Thomas Jefferson by P-HarpercollinsPubl

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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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									Thomas Jefferson
Author: Christopher Hitchens
Description

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.
Excerpt

Born on April 13, 1743 (April 2 until the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1758), Thomas Jefferson
was the offspring of stable planter stock in the native aristocracy of Virginia. His father, Peter Jefferson,
was a surveyor and cartographer whose immigrant parents were said to have come from the Snowdonia
district of northern Wales. Peter's marriage to Jane Randolph, whose own family was one of the "names"
of traditional Virginia society, can only have improved his standing. Perhaps it was young Jefferson's
evident contempt and dislike for his mother -- to whom he almost never alluded -- or his apparent
indifference to aristocracy, but when he came to write his own very brief Autobiography in 1821, he spoke
of these matters of bloodline and provenance and "pedigree," especially in his mother's case, with an
affected indifference. "Let everyone," he wrote, "ascribe the faith and merit he chooses," to such trifling
questions. Since Jefferson always founded American claims of right upon the ancient Saxon autonomy
supposedly established by the nearmythical English kings Hengist and Horsa, who had left Saxony and
established a form of self-rule in southern England (he even wished to see their imagined likeness on the
first Great Seal of the United States), we are confronted at once with his fondness for, if not indeed his
need for, the negation of one of his positions by another.We cannot hope to peer very far past the opaque
curtain that is always in evidence (and also not in evidence) when a young man seemingly reveres his
father and is indifferent to his mother. However, the nature of individual humans is not radically different
and it's no great surprise to discover that the adolescent Thomas felt himself liable at one point to go to
seed and to waste his time on loose company. We find, also, an excruciating account of a "bad date" at
the Apollo Room of the Raleigh Tavern when, nerving himself to make advances to the much sought-after
Rebecca Burwell, he made an utter hash of the approach and a more or less complete fool of himself.
("Good God!" he wrote to a friend the following morning. Later, news that Miss Burwell -- the sister of a
classmate and the daughter of a family estate in York County -- was betrothed to another man was to
give young Thomas the first of the many migraine attacks that plagued him intermittently through life.)
That this initial reverse was a sting is not to be doubted. Nor is it to be doubted that it was followed by
still another fiasco, when he made a crass and unsuccessful attempt to seduce the wife of his friend John
Walker. I mention this because it demonstrates that Jefferson was ardent by nature when it came to
females, and also made reticent and cautious by experience. This is worth knowing from the start, and
would scarcely need to be observed at all if it were not for the generations of historians who have written,
until the present day, as if he were not a male mammal at all.He recovered from his early instability in
three principal ways: by adopting the study of the classics, by pursuing the practice of law, and by
making an excellent marriage. These avenues converged on a single spot, still revered by Americans and
also made part of the small change of their experience by featuring in image on the reverse of the humble
nickel, or five-cent coin. A Palladian house named Monticello, on a mountaintop in the Virginia wilderness
(and built with its front facing the untamed West), emerged as the centerpiece of a life which could well,
were it not for some accidents of history, have been devoted to uxoriousness, agricultural husbandry,
hunting, bibliophilia, and the ingenious prolongation of...
Author Bio
Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Hitchens, one of the most controversial and compelling voices in Anglo-American journalism,
has published more than a dozen books, most recently Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essays. A
contributing editor to Vanity Fair, he also writes a monthly column for The Atlantic, and his work regularly
appears in The New York Times Book Review, The Nation, Harper's Magazine, Slate, and The New York
Review of Books, among other publications. he lives with his family in Washington, D.C.Visit
www.AuthorTracker.com for exclusive information on your favorite HarperCollins author.

								
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