RECOMMENDED READING – ‘American Sphinx’ by Joseph J. Ellis
Posted by Chris on Saturday May 3, 2008
Posted by : Chris Corley
I just finished a pretty fascinating book about Thomas Jefferson called American Sphinx. It was written in 1996 by Joseph J. Ellis, a professor of history at Mount Holyoke College and a National Book Award Winner.
The book takes us through 5 distinct intellectual segments of Jefferson’s life, through both his public and private moments and correspondences …
Philadelphia : 1775-1776
Paris : 1784-1789
Monticello : 1794-1797
Washington, DC : 1801-1804
Monticello : 1816-1826
The thrust of the book is to delve into Jefferson’s mind to attempt to understand how he developed his fascinating views on individual freedoms and governance of men. The author also speculates how Jefferson reconciled some seemingly contradictory viewpoints that he held. For instance – how Jefferson reconciled his views of individual freedoms with his ownership of slaves and how he reconciled his essentially unilateral actions in the procuring of the Louisiana Purchase while at the same time opposing that kind of unilateral power for a government official.
The book is extremely well written, fluidly and intelligently, and portrays Jefferson as an extremely complex, erudite and somewhat solitary man. It is a somewhat provocative book that any American history buff will be sure to enjoy.