Meacham, Jon. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power Random House, 2012. Kindle Edition.
Written by writer, journalist and editor Jon E. Meacham, “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power” is one of several books one can read which focuses on the United States’ third president. Born on in Chattanooga, Tennessee on May 20, 1969, Meacham, a former editor-in-chief of Newsweek, is currently the executive editor and executive vice president at Random House. For his work on the 2009 published biographical book “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House,” Meacham picked up a Pulitzer Prize. In between the publication of “American Lion: Andrew Jackson” and “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power,” the now Random House executive vice president found time to edit ‘American Homer: Reflections on Shelby Foote and His Classic The Civil War: A Narrative.”
Considering the calibre of the works offered by Random House, the publishing giant’s reputation for American and British political histories has established is well deserved. “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power,” published in 2012, is just another example of the exemplary works which bears the name Random House. Despite not being either a political scientist or a political historian, with a degree from the University of the South in English literature, Meacham has proven time and again is fully capable of contextualising the dynamically political driven narratives he has offered readers.
“Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power,” Meacham’s fifth book, pounders the complexities of the man that was the third president of the United States. Regardless of the original context, Jefferson’s words are often used in the halls of American political power in supporting and or countering an argument. Would Jefferson have appreciated the way in which his words have been used? Readers will have to determine for themselves the answer to this question.
From the first word to the last, Meacham looked to his skills to craft a chronologically convincing narrative. Like historians, as a journalist, Meacham was required to develop a set of research skills which afforded him the ability to write the articles he penned. Divided into nine distinct parts, the author presents his readers with no fewer than 43 chapters covering Jefferson. The volume covers Jefferson’s life from birth, his youth, academic career, the American Revolution, the role he played in the Continental Congress, his governorship of Virginia, his work as envoy to France, his first-hand French Revolution experience, his personal clashes with the secretary of treasury Alexander Hamilton, his opposition to Federalist policies, and the presidency. The Jefferson most Americans knew might not have been the real Jefferson. Meacham left no stone unturned in uncovering the truth.
As one reads the various tabloid and broadsheets scattered across newspaper stands today, it is evident the United States is a country deeply divided by partisan politics. The country Jefferson would have recognised no longer exists. In “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power,” in no less than 833 pages, Meacham highlights lessons which can be drawn from Jefferson’s era. Jefferson, unlike contemporary American politicians, understood the meaning and the value of compromise. With a deeply held belief in maintaining the United States as a Republic, unlike certain present day leaders, Jefferson understood how to wield the power artfully.