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power’12/26/2012
Courtesy of Beaverdale Books
Review by Harriet Leitch
Nov. 13, 2012
Another biography of Thomas Jefferson! Jon Meacham has written an authoritative, detailed biography of Jefferson, illuminating the politics and concerns of that time and the abilities of Mr. Jefferson to bend his personal ideals to gain power in the political realm. While the founding fathers crafted the Constitution under which we live today, there were many differences in how Republicans and Federalists thought the country should implement it. Jefferson used his knowledge of human nature and political acumen to move the country on the course he felt was necessary to achieve the objectives of the American Revolution.
Jefferson had conflicting positions — he was against slavery while keeping his own slaves in bondage even after his death. As in this instance, he was often willing to compromise his ideals for the sake of the preservation of the union of the states and to retain the political power he had accumulated. Meacham very ably navigated this complex history in his biography.
Personal details always enliven biographies. Jefferson’s wife, on her deathbed after the birth of a child, extracted from him a promise never to marry again. Meacham theorizes that her difficult childhood experiences with step-mothers convinced her to oppose the same for her children. It is a plausible reason as to why a marriage, that by most accounts was so happy, would not be attempted again.
Jefferson had been noted for his affinity for music. In our world of ever-present music, it often eludes us how music lovers in revolutionary times had to innovate the music in their lives. He played the violin at times, but most interestingly had mockingbirds in his office in the President’s House in Washington. CV