Thomas Jefferson: America's Philosopher-King

Front Cover
Transaction Publishers, Jan 1, 1996 - Biography & Autobiography - 147 pages
Over the course of more than six decades as an author, journalist, and professor, Max Lerner studied and assessed many presidents, yet Thomas Jefferson received his most sustained attention. To Lerner, Jefferson came closest in the American context to Plato's "philosopher-king," the ideal thinker and leader. Because of his keen sense of Jefferson's virtues and his unique place in United States history, Lerner began work on a book about Jefferson in 1957, rewriting it several times throughout his life, always with the intention of introducing general readers to "a thinker and public figure of enduring pertinence." In this volume, Lerner uses the facts of Jefferson's life and work as the springboard to insightful analysis and informed assessment. In considering Jefferson, Lerner combines biographical information, historical background, and analytical commentary. The result is a biographical-interpretive volume, a primer about Jefferson that not only describes his accomplishments, but discusses his problems and failures.

As political figures have declined in esteem in recent decades, the media has probed deeper into previously private lives. Historians, biographers, and others have revealed personal details about deceased prominent figures. Two centuries after he helped create America, Jefferson remains a figure of enduring fascination within academic circles and beyond. Max Lerner helps explain and clarify not only this unending fascination, but the timeless relevance of the nation's devoutly democratic yet singularly authentic "philosopher-king."


What people are saying - Write a review

Thomas Jefferson: America's philosopher-king

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Until his death in 1992, Lerner was a distinguished academic scholar at several universities, a syndicated newspaper columnist, and the author of numerous books on American history. From 1957 to the ... Read full review

Selected pages


The Making of a Revolutionary 17431784
A Diplomat in Europe 17851789
The Struggle for National Mastery 17891800
The Practice and Theory of Foreign Policy 17891795
The Two Revolutions
A Party Leaders Path to the Summit 17891800
Jefferson in Power The Jeffersonian Revolution and the Presidency 18011805
Jefferson in Trouble Conspiracy Embargo and Civil Liberties 18051809
Reformer Educator Humanist The Rounding Out of a Mind and Will 18091826
Jeffersons Cosmos as a Frame for His Thought
Last Days and Death 1826
The Shadow of Jefferson Legend Image Idea
Ambiguity and Unity in Jeffersons Thought
Jefferson as a Man of Letters

Twilight of a Life And A Great Correspondence 18091826

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 1 - I think that, as life is action and passion, it is required of a man that he should share the passion and action of his time at peril of being judged not to have lived.

About the author (1996)

Max Lerner (1902-1992) was distinguished professor at the Graduate School of Human Behavior, United States International University at San Diego. Before that he was university professor of social theory at Brandeis University. He was also a syndicated columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate and the New York Post over a forty-year time span.

Robert Schmuhl is chairperson and director of graduate studies of the Department of American Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He is editor of Transaction's collection of Max Lerner's essays, Magisterial Imagination: Six Masters of Human Sciences. Among Schmuhl's other books are Statecraft and Stagecraft, Demanding Democracy, and The Responsibilities of Journalism.

Bibliographic information