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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 Drawing on archives in the United States, England, and France, as well as unpublished Jefferson presidential papers, Meacham presents Jefferson as the most successful political leader of the early republic, and perhaps in all of American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.”—Entertainment Weekly
“[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
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A Fortunate Son
It is the strong in body who are both the strong and free in mind.
—Peter Jefferson, the father of Thomas Jefferson
He was the kind of man people noticed. An imposing, prosperous, well-liked farmer known for his feats of strength and his capacity for endurance in the wilderness, Peter Jefferson had amassed large tracts of land and scores of slaves in and around what became Albemarle County, Virginia. There, along the Rivanna, he built Shadwell, named after the London parish where his wife, Jane, had been baptized.
The first half of the eighteenth century was a thrilling time to be young, white, male, wealthy, and Virginian. Money was to be made, property to be claimed, tobacco to be planted and sold. There were plenty of ambitious men about—men with the boldness and the drive to create farms, build houses, and accumulate fortunes in land and slaves in the wilderness of the mid-Atlantic.
As a surveyor and a planter, Peter Jefferson thrived there, and his eldest son, Thomas, born on April 13, 1743, understood his father was a man other men admired.
Celebrated for his courage, Peter Jefferson excelled at riding and hunting. His son recalled that the father once singlehandedly pulled down a wooden shed that had stood impervious to the exertions of three slaves who had been ordered to destroy the building. On another occasion, Peter was said to have uprighted two huge hogsheads of tobacco that weighed a thousand pounds each—a remarkable, if mythical, achievement.
The father’s standing mattered greatly to the son, who remembered him in a superlative and sentimental light. “The tradition in my father’s family was that their ancestor came to this country from Wales, and from near the mountain of Snowden, the highest in Great Britain,” Jefferson wrote. The connection to Snowden was the only detail of the Jeffersons’ old-world origins to pass from generation to generation. Everything else about the ancient roots of the paternal clan slipped into the mists, save for this: that they came from a place of height and of distinction—if not of birth, then of strength.
Thomas Jefferson was his father’s son. He was raised to wield power. By example and perhaps explicitly he was taught that to be great—to be heeded—one had to grow comfortable with authority and with responsibility. An able student and eager reader, Jefferson was practical as well as scholarly, resourceful as well as analytical.
Jefferson learned the importance of endurance and improvisation early, and he learned it the way his father wanted him to: through action, not theory. At age ten, Thomas was sent into the woods of Shadwell, alone, with a gun. The assignment—the expectation—was that he was to come home with evidence that he could survive on his own in the wild.
The test did not begin well. He killed nothing, had nothing to show for himself. The woods were forbidding. Everything around the boy—the trees and the thickets and the rocks and the river—was frightening and frustrating.
He refused to give up or give in. He soldiered on until his luck finally changed. “Finding a wild turkey caught in a pen,” the family story went, “he tied it with his garter to a tree, shot it, and carried it home in triumph.”
The trial in the forest foreshadowed much in Jefferson’s life. When stymied, he learned to press forward. Presented with an unexpected opening, he figured out how to take full advantage. Victorious, he enjoyed his success.
Jefferson was taught by his father and mother, and later by his teachers and mentors, that a gentleman owed service to his family, to his neighborhood, to his county, to his colony, and to his king. An eldest son in the Virginia of his time grew up expecting to lead—and to be followed. Thomas Jefferson came of age with the confidence that controlling the destinies of others was the most natural thing in the world. He was born for command. He never knew anything else.
The family had immigrated to Virginia from England in 1612, and in the New World they had moved quickly toward prosperity and respectability. A Jefferson was listed among the delegates of an assembly convened at Jamestown in 1619. The future president’s great-grandfather was a planter who married the daughter of a justice in Charles City County and speculated in land at Yorktown. He died about 1698, leaving an estate of land, slaves, furniture, and livestock. His son, the future president’s grandfather, also named Thomas, rose further in colonial society, owning a racehorse and serving as sheriff and justice of the peace in Henrico County. He kept a good house, in turn leaving his son, Peter Jefferson, silver spoons and a substantial amount of furniture. As a captain of the militia, Thomas Jefferson’s grandfather once hosted Colonel William Byrd II, one of Virginia’s greatest men, for a dinner of roast beef and persico wine.
Peter Jefferson built on the work of his fathers. Born in Chesterfield County in 1708, Peter would surpass the first Thomas Jefferson, who had been a fine hunter and surveyor of roads. With Joshua Fry, professor of mathematics at the College of William and Mary, Peter Jefferson drew the first authoritative map of Virginia and ran the boundary line between Virginia and North Carolina, an achievement all the more remarkable given his intellectual background. “My father’s education had been quite neglected; but being of a strong mind, sound judgment and eager after information,” Thomas Jefferson wrote, “he read much and improved himself.” Self taught, Peter Jefferson became a colonel of the militia, vestryman, and member of the Virginia House of Burgesses.
On that expedition to fix the boundary between Virginia and North Carolina, the father proved himself a hero of the frontier. Working their way across the Blue Ridge, Peter Jefferson and his colleagues fought off “the attacks of wild beasts during the day, and at night found but a broken rest, sleeping—as they were obliged to do for safety—in trees,” as a family chronicler wrote.
Low on food, exhausted, and faint, the band faltered—save for Jefferson, who subsisted on the raw flesh of animals (“or whatever could be found to sustain life,” as the family story had it) until the job was done.
Thomas Jefferson grew up with an image—and, until Peter Jefferson’s death when his son was fourteen, the reality—of a father who was powerful, who could do things other men could not, and who, through the force of his will or of his muscles or of both at once, could tangibly transform the world around him. Surveyors defined new worlds; explorers conquered the unknown; mapmakers brought form to the formless. Peter Jefferson was all three and thus claimed a central place in the imagination of his son, who admired his father’s strength and spent a lifetime recounting tales of the older man’s daring. Thomas Jefferson, a great-granddaughter said, “never wearied of dwelling with all the pride of filial devotion and admiration on the noble traits” of his father’s character. The father had shaped the ways other men lived. The son did all he could to play the same role in the lives of others.
Peter Jefferson had married very well, taking a bride from Virginia’s leading family. In 1739, he wed Jane Randolph, a daughter of Isham Randolph, a planter and sea captain. Born in London in 1721, Jane Randolph was part of her father’s household at Dungeness in Goochland County, a large establishment with walled gardens.
The Randolph family traced its colonial origins to Henry Randolph, who emigrated from England in 1642. Marrying a daughter of the Speaker of the House of Burgesses, Henry Randolph thrived in Virginia, holding office in Henrico County and serving as clerk of the House of Burgesses. Returning home to England in 1669, he apparently prevailed on a young nephew, William, to make the journey to Virginia.
William Randolph, Thomas Jefferson’s great-grandfather, thus came to the New World at some point between 1669 and 1674; accounts differ. He, too, rose in Virginia with little delay, taking his uncle’s place as Henrico clerk and steadily acquiring vast acreage. An ally of Lord Berkeley, the British governor, William Randolph soon prospered in shipping, raising tobacco, and slave trading.
William became known for his family seat on Turkey Island in the James River, which was described as “a splendid mansion.” With his wife, Mary Isham Randolph, the daughter of the master of a plantation on the James River called Bermuda Hundred, William had ten children, nine of whom survived. The Randolphs “are so numerous that they are obliged, like the clans of Scotland, to be distinguished by their places of residence,” noted Thomas Anburey, an English visitor to Virginia in 1779–80. There was William of Chatsworth; Thomas of Tuckahoe; Sir John of Tazewell Hall, Williamsburg; Richard of Curles Neck; Henry of Longfield; Edward of Bremo. And there was Isham of Dungeness, who was Jefferson’s maternal grandfather.
As a captain and a merchant, Jefferson’s grandfather moved between the New and Old Worlds. About 1717, he married an Englishwoman, Jane Rogers, who was thought to be a “pretty sort of woman.” They lived in London and at their Goochland County estate in Virginia.
In 1737, a merchant described Thomas Jefferson’s grandfather’s family as “a very gentle, well-dressed people.” Jefferson’s mother, Jane, was a daughter of this house and had an apparent sense of pride in her British ancestry. She was said to have descended from “the powerful Scotch Earls of Murray, connected by blood or alliance with many of the most distinguished families in the English and Scotch peerage, and with royalty itself.”
The family of William Byrd II—he was to build Westover, a beautiful Georgian plantation mansion on the James River south of Richmond—had greater means than the Jeffersons, but the description of a fairly typical day for Byrd in February 1711 gives a sense of what life was like for the Virginia elite in the decades before the birth of Thomas Jefferson.
I rose at 6 o’clock and read two chapters in Hebrew and some Greek in Lucian. I said my prayers and ate boiled milk for breakfast. I danced my dance [exercised] and then went to the brick house to see my people pile the planks and found them all idle for which I threatened the soundly but did not whip them. The weather was cold and the wind at northeast. I wrote a letter to England. Then I read some English till 12 o’clock when Mr. Dunn and his wife came. I ate boiled beef for dinner. In the afternoon Mr. Dunn and I played at billiards. Then we took a long walk about the plantation and looked over all my business. . . . At night I ate some bread and cheese.
Whether in the Tidewater regions closer to the Atlantic or in the forested hills of the Blue Ridge, the Virginia into which Jefferson was born offered lives of privilege to its most fortunate sons.
Visiting Virginia and Maryland, an English traveler observed “the youth of these more indulgent settlements . . . are pampered much more in softness and ease than their neighbors more northward.” Children were instructed in music and taught to dance, including minuets and what were called “country-dances.” One tutor described such lessons at Nomini Hall, the Carter family estate roughly one hundred miles east of Albemarle. The scene of young Virginians dancing, he said, “was indeed beautiful to admiration, to see such a number of young persons, set off by dress to the best advantage, moving easily, to the sound of well-performed music, and with perfect regularity.”
Thomas Jefferson was therefore born to a high rank of colonial society and grew up as the eldest son of a prosperous, cultured, and sophisticated family. They dined with silver, danced with grace, entertained constantly.
His father worked in his study on the first floor of the house—it was one of four rooms on that level—at a cherry desk. Peter Jefferson’s library included Shakespeare, Jonathan Swift, Joseph Addison, and Paul de Rapin-Thoyras’s History of England. “When young, I was passionately fond of reading books of history, and travels,” Thomas Jefferson wrote. Of note were George Anson’s Voyage Round the World and John Ogilby’s America, both books that offered the young Jefferson literary passage to larger worlds. A grandson recalled Jefferson’s saying that “from the time when, as a boy, he had turned off wearied from play and first found pleasure in books, he had never sat down in idleness.”
It was a world of leisure for well-off white Virginians. “My father had a devoted friend to whose house he would go, dine, spend the night, dine with him again on the second day, and return to Shadwell in the evening,” Jefferson recalled. “His friend, in the course of a day or two, returned the visit, and spent the same length of time at his house. This occurred once every week; and thus, you see, they were together four days out of the seven.” The food was good and plentiful, the drink strong and bracing, the company cheerful and familiar.
Jefferson believed his first memory was of being handed up to a slave on horseback and carried, carefully, on a pillow for a long journey: an infant white master being cared for by someone whose freedom was not his own. Jefferson was two or three at the time. On that trip the family was bound for Tuckahoe, a Randolph estate about sixty miles southeast of Shadwell. Tuckahoe’s master, Jane Randolph Jefferson’s cousin William Randolph, had just died. A widower, William Randolph had asked Peter Jefferson, his “dear and loving friend,” to come to Tuckahoe in the event of his death and raise Randolph’s three children there, and Peter Jefferson did so. (William Randolph and Peter Jefferson had been so close that Peter Jefferson had once purchased four hundred acres of land—the ultimate site of Shadwell—from Randolph. The price: “Henry Weatherbourne’s biggest bowl of arrack [rum] punch!”)
The Jeffersons would stay on the Randolph place for seven years, from the time William Randolph died, when Thomas was two or three, until Thomas was nine or ten.
Peter Jefferson, who apparently received his and his family’s living expenses from the Randolph estate (which he managed well), used the years at Tuckahoe to discharge his duty to his dead friend while his own Albemarle fields were being cleared. This was the era of many of Peter Jefferson’s expeditions, which meant he was away from home for periods of time, leaving his wife and the combined Randolph and Jefferson families at Tuckahoe.
The roots of the adult Jefferson’s dislike of personal confrontation may lie partly in the years he spent at Tuckahoe as a member of a large combined family. Though the eldest son of Peter and Jane Jefferson, Thomas was spending some formative years in a house not his own. His nearest contemporary, Thomas Mann Randolph, was two years older than he was, and this Thomas Randolph was the heir of the Tuckahoe property. Whether such distinctions manifested themselves when the children were so young is unknowable, but Jefferson emerged from his childhood devoted to avoiding conflict at just about any cost. It is possible his years at Tuckahoe set him on a path toward favoring comity over controversy in face-to-face relations.
Table of Contents
A Note on the Text xv
Prologue The World's Best Hope xvii
Part I The Scion Beginnings to Spring 1774
1 A Fortunate Son 3
2 What Fixed the Destinies of My Life 16
3 Roots of Revolution 27
4 Temptations and Trials 40
5 A World of Desire and Denial 51
Part II The Revolutionary Spring 1774 to Summer 1776
6 Like a Shock of Electricity 67
7 There Is No Peace 78
8 The Famous Mr. Jefferson 85
9 The Course of Human Events 98
10 The Pull of Duty 109
Part III Reformer and Governor Late 1776 to 1782
11 An Agenda for Liberty 119
12 A Troublesome Office 129
13 Redcoats at Monticello 137
14 To Burn on Through Death 144
Part IV The Frustrated Congressman Late 1782 to Mid-1784
15 Return to the Arena 153
16 A Struggle for Respect 161
17 Lost Cities and Life Counsel 166
Part V A Man of the World 1785 to 1789
18 The Vaunted Scene of Europe 179
19 The Philosophical World 188
20 His Head and His Heart 197
21 Do You Like Our New Constitution? 205
22 A Treaty in Paris 216
Part VI The First Secretary of State 1789 to 1792
23 A New Post in New York 231
24 Mr. Jefferson Is Greatly Too Democratic 246
25 Two Cocks in the Pit 259
26 The End of a Stormy Tour 271
Part VII The Leader of the Opposition 1793 to 1800
27 In Wait at Monticello 283
28 To the Vice Presidency 299
29 The Reign of Witches 311
30 Adams vs. Jefferson Redux 321
31 A Desperate State of Affairs 332
Part VIII The President of the United States 1801 to 1809
32 The New Order of Things Begins 347
33 A Confident President 360
34 Victories, Scandal, and a Secret Sickness 372
35 The Air of Enchantment! 383
36 The People Were Never More Happy 394
37 A Deep, Dark, and Widespread Conspiracy 415
38 This Damned Embargo 425
39 A Farewell to Ultimate Power 436
Part IX The Master of Monticello 1809 to the End
40 My Body, Mind, and Affairs 445
41 To Form Statesmen, Legislators and Judges 462
42 The Knell of the Union 474
43 No, Doctor, Nothing More 490
Epilogue All Honor to Jefferson 497
Author's Note and Acknowledgments 507
Illustration Credits 731
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Mr. Meacham is one of my favorite authors. I have read two other books by him and felt privileged to be able to read his work. I have been reading about Our Founding Fathers for the last four years. I was waiting for this book to be published and was glad when it became available. It is well researched, documented, and written. Mr. Jefferson does not come across as as someone above humanity. He is all too human. He is complex, deeply academic ,and curious of life. I never knew that he spoke and wrote against slavery. But he was a man of his time and even though he personally believed slavery to be evil, he was not willing to fight against that ghastly institution. Jefferson owned over a hundred slaves and had six children by one, Sally Hemings. I would respectfully disagree with those who take Mr Mecham to task for not editorializing against Jefferson's hypocrisy. Mr. Mecham does not have to . The reader can certainly draw his or her own conclusion that Thomas Jefferson had feet of clay. concerning slavery But this does not disqualify him from his truly remarkable words and work that helped to found our nation.
As a retired military man, I really enjoyed this book. Despite how people feel about Jefferson's personal life choices, he was without a doubt one of the most influential leaders in early America. This book offers both timeless wisdom, and fresh insight into what made him such an inspiring and effective leader.
This book is the work of one man. Hundreds have written about Jefferson. Please take the time to study the entire person, flaws and all. I too was offended that Thomsas Jefferson not only owned slaves but had relations with Sally Hemming. But, if you read a variety of the works of Jefferson, you'll realize that he lived in a time when slavery was acceptable, not right, but acceptable. He felt strongly that this battle was for another generation. In his 40 or so years of public service, he was a Representative, Governor of Virginia, Secretary of State, Vice President and President. Oh, and did I forget to mention that he authored the Declaration of Independence and fought hard to see that our nation didn't turn into a monarcy.He wasn't perfect, but pretty close.
Jefferson’s history as a political leader, philosopher and student of republican government, scientist, planter, slave-owner, and gentrified land owner was what defined him as perhaps our most famous president. As a member of the House of Burgesses, Continental Congress, Governor of Virginia, Minister to France, Secretary of State, Vice-President, and President, Jefferson used his background and experiences to define not only his own personal beliefs, but also the politics of his days given the power that he held in those offices. For me this was the most interesting aspect of the book. In this book Jon Meacham illustrates how Jefferson was such an important figure in the process of defining what the United States was to become, how it was to be governed, and how it was to be led. My take is that Jefferson was the right person at the right time concerning our country. Born in 1743, Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence at 33 in 1776, was elected president in 1800 after a bitter political fight, served 2 terms as President, and died on the same day, July 4th, 1826 as the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. That same day in 1826, near Boston, John Adams also died. For me, the most interesting aspect of the book is that from the very beginnings of the United States, politics have played major roles. Even “the father of our country,” George Washington was thought of as a Federalist, even by some of the democratic-republicans of Virginia such as Jefferson and Madison. John Adams, our 2nd president, was traditionally a Whig in the early days of the revolution, but also realized that a monarchial form of government was not in the best interest of liberty loving Americans. It was the political differences between Jefferson, the democratic-republican, and Alexander Hamilton, the staunch Federalist, that fueled the heated discourse during the presidential election of 1800, manifested in the political conflict between Jefferson and John Adams in that election. From page 458, Meacham quotes from a letter written by Jefferson to John Adams in June, 1813, “Men have differed in opinion, and been divided into parties by these opinions, from the first origin of societies, and in all governments where they have been permitted freely to think and to speak. The same political parties which now agitate the U.S. have existed through all time. Whether the power of the people, or that of the [best men; nobles] should prevail, were questions which kept the states of Greece and Rome in eternal convulsions…As we had longer than most others on the public theatre, and our names therefore were more familiar to our countrymen, the party which considered you as thinking with them, placed your name at their head, for the same reason selected mine.” At Monticello, Jefferson was master of his own domain which included land, plantations, buildings, and slaves. While there was certainly abolitionist movements within the states,“southern states” including Virginia depended upon slavery. Jefferson was certain slavery would be abolished, but he felt it would be left to succeeding generations to make that happen. While he was still alive, his children from Sally Hemings, a slave and half-sister of his wife, were considered slaves. When he died, Sally and all children and grandchildren were considered to be free.
Wonderfully Written. I always enjoy books about our founding fathers!
A must-read for info on an important founding father. Compelling and interesting.
Gordon S. Wood says this is the best single volume about Thomas Jefferson. That is enough for me. I have asked for it as a Christmas present.
This is one of the most insightful probings of Jefferson and his life that I have ever read! I have many books on Jefferson and his style of power, but this one I truly believe is at the top of the heap!
I found this book to be heavy on detail but lacking in substance. The author only mentions in passing the debate while drafting the Declaration of Independence regarding separation of church and state. I would have enjoyed a discussion of the various positions taken by the founders. Also, when discussing the roles Jefferson and Adams played as diplomats to France and Great Britain, respectively, I would have appreciated a fuller discussion of what arguements they used in an effort to convince Great Britain that it was better off without the colonies. But, the author chose to spend more time dealing with petty matters such as Jefferson's personal correspondence, and the gifts he purchased for himself and the Adams. After a while, this book becomes tedious.
I've read TJ's letters and many books on him, and unfortunately, I am finding it difficult to say much good about this book. Meacham does little else than recount historical details; the book fails to depict a cognitive construct from which a level of artistry in achieving power could be claimed; why, then, title the book "the art of power"? Meacham's Jefferson is astute, intelligent, educated, but also reactive and a bit whiny. I'm not seeing any art of power.... The book is also in need of a good editor - someone who could pull together the many disparate pieces of this book into coherent angles.
As in the case of most biographers the author describes Jefferson in the most positive of lights yet he makes great efforts to show that Jefferson was also an imperfect man. I liked how the author included the other principle figures of the day (Washington, Franklin, Madison, Monroe and Adams) as integral to Jefferson's life. Some of the biographers of these men I have read go out of their way to belittle the others or pay scant attention to their contributions. I'm not sure I learned anything about the art of power but today's political divisions are similar to those of the new republic. The names may change but not the fundamental divides. I found myself making copious highlights and notes. It is a thought provoking read.
If you like to read about presidents, then read this book. Jon Meacham has a way of writing that makes history so interesting. A must for your personal library.
All I can say is another excellent biography By Author Jon Meacham. He gets his facts straight and gets into person's character. A must read if you are an American and want more information on our founding fathers.
Long but good
Terrific read. Meacham is an outstanding biographer. Highly recommended.
Jon Meacham has written a great biography of one of our founding fathers. He captures very real concerns of America's early days; particularly the Federalist versus Republican struggles and the threat that the British might reclaim our newly free land. Meacham deals realistically the alliances which were constantly in flux, with the recurring theme of our fluid relationship with the French during their time of great upheaval. His focus on Jefferson the man, with the great sadness he faced in his life and his conflicting feelings about slavery, being a slaveholder while fathering several children by Sally Hemings, lent a much more revealing portrait of Jefferson than a basic education lends. Fine work by a tremendous historian.
I bought this book because of the favorable hype. One size does not fit all. I was disappointed from the get-go in that the prologue was a summary judgment on Jefferson's character without any substantiation. It set the wrong tone for the book. The prologue was like reading the conclusion of a study without any evidence. In addition, Meacham's writing style is not lively. Too many words and a lack of vigor in his prose. I enjoy Walter Isaacson's work much more. I haven't finished the book, yet, so I am hopeful it gets progressively engaging.
The author puts you in Jefferson's mind and world.