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The Presidency of Thomas Jefferson Paperback – July 21, 1976

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The Presidency of Thomas Jefferson + The Presidency of George Washington (American Presidency Series)
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Product Details

  • Series: American Presidency Series
  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas (July 21, 1976)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700603301
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700603305
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #406,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"A no-nonsense, action-based history written with wit and perception." -- Library Journal

"A vigorous reexamination of a familiar figure by a scholar who writes with verve and conviction." -- Presidential Studies Quarterly

"This fast-moving, boldly stated account challenges much of current scholarship on Jefferson's presidency." --Journal of Southern History

From the Back Cover

"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, 1815-1828

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Frank J O'Connor on October 31, 1999
Format: Paperback
McDonald wrenches Jefferson out of the prism of 20th century admirers and detractors to see him in his own time. He interprets the first term as a stunning success: to wit, Jefferson set about the dismantling of government over the lives of the Republic's citizens. For one brief shining moment the ideals of the Revolution reached their pinnacle. It was not, alas and inevitably, destined to last. McDonald charts the decline and fall that was Jefferson's second term. Both brilliant and unorthodox, this book is exciting to read and confirms my belief that books that can interpret the past only through current day perspectives are more about the present than the past. This book is about the past and makes no apologies for it, and takes its place among Jeffersonian books by Henry Adams, Dumas Malone, and Joseph Ellis as a classic treatment of our classic President.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Wayne A. Smith VINE VOICE on November 13, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Forrest McDonald has produced a succinct, penetrating and fascinating history of Thomas Jefferson's Administration.
This book is part of the Univ. of Kansas' history of the presidency series and the second effort from McDonald (he wrote a wonderful history of Washington's Administration). This book is about the policies, international relations, politics and style of America's third chief executive. Running at less than 200 pages, McDonald manages to be both thorough and interesting in his telling of this period.
Jefferson and his Administration produced wonderful contradictions. His party espoused a "Republican" philosophy that basically wanted to liberate Americans from Hamilton's financial system and Adam's heavy handedness as witnessed by the Alien and Sedition Acts.
Jefferson's early term saw him implement much of his program. As McDonald points out, few if any other Presidents have had their way so successfully with Congress. Jefferson also added greatly to the US through the Louisianna Purchase, despite his concerns with the Constitutionality of the aquisition.
Jefferson and his Administration reached rough shoals in foreign affairs. Blinded by anti-British sentiment, the Administration prooved less than adroit at negotiating the position between Napolean and England. America was buffetted by this struggle and it reverberated back on our domestic situation. Suddenly, Jefferson's first term accomplishments became liabilities and were revealed as short sighted. The scheduled reduction of America's debt through the slashing of the Navy budget left us without the ability to challenge foreign powers.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By "harpe012" on May 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
McDonald is not only a great scholar, he is a storyteller without peer. He presents the Jeffersonian presidency in an objective and even-handed manner, highlighting both the successes and the tragic shortcomings of the Jefferson administration. Despite Jefferson's reputation today as a civil libertarian and a champion of liberty, McDonald shows how his heavy-handed tactics and his disregard for the Constitution led to disaster both at home and abroad. Despite ushering in the Republican Revolution of 1800, by 1808 Jefferson had lost control of the party he helped create and found himself at the mercy of John Randolph and his ilk in the House. McDonald never attacks Jefferson, however; he simply tells the rather sad story of a man consistently unable to meet the challenges with which he was faced. Another masterpiece from America's foremost historian.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ashbacher HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 21, 2001
Format: Paperback
Due to his primary authorship of the American Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson is widely viewed as a strong civil libertarian. The words of the Declaration and the American constitution speak so strongly about the limitations that government has when dealing with the citizens that they are just as valid over 200 years after they were written. He was also the primary individual around which the fledgling Republican party coalesced. In fact, McDonald commonly refers to the party as the Jeffersonian Republicans.
Less well known is the manner whereby the Jefferson administration callously ignored those rights so clearly stated in those magnificent documents. People were arrested for their political persuasion and he attempted to have Federal judges removed simply because he was unhappy with their Federalist philosophy. This really was a sad time in history, as it was the first case where a president openly interpreted the law as it suited him. In my opinion, the clear statement of these actions of Jefferson while president is what makes this book. Since the Louisiana Purchase was the greatest event in the United States between independence and the war between the states, it tends to overshadow many of the other things that Jefferson did during his presidency.
Jefferson's wholesale destruction of the American military left the country defenseless when it was being drawn into the wars between Napoleonic France and Great Britain. The consequences of these errors were monumental to the new country and his diplomatic mistakes contributed to a senseless conflict between the United States and Great Britain that served no useful purpose and could easily have destroyed the United States. Once again, McDonald is right on the mark in explaining what Jefferson did.
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