THOMAS JEFFERSON by Milton Meltzer
Kirkus Star


The Revolutionary Aristocrat
Age Range: 12 & up
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A fascinating portrait that vividly portrays Jefferson's extraordinary brilliance and complexity--and his deep ambivalence about slavery--setting his ideas against historical events and society and his own uniquely wide-ranging gifts. Unblinking and persistent, Meltzer presents Jefferson as the product and beneficiary of the slave-dependent South, from his earliest memory to the slave-built coffin in which he was buried. The motif is not a condemnation--Meltzer points out that this original thinker was ahead of his time in perceiving slavery as evil. Rather, the book dramatizes the contradictions between the humane philosopher, the persuasive political realist who won support by pushing neither too fast nor too far, and the aristocrat who enjoyed luxury and was the generous head of an extended family, chronically in debt. Marshalling hundreds of telling facts, incidents, and quotes, Meltzer fills each page of a lively, well-organized narrative with insights and intriguing revelations (e.g., that as secretary of state, Jefferson personally approved patents, testing designs himself; and that his scientific paper on one of these was the first ever published by the US). Most admirably, Jefferson is seen here in a world whose difference from ours is exemplified by the fact of his State Department staff numbering just five, as well as by the range of his accomplishments; emphasis on the discrepancies between Jefferson's words and deeds is used as an effective device for bringing the real world in which he lived vibrantly to life. A fine author at his best: outstanding. (Biography. 12+)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-531-15227-8
Page count: 256pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1991


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