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   American Sphinx
The Character of Thomas Jefferson
by Joseph J. Ellis
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Categories: Memoirs & Biographies - Historical | History - United States - 1700s
Code: 1543 |  ISBN: 0679764410 |  464 pp. |  Publication Date: 1998
Publisher: Vintage Books
Format: Trade Paperback
About this book
At different times Thomas Jefferson has been claimed by Southern secessionists and Northern abolitionists, New Deal liberals and neo-conservatives. Now the historian Joseph J. Ellis restores our most elusive national icon to human dimensions with insight, sympathy, and superb style. In American Sphinx, he sifts the facts shrewdly from the legends and the rumors, treading a path between vilification and hero worship.

Following his subject from the drafting of the Declaration of Independence to his retirement in Monticello, Ellis unravels the contradictions of the Jeffersonian character. He gives us the slaveholding libertarian; the enemy of government power who exercised it audaciously as president; the visionary who remained curiously blind to the inconsistencies in his nature. From Ellis we learn that Jefferson sang incessantly under his breath and that he delivered only two public speeches in eight years as president, while spending ten hours a day at his writing desk. American Sphinx is a marvel of scholarship, a delight to read, and an essential gloss on the Jeffersonian legacy.


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