Thomas Jefferson is justly remembered as one of the great presidents of American history. Yet his greatest accomplishments–the Louisiana Purchase, the First Barbary War, the Lewis and Clark expedition–almost all came in his first term in office. His second term saw a sharp reversal of fortunes, as catastrophe engulfed the nation and Jefferson slunk out of office, never to play a role in public affairs again.
While always giving a great man his due, this new biography explores the darker side of Jefferson’s political legacy, examining how the flaws in both his personality and ideology led the nation to the brink of war and dissolution. It tells how Jefferson tossed aside legal norms in his pursuit of rival judges and his own vice president, and how his 1807 Embargo Act devastated the national economy, heightened section divisions, and made a subsequent war with Great Britain all but inevitable. Only when we understand the damage that Jefferson did to America, as well as his many achievements, can we begin to grapple with the complex legacy of our nation’s most complex president.
“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” – Thomas Jefferson
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