American Sphinx

By Joseph J. Ellis,

Book cover of American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson

Book description

For a man who insisted that life on the public stage was not what he had in mind, Thomas Jefferson certainly spent a great deal of time in the spotlight--and not only during his active political career. After 1809, his longed-for retirement was compromised by a steady stream of guests…

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1 author picked American Sphinx as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Growing up in Virginia, I was forced to admire Thomas Jefferson. By “force,” I mean that we took frequent field trips to Monticello, Jefferson’s home, and Williamsburg, where Jefferson attended the College of William & Mary. I was brought to Jefferson’s homes across Virginia and have seen numerous statues of this great and valuable thinker, writer, and political leader.

But naturally, given Jefferson’s role in writing the Declaration of Independence and yet his ownership of slaves up until the day of his death raises important contradictions for any serious student of American history. In grappling with Jefferson, we grapple with…

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