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Thomas Jefferson occupies a special niche in the hagiology of American Founding Fathers. His name is invoked for a staggering range of causes; statists and libertarians, nationalists and States' righters, conservatives and radicals all claim his blessing. In this book, Forrest McDonald examines Jefferson's performance as the nation's leader, evaluating his ability as a policy-maker, administrator, and diplomat.
He delineates, carefully and sympathetically, the Jeffersonian ideology and the agrarian ideal that underlay it; he traces the steps by which the ideology was transformed into a program of action; and he concludes that the interplay between the ideology and the action accounted both for the unparalleled success of Jefferson's first term in office, and for the unmitigated failure of the second term.
Jefferson as president was a man whose ideological commitments prevented him from reversing calamitous policy stances, a man who could be ruthless in suppressing civil rights when it was politically expedient, a man who was rarely, in the conventional sense of the word, a Jeffersonian. McDonald's portrait reveals him to be at once greater, simpler, and more complexly human than the mere "apostle of liberty" or "spokesman for democracy" that his adulators have relegated him to being.
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"An elegant and revelatory analysis."--Gore Vidal, author of Burr and 1876
"A brilliant and important book, one that can be studied with profit and read and remembered with delight."--George Dangerfield, author of The Awakening of American Nationalism, 1815-1828About the Author:
Forrest McDonald is Distinguished Research Professor of History at the University of Alabama and the author of fifteen books including States' Rights and the Union: Imperium in Imperio, 1776-1876; The American Presidency: An Intellectual History; Novus Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution; "We the People": Economic Origins of the Constitution; E Pluribus Unum: The Foundation of the American Republic, 1776-1790; and The Presidency of George Washington. He was named by the National Endowment for the Humanities as the sixteenth Jefferson Lecturer, the nation's highest honor in the humanities.
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