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Dinner at Mr. Jefferson's: Three Men, Five Great Wines, and the Evening that Changed America

3.4  ·  Rating Details ·  205 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
The Constitution was two years old and the United States was in serious danger. Bitter political rivalry between former allies and two surging issues that inflamed the nation led to grim talk of breaking up the union. Then a single great evening achieved compromises that led to America's great expansion. This book celebrates Thomas Jefferson and his two guests, Alexander H ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published February 1st 2008 by Wiley (first published 2008)
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Feb 25, 2010 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
Despite some weaknesses, this short history was really a pleasure to read and refreshing. I'm not sure how the author rates as an historian but his account of the struggles between Jefferson and Madison on the one hand and Hamilton seems sufficiently factual to be credit-worthy. Although Cerami injects gratuitous praise for Chernow's biography of Hamilton, it was a pleasure to find that an author can still be published who doesn't join anti-Jefferson campaign. None of the three - Madison, Hamilt ...more
Jun 12, 2012 Lauren rated it liked it
If you are someone who doesn't know much about this time period and wants to learn more, this book is a very digestible way to understand this information. If you are someone who already knows much about this time period, much of this book will be repetition of things you already know. The "Dinner at Mr. Jefferson's" only comprises one chapter of the book, and while the reader can tell the author firmly believes this dinner changed the course of history, he spends a significant amount of time go ...more
Jul 21, 2011 Nathan rated it it was ok
This had the potential to be illuminating; it failed.

In the early, formative days of the American republic, the disagreements of the individual founders portended more than they would now. The fresh slate of America was easily stamped, but easily damaged as well.
One such fissure formed between Hamilton and Jefferson. The issue concerned the rightful division of powers between the state and federal governments. Jefferson, Hamilton and Jefferson's ally James Madison met for the titular dinner to d
May 01, 2014 Donna rated it really liked it
The title is misleading….somehow I expected more about the dinner. Not sure what….but a bit more than one little chapter.

Otherwise…this book was fine for me since I forgot most of my history and prefer small doses & more anecdotal.

I was not aware of all the friction between Jefferson and Hamilton with Washington trying to keep the peace. I did enjoy the debates on how they ended up with Washington, DC being the capital. There was many other issues....which in my school days were so boring…
Nov 13, 2011 Laura rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, politics
About 3/4s of the way through, I quit reading this book because I was tired of the author twisting himself into knots trying to make all of the founding fathers look good all of the time. The founders were human; they made mistakes and occasionally behaved badly, just like the rest of us. Get over it, already.

Too bad, because the economics and politics of the situation have some remarkable parallels to today's situation.
May 20, 2012 Phillip rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've ever read, The way that this whole dinner helped to form a nation, Cerami made me feel like I was watching every piece of this story unfold. Great book!
Jan 19, 2017 Laura rated it it was ok
Ya know, I think I got a pretty good idea of the circumstances surrounding the famous dinner Compromise of 1790 from this book. However, the dinner itself was only covered in one chapter and filled with conjecture trying to pass itself off as fact. Absolutely NOTHING in this booked is cited and the author likes to insert dialogue that is also un-cited, so the reader is left guessing as to if it is a real quote or simply artistic license. The title of the book is very misleading; as I said, the d ...more
Library Journal claims that "Cerami wittily recounts the evening in rich detail" yet he just spends one chapter on the actual dinner. 125 pages lead up to the dinner with introductory information and neat little tidbits. Then you have eleven and a half pages about the dinner. And then the rest of the book is what happens afterwards and more neat little tidbits.

While I enjoyed the neat little tidbits like Jefferson's tension headaches, Washington getting pains in his arms when he wrote to his mo
Ebster Davis
May 19, 2016 Ebster Davis rated it really liked it
"The history of a nation is sometimes written in such brief paragraphs that are barely audible amid the churning sounds of the ages.

This book is an account on the birth of democratic factionalism in America, and how it's founders were able to (temporarily) put aside their differences to accomplish a common goal. It involved a lot of yummy food, and drink, and a bit of polite (not just civil) conversation. Somehow I think there's a principle we can all learn from in this, but I digress...

David R.
Jan 03, 2013 David R. rated it it was ok
Shelves: american-history
I am conflicted on this offering by Mr. Cerami. On the plus side it's very readable, good paced, and persuasive with respect to Cerami's theory about the oft-referenced and mysterious dinner involving Jefferson, Hamilton and Madison. And there are fascinating recipes from the dinner in the appendix! Unfortunately, it has problems. One is that a work of this type should be well-referenced: it isn't. There is a shocking paucity of footnotes and document citations. The other is that's it's a conspi ...more
The title and subtitle caught my eye on a recent tour of Monticello. And, despite a decent knowledge of U.S. history, I did not remember learning about the turning-point dinner hosted by Jefferson and attended by Madison and Hamilton. I held off on picking up the book until my book club could begin Ellis' "Founding Brothers," which includes the dinner as one of six portraits of the interrelationships between the Founding Fathers.

The chapter describing said dinner moved quickly, but, was placed
Greg Western
Jul 19, 2014 Greg Western rated it really liked it
This is a decent book dealing mostly with Jefferson and Hamilton, but also touching on Washington and Madison. It is filled with many interesting stories, mainly about the period after the Constitution, when George Washington was in his first term. The dinner in the title is an important moment as political adversaries... enemies found a compromise on the assumption of debt, that was a hot button issue. The story of the dinner is really only a small part of the book, so it is a little strange th ...more
Jul 09, 2013 Mary rated it liked it

Fascinating...and tiresome. The details of the issues in the last decade of eighteenth century America and how they were resolved is really interesting. Some of my friends on Goodreads who know more about this than I do seem to feel that the book is not strictly accurate, that it credits Jefferson with too much. But they didn't say it was wholly biased. The dinner scene is only one chapter in the middle of the book. I had only two problems with Mr Cerami's writing. One, he belabors things. Two,
Jan 16, 2016 Trenchologist rated it really liked it
Not quite what it's billed to be, but still very enjoyable. The evening in question that is said to be unraveled here is really more a fulcrum, with the events leading to and the events that played out after the teetering axes at either side. Despite being quite against expectation--only one brief chapter detailed the dinner--the entire 'plot' and intrigue was still there, built, bit by bit, with fresh investigations into the dynamics of power and personalities involved, putting several of the F ...more
Don Weidinger
Dec 23, 2012 Don Weidinger rated it really liked it
A detailed snapshot of 1789, thought-provoking. Credit, residence, turmoil in Europe were significant issues. George and Alex, Tom 5 years in France back in 89, Madison research and belief that centralized power tends to corruption and government failure, equal vote a solution, John Qs affinity for Tom, George example of showing-up to encourage the 87 convention, Alex belief in property rights per Fed papers, Morris support, Alex 2-50K loans, May 90 pneumonia of George, need to borrow from UK, S ...more
Amy Hoodock
Oct 22, 2013 Amy Hoodock rated it liked it
An interesting read concerning the essentially hostile relationship between Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton and the Assumption compromise. Most of the information in the book accurately reflected other sources I have read, but the author's tendency to make leaps in reasoning really turned me off, e.g., this was the worst example of in history EVER - or - so and so MUST have thought in situations with no evidence to back up such statements. That jarred me and made me more suspicious of the rest ...more
Nov 30, 2010 Joanne rated it it was ok
This is not a book I would have picked up myself but I'm reading it for my book club. Although it sometimes reads like a textbook, it is a really interesting look at the founding fathers. Not always flattering. It gives a new perspective on these men - very humanizing, I found myself skimming parts but was really interested in the dinner. Little facts like having a dumbwaiter for each guest so that the servants wouldn't hear what was being discussed were interesting. Lots of wheeiing and dealing ...more
May 11, 2009 Bobbie57 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I am a political junkie and this book let us see the early days of our country as if it was a political happening of today. Even though the creation of factions was looked down upon it seems inevitable. The balance of personalities and ideas and the pressures that George Washington had to deal with while trying to prevent our country from tearing apart before it was barely born was so interesting to me.
Bea Elwood
Feb 24, 2013 Bea Elwood rated it liked it
First I have to express my frustration that the "three men, five great wines, and the evening that changed Amercia" is misleading since the dinner in question is contained in one chapter. However the historical perspective of the infant American government and the in-fighting and politics (both dirty and otherwise) were interesting and worth the reading even though I struggled to keep the key players seperated and was often a little confused by the narrative of the book.
Jan 19, 2014 Jennifer rated it did not like it
Shelves: half-read
I've tried to read and listen to this book several times because I'm keenly interested in the subject. This last time I made it more than half way through the book with no indication that I would ever get to read about the event foretold in the title. Needless to say I found the author's detailed set up (if you can call it that) extremely tiresome. As much as I don't like to, I had to give up on this one.

Sep 25, 2012 Ani rated it did not like it
This book was so disappointing and not at all what I expected. The title and the publisher's description were quite misleading. There was only 13 pages devoted to the dinner and the wine! The rest of the book was dry political description. Not even the few recipes included in the appendix could redeem this book for me. If you are interested in social history or food writing, this is not the book for you.
Jan 24, 2011 Amy rated it it was ok
Inappropriate title and description for the book. The dinner lasted one chapter, or more precisely twelve pages, which means a lot of lead up to the dinner, and wrap up after. Pushing that aside, albeit with difficulty considering I assumed this would be about food and wine, there was interesting history to be learned about the birth of Washington, DC, as well as the interaction between Jefferson and Hamilton.
Jon Barber
Jan 02, 2014 Jon Barber rated it really liked it
An enjoyable read for most of the book. Takes you through the country's first presidency and how Hamilton, Madison, and Jefferson might have interacted to make the country financially secure and to settle on the location for a capital city near the Potomac River, focusing specifically on an evening where just those 3 enjoyed wines and food and conversation.

An interesting addition: It ends with the recipes served at the momentous dinner.
Mar 10, 2012 Heather rated it it was ok
This book was tough to get through. It took until chapter 10 to actually get to the dinner and then the author spent a few pages discussing the dinner. The story was extremely hard to follow and jumped all over the place. The only reason I gave it two stars was because there were a few facts that I learned that have intrigued me to read biographies on people mentioned in the story. I wouldn't recommend wasting your time on this book.
Wonderfully written and a very interesting topic. There is less about the dinner in here than one might imagine from the title- but not one word is a disappointment. There is much ramping up to the dinner, much about the background of early American politics and the three men involved and a great synopsis of what the dinner did to change America through precedence and purpose even through today.
Feb 07, 2012 Wendy rated it really liked it
Good read and I'm not a history buff. Lots of interesting details about Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton, Washington and the beginning of our country. It seems that party politics has not changed much - negative campaigning, state vs federal, attacks on personal character, scandal, etc. Thanks for the book Jim III! I'll let you borrow it!
Susan Coley
Jan 15, 2012 Susan Coley rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012-challenge
Excellent book and relevant to this election cycle. In the 1790s as the United States was coming into its own, partisan politics and banking troubles plagued the country much like today. The book mentioned James Madison was a man who studied history and the fall of great nations. It would do our leaders well to read this book and contemplate our future.
Mar 12, 2013 Ryan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: history buffs
Shelves: favorites
An artfully well-written book by Charles A. Cerami that brings much needed attention to the little-known dinner between Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton, respectively, that forever changed the course of the inchoate nation and saved the Union. Cerami writes in a concise, easy to understand style that should prove inviting and enriching to all readers interested in American history.
Paul Cutler
Apr 07, 2013 Paul Cutler rated it liked it
Very interesting topic. I learned a lot about each of the main characters. However, the author seemed to repeat the same material again and again to make the book longer. Still a great read if you want to learn more about the political world of the 1790s in America.
Sarah Bookwalter
Sep 29, 2011 Sarah Bookwalter rated it liked it
Easy read for historical non-fiction. The dinner is only actually one chapter, but the lead up and info about Hamilton's and Jefferson's contentious relationship is fascinating. Might have to put that Alexander Hamilton book on my list.
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“From that point on, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and a few other intimates made it their first priority to arrange a deal with Hamilton—letting him have his assumption plan, but hopefully in the form of a compromise that would force him to give up something in return. Chapter” 0 likes
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