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Thomas Jefferson: A Strange Case of Mistaken Identity Paperback – March 21, 1995


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 419 pages
  • Publisher: Madison Books (March 21, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0819174548
  • ISBN-13: 978-0819174543
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 6.7 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,118,204 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Scholars long have noted paradoxical aspects of Jefferson's life: a slaveholder, he wrote the "Declaration of Independence"; a traditionalist, he innovated in politics; an avowed humanist, he pursued a closet theology. In this excellent first installment of a projected two-volume study, Mapp sifts through legend, and sometimes erroneous scholarship, in search of Jefferson. Tracing his subject's life through the presidency, he finds that underneath his public roles (statesman, architect, writer, etc.) Jefferson was a passionate artist whose creative growth accounts for many of his paradoxical views. Making fine use of abundant recent scholarship, Mapp gives us a greater appreciation of this complex Virginian who came to embody the very tensions between tradition and experiment that are the "principal source of vitality in a society." Mapp's books include The Virginia Experiment. Photos not seen by PW. BOMC featured alternate.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

A monumental reassessment of Jefferson's character and impact. (Booklist)

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By T. J. Williams on February 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
This volume is the first of Mapp's two volume biography of Jefferson. It concludes at the time of Jefferson's first election as President of the United States. The author has done extensive research on the events of Jefferson's life and the circumstances of the days during which he lived. He benefited from access to materials at the College of William and Mary, Jefferson's and Mapp's alma mater.

The writing style is academic in nature. This is not a book written to be widely purchased by the book-buying public. Many will find the writing style to be burdensome. But, the depth of detail on Jefferson is enough to satisfy the most ardent Jefferson-phile.

The last chapter of this volume is a discussion of whether Jefferson is a liberal or a conservative. Mapp has written a very enjoyable and enlightening discussion that highlights the contradictions of Jefferson's life. For example, slavery versus "all men are created equal" or his purchase of the Louisiana Territory without Congressional approval versus his antipathy for a monarchial President and his leanings toward very limited government action. All of this forms the framework for a discussion that is on point with political ideologies of the current times. The suggestion by Mapp that Jefferson's contradictions are born of his great intelligence and the ability to see every side of every issue is a very intriguing notion. If you were to read no other chapter of the book, this last chapter would be worth the time and may even stir the reader to start at the beginning and read the whole book.
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18 of 27 people found the following review helpful By David C. Frye on July 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a decent book. I was truly excited about reading it. I was particularly fascinated by the author's use of the paradoxes of Jefferson's words and deeds.
However, I found it hard to read due to the author's needlessly pretentious word choice. My appetence for consummating the reading of this tome was stymied by a repetitious exigence to avail myself of a dictionary due to polysyllabic profundity. ;-)
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7 of 14 people found the following review helpful By John T. Lewis on September 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I found it rather difficult to finish this rather long book. (422 pages not including endnotes and index). Length, however, was not what made it difficult. For some reason Alf J. Mapp believes it necessary to use difficult language at nearly every turn when such language is not necessary. I consider myself an above average reader and I must say that I struggled all the way through. The book would have been far more enjoyable had Mapp conversed in a style more acceptable to those of us who aren't quite up to his education level.

His use of language, quite frankly, makes his biography quite boring. Unless you're a collector of Jefferson books as I am, I would recommend getting your biography elsewhere.
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12 of 33 people found the following review helpful By J W Phillips on December 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Alf J. Mapp, Jr.'s biography of Thomas Jefferson, A Strange Case of Mistaken Identity, successfully conveys the unique personality qualities that resided in one of our most influential and least understood Founding Fathers.
Rereading this biography on the heels of the Clinton Presidency one is struck by the similarities and differences between these two politicians. While Jefferson's intellect and accomplishments will never be equalled by William Jefferson Clinton, the outgoing incumbent shares certain characteristics with his namesake which the Mapp biography lucidly described five years before Clinton ran for office. The major difference between these two men may be that Thomas Jefferson did not hunger after the public's love the way a modern politician must in order to succeed. It is also highly doubtful that the American Public today would ever vote for an intellectual of such obviously of artistic temperment and intellect as the 3rd President. The "Elvis Presley" folksy charm of Bill Clinton is probably why he succeeded in his quest while Al Gore fell short in the Electoral College. Mapp's book succeeds in bringing forth what eluded many biographers before him, and that is the intensity of the passion and animosity that Thomas Jefferson stimulated in his politican adversaries. In this he clearly brings our outgoing current President to mind.
There are other parallels between the Jefferson legacy and the Clinton White House, the commitment to internationalism for one, and an egalitarian commitment to popular access to higher education for another. But the times and the men are ultimately different, and understanding this basic fact is made most palbable by Mapp's major contribution to a considerable trove of already existing Jefferson literature.
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