Thomas Jefferson by Jon Meacham

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Rate: 4/5


Medium: AudioBook


Oversight (No Spoilers): Ever since getting hooked, or perhaps obsessed would be more appropriate, on the Hamilton soundtrack I’ve been fascinated with this time period and the people that secured their legacy by shaping social and political policies of the age. As such, I eagerly scooped up Thomas Jefferson, especially having previously read Meacham’s the American Lion, highlighting Andrew Jackson and the people that inhabited his social sphere. While I wasn’t enamored with my first Meacham’s novel and although Thomas Jefferson suffered from some of the same flaws as American Lion, I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Jefferson’s life during this tumultuous, yet instrumental time in America’s history. Throughout this book I became irritated with the lack of quotes or details, with key events seemingly scanned over, however the story was put in perspective upon Meacham stating in his afterword that his goal was to give an overview of Jefferson’s life, as if he had gone into minute details that this book could have easily tripled in size. Another issue, which resurfaced from my initial Meacham encounter, was that anyone who opposes the protagonist is viewed in a negative light. Throughout life, disagreements are an inevitability, and without exception, there are always two stories or perspectives to a conflict. As such, in order to find an acceptable compromise it is imperative to understand where both parties are coming from, which has been lost in current day politics. Biographies and historical accounts are the perfect way to learn how strong minded individuals came together from widely opposing views to help shape how the world in general has progressed to current day. Therefore, I find it highly unacceptable when an author shades a character in a negative light, in which I know I could pick up, for example a Hamilton biography and probably have a reversal in the roles of protagonist and antagonist. With that being said, I still found Thomas Jefferson to be an intriguing read, and am always fascinated with the concept that American government was truly a experiment that no one knew was going to actually succeed. Nothing was set in stone during that time period, from who our allies were, to the power that the President could yield. Also, casting a comparison to present day politics is a trend that I’ve observed in many of the biographies I’ve recently been reading of past Presidents, regardless of the President that has won it appears that in several key instances that politicians and citizen of the losing political party have felt hopeless and as though the world was ending as they knew it, e.g., Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson. I’m in no way making a political statement, or wishing to insight trolls, but I find a bit of comfort in the fact that history tends to repeat itself and perhaps other elections, long before I was born, resulted in similar overall feelings of division, animosity and strife that have been exponentially expounded upon in present day by social media. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Meacham’s account of Thomas Jefferson, who was not only influential in shaping our nation during its birth, but also proved to be a timeless philosopher.


Vocabulary Builder:

Hyperbolic: of, relating to, or marked by language that exaggerates or overstates the truth

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17 comments

  1. It does seem surprising that the author would take such a negative view to disagreements, especially considering how intensely Jefferson and Adams disagreed about almost everything throughout there long and close friendship.

    Nice review, I will have to add it to my mountainous pile of books waiting to be read.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been wondering about this one too. Thomas Jefferson is an interesting figure to me because his vision of government was truly revolutionary and he wrote beautifully and nobly, but he wasn’t a particularly good person. He was a poor farmer and business manager. Monticello was largely designed to keep slaves “out of sight, out of mind” to uphold his image. He was extremely petty during his term as vice president under John Adams, actively undermining Adams’ presidency. His later reconciliation with Adams was calculated to solidify his place in history.

    Historical perspective is vital; I laugh when I hear some pundit discuss how politics has never been as divisive or poisonous as it is now. The spiteful things Jefferson did would shame the most devious political manager today (most especially employing a “professional” mudslinger to attack Adams)!

    Enjoyed your review, Sarah!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. History does repeat itself. I think we know that or at least anyone with any knowledge of history knows it. But it seems we incessantly forget it. Not trying to be political but…. thanks for this interesting post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I appreciated primary source quotes, too, in my history reads, and I tend to avoid books that leave them out. I just don’t feel like I can quite trust them. And agreed, looking back at America’s political history gives me hope for today climate, too 😅 I basically quit Facebook to avoid the arguments!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed! I’m always impressed by authors that dig up quotes from random people that interacted with the subject of interest. I immediate begin to lose confidence in the author’s ability to remain neutral when they are telling me events instead of giving physical evidence.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s always interesting to read conflicting accounts about a person. That happened to me recently. For the past several years, I have been working my way through a biography on each of the First Ladies of the U.S..

    In Edith Kermit Roosevelt, Portrait of a First Lady by Sylvia Jukes Morris, the Tafts were not looked upon favorably, especially Nellie Taft. But of course, when I read the next biography on Nellie Taft by Carl Anthony, I read about the other side of the Roosevelts through the Taft perspective.

    You are right. It is frustrating when an author only presents a character in one light.

    Carl Anthony always does an amazing job of fairly presenting both sides of a character. Have you read any books by him?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great example of contrasting authors and subject matter! What an interesting topic regarding the history of the First Ladies. Have you been to the Smithsonian Exhibit about the First Ladies? I haven’t read anything by Anthony. I will need to look him up. Thanks for the suggestion!

      Like

      • No, I’ve never been been to the First Ladies Exhibit! I would love to go! Maybe in a couple years when my kids are old enough to handle a whole day at the Smithsonian Museums. You would love reading Anthony when you are in the mood for history. Let me know when you read something by him. His biography on Nellie Taft is my favorite so far.

        Liked by 1 person

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