Thomas Jefferson: Author of America

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Harper Collins, Oct 13, 2009 - Biography & Autobiography - 208 pages
7 Reviews

In this unique biography of Thomas Jefferson, leading journalist and social critic Christopher Hitchens offers a startlingly new and provocative interpretation of our Founding Father. Situating Jefferson within the context of America's evolution and tracing his legacy over the past two hundred years, Hitchens brings the character of Jefferson to life as a man of his time and also as a symbolic figure beyond it.

Conflicted by power, Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and acted as Minister to France yet yearned for a quieter career in the Virginia legislature. Predicting that slavery would shape the future of America's development, this professed proponent of emancipation elided the issue in the Declaration and continued to own human property. An eloquent writer, he was an awkward public speaker; a reluctant candidate, he left an indelible presidential legacy.

Jefferson's statesmanship enabled him to negotiate the Louisiana Purchase with France, doubling the size of the nation, and he authorized the Lewis and Clark expedition, opening up the American frontier for exploration and settlement. Hitchens also analyzes Jefferson's handling of the Barbary War, a lesser-known chapter of his political career, when his attempt to end the kidnapping and bribery of Americans by the Barbary states, and the subsequent war with Tripoli, led to the building of the U.S. navy and the fortification of America's reputation regarding national defense.

In the background of this sophisticated analysis is a large historical drama: the fledgling nation's struggle for independence, formed in the crucible of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, and, in its shadow, the deformation of that struggle in the excesses of the French Revolution. This artful portrait of a formative figure and a turbulent era poses a challenge to anyone interested in American history -- or in the ambiguities of human nature.

 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - delta351 - LibraryThing

I thought it was a pretty fair treatment of Jefferson. I enjoyed the information regarding his formative years, and found some concepts quite thought provoking. #1- Hitchens, who does not cite any ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - rmckeown - LibraryThing

This slim and interesting volume has Hitchens’ peculiar voice with occasional strident undertones leaking through. I don’t mind, because he is one of the best writers around today who criticizes the ... Read full review

Contents

All Politics Is Local
7
War and Revolution in Virginia
33
Revolution in France
53
Interregnum
67
Secretary of State
75
In Waiting
103
Mr President
125
DisappointmentThe Second Term
155
Declining Years
171
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About the author (2009)

Christopher Hitchens was the author of numerous books, including the controversial international bestseller God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.

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