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The Presidency of Thomas Jefferson Paperback – July 21, 1976

4.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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

The aim of the American Presidency Series is to present historians and the general reading public with interesting, scholarly assessment of the various presidential administrations. These interpretive surveys are intended to cover the broad ground between biographies, specialized monographs, and journalistic accounts.
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Product Details

  • Series: American Presidency (Univ of Kansas Paperback)
  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas (July 21, 1976)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700603301
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700603305
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.6 x 9 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: #1,327,239 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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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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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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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Format: Paperback
Thomas Jefferson had a vision for America. It wasn’t the vision of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and John Adams: of standing armies, a strong navy, and world leadership; of central banking, liquid capital, business and industry; of independent courts and judicial review—in short, all the things America would become. Jefferson’s vision was for a return to a simpler time, where relationships were based upon agriculture and ownership of land, of honest labor in the earth, craftsmanship in the cities, and free trade between individuals; of militias, and local rule—in short, of something akin to 18th-century Virginia. In essence, that was at the heart of the Jeffersonian Revolution of 1800—a turning back of the clock—and it’s the thesis of Forrest McDonald’s scholarly, highly readable, and relatively short book (169 pages). Jefferson’s goal as president, writes the author, was to “restore the separation of powers through the voluntary restraint of virtuous officials, cast out the monarchists and the money men, repeal the most oppressive taxes, slash expenses, pay off the public debt, and thus restore America to the pristine simplicity of an Arcadian past.” In fact, Jefferson almost succeeded. What stopped him? Inflexible ideology coupled with his hatred for the British. It led him to enact a ruinous blockade of American ports and, under the administration of his hand-picked successor, James Madison, to the even more ruinous War of 1812.

Jefferson’s first term in office was a smashing success. His crowning achievement, of course, was the Louisiana purchase, which nearly doubled the size of the United States. Had Jefferson’s presidency ended then and there, it’s arguable he would have gone down in history as one of America’s greatest presidents.
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