Benjamin Franklin was The First American as the title of the book by H.W. Brands suggests. On his road to becoming the first American, Brands argues t
Benjamin Franklin was The First American as the title of the book by H.W. Brands suggests. On his road to becoming the first American, Brands argues that Franklin considered himself British and intended to settle in London and live out his life until a course of events set in place by the times altered his life path. The work covers Franklin’s life from birth and ends with his death the night of April 17, 1790. Brands exposition of Franklin removes him from the historical folk character every school kid in America learns about and transforms him into a genius level figure, sought after worldwide for intellectual discussions and employment of his skills to solve conflicts around the world. It was Dr. Franklin, not Dr. Kissinger, who invented shuttle diplomacy.
While he was recognized around London as a representative of the American colonies, Franklin was better known around the world for his intellect. He was, as goes Brands’ argument, “one of the most illustrious scientists and thinkers on earth.” Brands introduced Franklin with eloquence and clarity:
His experiments with electricity, culminating in his capture of lightning from the heavens, had won him universal praise as a modern Prometheus. His mapping of the Gulf Stream saved the time and lives of countless sailors. His ingenious fireplace conserved fuel and warmed homes on both sides of the Atlantic. His contributions to economics, meteorology, music, and psychology expanded the reach of human knowledge in the grip of human power. For his accomplishments the British Royal Society had awarded him its highest prize; foreign societies had done the same. Universities cued to grant him degrees. The ablest minds of the age consulted him on matters large and small. Kings and emperor's summoned him to court, where they admired his brilliance and basked in its reflected glory.
The First American is a study of the Eighteenth Century through the experiences of Benjamin Franklin and through those who experienced him.
Born on January 17, 1706 , Benjamin was his father’s fifteenth child, his tenth son. At 17 year of age, seeking opportunity and intellectual challenges, he took off for New York, then Philadelphia. The promise of another opportunity that same year landed him in London. By now, and expert printer, he returned to Philadelphia opening his own printing business. While there he began to publish the Philadelphia Gazette and Poor Richard’s Almanac.
Soon after Franklin’s success had blossomed, he married Debbie Read, who he had courted prior to leaving for London. Unfortunately, He had ignored Read during his absence and she married another. The collapse of that marriage allowed for Franklin to finally take his bride on September 1, 1730. Soon after, a son was born. However, the son was not from the union of Franklin and his new bride. Rather the boy resulted from a relationship Franklin had with a woman who is lost to history.
The first portion of the book exposes so many elements of Franklin that that high school and under grad textbooks leave out for expediency and public decency. As the book continues it turns to the better know tales of congresses, conventions and constitutions. Brands takes several sidebars that will be interesting to students of history with mini-biopics on historical characters of the period as an introduction prior to intertwining their live with Franklins. Character studies of William Penn, and the shaping of the world’s first planned city; Religious pundit Cotton Mathers; George Whitfield, the great orator whose words inspired a continent; and George Washington and his contemporaneous adventures in the Ohio country were all fascinating side notes that actually would be a good source for short history projects. The chapter notes are useful as they name the personal correspondence and other primary sources that will be useful for further research.
The author, H.W. Brands is a product of Stanford University. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin where he is a professor of history. He has published at least thirty titles including biographies on Presidents Grant, Jackson, Wilson, and Theodore Roosevelt. The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin was published in New York in 2000 by Doubleday. While there were not an abundance of reviews in academic journals on Brand’s work on Franklin, there was praise and criticism from learned sources.
H. W. Brands The First American removes some of the varnish from the Benjamin Franklin that we all grew up knowing as the bespectacled grandfather of our country who invented the rocking chair and flew a kite with a key tied to the string. Brands exposes Franklin as a flesh and blood person who had parents that could not give him proper care and education and abandoned him to indentured servitude. We see Franklin as a character that escaped his bondage and lived by his wits in the streets. He grew before our eyes as one whose wits served him well, as others easily recognized his abilities and lifted him out of his predicaments. He was a womanizer who gambled away and lost his one true love just to win her back again to begin building a life. Each time Franklin tried to quit public life and sink into a relaxed retirement, he was pulled back in, time and again, to act as the agent of wisdom for complex times. He came to love England, where he was able to find the intellectual companionship he craved and was given the respect he deserved. He was of high morals and when forced to choose between the England he adopted and the America that bore him, he saw the corruption of England and the hope for America, and he chose America. Brands has delivered Benjamin Franklin to readers in a form that is enjoyable to read and at the same time challenges old notions of an Americas Folk hero.
Author Jon Meacham takes a fresh look at one of the most controversial presidents of the United States. American Lion (New York: Random House, 2008) eAuthor Jon Meacham takes a fresh look at one of the most controversial presidents of the United States. American Lion (New York: Random House, 2008) earned the Newsweek editor the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 2009. The book opens with a comprehensive review of Jackson’s birth, young life, military career and presidency. The balance of the work covers Jackson’s administration and the crises he faced as the unlikely president navigated his way through the established Washington power structure.
In December of 1828 Andrew Jackson and his wife Rachel were preparing for their new life in the nation’s capital after having been elected to the Whitehouse after what may have been the dirtiest political campaign in American history. The election process stirred up old animosities with his rival, the current president, John Quincy Adams. Old rumors and innuendos surfaced during the campaign that Mrs. Jackson had not divorced her first husband before taking up with and marrying Jackson. At the same time, Jackson’s surrogates intimated that Adams had “procured a woman” for Czar Alexander I while Adams was America’s representative to Russia.
The attacks on Rachel and the resulting stress, Jackson believed, was the source of his wife’s collapse and death just days before Christmas 1828. Rachel had stood by her husband through the wars and the campaigns. Jackson addressed the mourners,
I am now the President elect of the United States, and in a short time must take my way to the metropolis of my country; and, if it had been God’s will, I would have been grateful for the privilege of taking her to my post of honor and seating her by my side; but Providence knew what was best for her.” God, the author argues, was the only will that Jackson bowed to.
Meacham traces the Jackson family from their time in Ireland, but he neglects to mention that their origins are in Scotland, and that they were that breed know as Scotch-Irish that immigrated to America in the mid 1700s. Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson had two sons, Hugh and Robert, and was pregnant with a third when her husband Andrew died before giving birth to his namesake. Elizabeth raised her boys as a “poor relation” working as a servant in relative’s homes.
While young Andrew was just nine when the country declared its independence, within a few years the war for independence came to the Jackson’s home territory in the Carolinas and Georgia, soon taking the life of his 16 year old brother Hugh. At fourteen, Andrew and his brother Robert became prisoners of the British. While the author exposes that the duo were hunted and captured at the house of a relative, what they did to raise the ire of the British was not exposed in the manuscript. Tracked down at a Small Pox infested prison camp about 40 miles from their home, their mother was able to secure their release, though the author leaves you wondering how. The older Jackson brother, Robert, who had fallen ill to the Small Pox, was hoisted on the one horse that the mother rode to the camp. Robert did not survive the journey, and their mother Elizabeth soon followed in death, orphaning the 14 year old Andrew.
After a period as a roustabout, wandering from town-to-town, drinking up the experiences of disparate communities, he spent some time in Salisbury, North Carolina where he studied and in 1787 received his license to practice law. In 1788, the twenty-one year old Jackson moved to Tennessee, which was not yet a state, and became a boarder at the home of his future wife, 17 year old Rachel who, at the time, was in a stormy marriage with Lewis Robards. To escape Robard’s abuses, Rachel’s friends and family helped her to re-locate to Natchez, Mississippi. Sometime in the winter of 1790-91, having heard that Robards had filed for divorce, Jackson galloped to Natchez to marry his beloved. Meacham points out that Robards had petitioned for divorce in December of 1790, and the petition was not granted until September of 1794. The author argues that Jackson was married to “another man’s wife” for several years. Having realized their mistake, the couple legalized their union in a Tennessee marriage ceremony in January of 1795.
Prone to standing up for his honor, Jackson was known to challenge others to a dual for reasons of pride. The author offers that Jackson killed in cold blood in one well-documented duel in Nashville with Charles Dickenson who may have cast an aspersion against Rachel during an intense argument about a horse race. Standing just twenty feet away, a distance that would be difficult for an average gun handler of the day to miss, Jackson allowed his opponent to shoot first, the result: a bullet in his chest that Jackson carried for the next thirty-nine years. His opponent did not fare as well. Jackson shooting second delivered a shot to the chest instantly killing his opponent.
In 1805, Jackson nearly got into a treasonous conspiracy with Aaron Burr, the former vice-president and killer of Alexander Hamilton. Under the guise of raising an army to defend against a Spanish attack, Burr may have been planning a move on the southwest territories. Jackson became suspicious of the plan and sought advice from several sources including President Thomas Jefferson. Burr was eventually arrested and tried for treason.
Jackson served five years as a Tennessee Superior Court judge, Attorney General of the State, representative to the United States congress, and as Senator from Tennessee by the beginning of the 1812 war with Britain, at which time he was already a major general in the state militia. He was forty-five years old. Jackson assembled over 2,000 troops and marched towards New Orleans. 500 miles into the journey Jackson was ordered to stop and disband his troops and send them home. Jackson was given no support or provisions to get his troops home, and many were ill and could not travel. Jackson took the responsibility of getting each man home. It was on this journey that he was named “Old Hickory”.
At the end of the war of 1812, without notice that the war had been settled with a treaty signed at Ghent several weeks earlier, Jackson led his troops against the British in the Battle of New Orleans, killing over 300 and wounding over twelve hundred, while only losing thirteen of his own troops and sustaining only thirty-nine injuries. Those events which occurred on January 23, 1815, made Jackson a hero to the country and propelled him to the national stage.
While Andrew and Rachel Jackson never had children of their own, they acquired children along the way. Andrew Jackson Donelson, Rachel’s nephew, was partially looked after by the Jackson’s when his father died when he was five. When Rachel’s brother and wife had twins, they gave one of the infants to the Jackson’s who adopted him naming him Andrew Jackson, Jr. Five years later, after Jackson’s troops massacred a party from the Creek Indian Nation, Jackson found a small baby that had survived the slaughter. He sent the child home to be part of the Jackson family.
At the end of 1817, thinking that President Monroe had implied consent, Jackson invaded and conquered Spanish controlled Florida. Monroe’s Secretary of War, John C. Calhoun denounced the action, while Secretary of State John Quincy Adams defended Jackson. While congressional probe did not result in a congressional censure, a new item was added to the list that Jackson’s enemies could use against him.
Jackson, riding high on his wave of national prominence, received the most popular votes in the Presidential election of 1824 of the four candidates including the Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, House Speaker Henry Clay, and Treasury Secretary William Crawford. Lacking an Electoral College majority, the contest would be settled in the House of Representatives. Adams emerged the victor in the House contest presided over by Clay. Clay was soon appointed as Secretary of State as a result of what Jackson believed to be a “corrupt bargain”.
In a rematch in 1828, Jackson beat Adams with 56 percent of the popular vote and a landslide in the Electoral College. Elected in November, his wife died in December and he took office in March of 1829. His distinguished cabinet included Martin Van Buren as Secretary of State, and John Eaton as Secretary of War.
An error in the editing of the book stood out in Chapter 4 with the introduction of the nullification crisis and of John C. Calhoun as the elected Vice-President to Jackson’s Presidency. While Calhoun had been mentioned in the previous chapter as the Secretary of War, his first reference in the next chapter was only as Calhoun, without his first name or qualifying title. Chapter 4 begins on page 52 with the transitions from the Adam’s presidency to the Jackson presidency. Both Adams and Henry Clay are re-introduced with first and last name and title. The chapter harkens back to 1822 when the nullification crisis first emerged in South Carolina. When the chapter catches up to the period of interest, early 1829, on page 54, the author begins a paragraph with “The sense of powerlessness in South Carolina was wide and deep. In a pair of letters written to Calhoun in April and May . . .” The author goes on the mention Calhoun 2 more times before he is finally introduced on page 57 with:
From the procession, Jackson went off to the Senate chamber, where the president pro tempore swore John C. Calhoun in as vice president. Articulate and intellectual, more at home with ideas than action, Calhoun had balanced the Jackson ticket, but the two men were not close, and never would be.
Since 1822 South Carolina had been “nullifying” federal laws in favor of their own state’s rights. While Meacham introduces the Tariff of Abominations that raised duties from 33 to 50 percent, the reader is left to find other sources for details of what the tariff was, who was charged the duties and why North Carolina would oppose them to the point of threatening to break up the Union.
Meacham introduces what he calls The Eaton Crisis and weaves the details through six chapters and puts the crisis in perspective with the other pressing issues faced by the Jackson administration. First introduced in this account as Margaret O’Neale Timberlake Eaton, the author argues that she was one who “had few impulses that she did not act on”, and “few opinions that she did not offer.” Margaret was the daughter of an innkeeper whose boarding house was frequented by visiting legislators including, at times, Jackson. Another frequent tenant was Jackson’s longtime friend and confidant Senator John Eaton, who would be appointed as Jackson’s Secretary of War. Upon the mysterious death of Margaret’s husband, she became Mrs. John Eaton. The author paints a graphic portrait of Margaret Eaton supplying citations describing her as “adept at the barroom art of creating a sense of intimacy with paying customers” “Margaret became the subject of rumors about alleged sexual exploits” Meacham included some of the rumors that circulated through Washington such as that her husband slit his own throat, despondent over her infidelity; she passed a man in the hallway without recognizing him, having in the past, slept with him; registered in a New York hotel with Eaton as man and wife while her husband was still alive; And perhaps her biggest sin was that “her tongue was ungoverned and ungovernable” and she was “outspoken and outrageous in an age that tended to value tact.” Emily Donelson, who served as the Mistress of the Whitehouse absent a first lady, said of the affair:
There has been a good deal of discontent manifested here about the cabinet and particularly the appointment of Major Eaton . . . His wife is held in too much abhorrence here to be noticed or taken into society.
Washington society would refuse to accept such a woman into their circles. Jackson, who encouraged the marriage, by instinct defended friends against all comers said “I will sink or swim with him, by God.” Emily wrote a friend “The ladies here have determined not to visit her”. The author argues that it was a determination that would help change the course of American politics.
The events began to play themselves out when the Eaton’s paid a visit to Vice President John C. Calhoun and his wife. The rules of the day would have the VP and his wife return the courtesy by calling on the Secretary of War and his wife. Floride Calhoun made the decision for them that set the precedent for all of the Washington wives. She would not return the call. In her review of Meacham’s book LaShanda F. Ellis-Ramsey, said
Meacham focuses an inordinate amount of the book on the Petticoat Affair [Eaton Crisis], which may leave the reader feeling as though he has landed in a gossip column rather than a work of historical non-fiction.
Meacham intertwines in real time the Eaton crisis with Jackson’s fight with Nicholas Biddle over Second Bank of the United States; Jackson’s dealing with Native Americans, the forced resettlements, and the Trail of Tears; and the nullification crisis.
Before the end of Jackson’s first term, Eaton and Van Buren resigned voluntarily to help end the incessant crises, and the remainder of the cabinet were forced to follow. Jackson, as a reward for his loyalty and service, appointed Van Buren as envoy to England. Calhoun in turn wanted to clear the field of probable Jackson replacements in favor of himself. He blocked Van Buren’s confirmation in the senate, with Calhoun himself casting the tie-breaking vote against his nomination.
Jackson, more than any other president to that time, sought to increase the power of the executive branch. He set those powers to action against the Second Bank of the United States. Jackson viewed the bank as evil and corrupt, and set out to dismantle it and the bank’s president Nicholas Biddle, setting the stage for another Jackson duel. Jackson did not want to address the issue before his reelection, but Biddle pushed up the date for the recharter in the House which they expeditiously passed. Jackson, not to be out politicked, vetoed the bill. Jackson’s extensive veto message set a new standard addressing political, social, and economic, as well as constitutional, objections to legislation.
Ellis-Ramsey continued in her review,
Meacham does a phenomenal job of framing the highly charged issues and the battle between the Executive and Legislative Branches by drawing on accounts in letters written by persons closest to Jackson. By taking this literary approach, American Lion reads more like a suspense-filled Tom Clancy or Robert Ludlum novel than a biography discussing historical events.
She concludes that American Lion is not for the Andrew Jackson novice because Meacham does not present a well-balanced critical analysis of all the issues during Jackson’s presidency.
Martin H. Levinson, PHD, in his review for the Institute of General Semantics, Inc., wrote
Andrew Jackson was the first president to face an assassination attempt, the only president to pay off the national debt, the founder of the Democratic Party, and the architect of the presidency, as we know it. If you're interested in learning more about America's seventh president, this book is a good place to start.
Nick McCall reviewed American Lion and opined For any student of American history, political science or legal history, American Lion offers a fascinating glimpse into the life and times of Jackson, the preeminent president to adhere to a view of executive branch powers akin to Arthur Schlesinger’s “Imperial Presidency” theory. Emblematic of this is a protocol shift occurring on Jackson’s watch.
Jon Meacham’s American Lion is a great companion book for the other scholarly works on Andrew Jackson. The book also serves as a great source for those studying Martin Van Buren and other important characters that crossed paths with America’s seventh president.
Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed Reviewed by Mike Briggs 5-8-2012
Annette Gordon-Reed’s book The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family
Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed Reviewed by Mike Briggs 5-8-2012
Annette Gordon-Reed’s book The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2008) is a remarkable history of America’s third president through the filter of researching the genealogy and relationships of one African American family, the Hemings, who through fate and destiny became tangled in so many ways with Thomas Jefferson to the point of becoming “Jeffersons”. The book is a study of Elizabeth Hemings, the matriarch of the family, and the life’s journey of her offspring, and that of Jefferson while he rises through political life to the presidency. The main argument and assumption of the book is that Jefferson, not only fathered children with his slave, Sally Hemings, but lived with Sally as a husband would live with a wife, or in the vernacular chosen by Gordon-Reed, Sally was his concubine.
While the work supplies a look at Jefferson’s life and relationships with his revolutionary colleagues and with women after his wife’s death, his time in France and in the nation’s capital, the book tells the history of the Hemingses, starting with the matriarch, Elizabeth. Elizabeth “Betsy” was herself the product of a relationship between slave and master. From her research Gordon-Reed argues that Elizabeth’s father was “Captain” Hemings, and her mother was a “full African” slave who at some point came into the ownership of the family of Jefferson’s future mother-in-law Martha Epps. At about 11 years old, the half African, half white Elizabeth came under the domain of John Wayles when he married Martha Eppes. Gordon-Reed lists many pieces of evidence as to who Elizabeth Hemings was, and how she came to arrive at the Wayles home. Amongst those sources were the will of Martha Eppes’s father, Francis Eppes IV, and Jefferson’s own farm book. Additionally, the marriage settlement, essentially a prenuptial agreement which spelled out property and the control thereof, as the marriage commenced between John Wayles and Martha Eppes, also traced the line and helped make the distinction that the chattel Elizabeth and Betsy were one in the same.
Gordon-Reed makes the case through a tireless exposition of documents that tracks ownerships of, and transfers of, property that creates a trail that reinforces her arguments. The author presents compelling evidence that John Wayles fathered six of Elizabeth Hemings’ children. Amongst those six children was Sally Hemings, the ¼ black half-sister of his all white daughter Martha Wayles, the future Mrs. Thomas Jefferson. Gordon-Reed’s work tracks the Hemings’ transition from the Eppes household to the Wayles household, and eventually to Jefferson’s Monticello.
Gordon Reed’s exposes almost the most likely moment that Jefferson begins a relationship with and conceives a child with the 16 year old Sally Hemings. Hemings, the author argues, was a near perfect replica of Jefferson’s late wife Martha, who had died 9 years earlier, leaving Jefferson to raise their three daughters. The first evidence introduced by the author was that Jefferson, who kept copious spending records, all at once spent what would be the equivalent of about $1,000 in today’s dollars on clothing for Hemings. The author spends the next four chapters of the book churning up background evidence and suppositions leading to the thesis that suggests that Hemings’ baby was born at a point in 1790, after the party had returned to America, which timing would have left the conception to have occurred within the month prior to their departure from France on September 26, 1789. Gordon-Reed supports her thesis of a Jefferson familial relationship between not only Sally, but also her brother James who were both in France with Jefferson during his time there as the representative from the United States. James had accompanied Jefferson to France along with one of Jefferson’s daughters. Jefferson hired a French tutor for James who learned the language. Jefferson sent him out to study and learn from the best chefs in France. Sally arrived in France several years later, accompanying Jefferson’s second daughter of the voyage to Europe. While the record is not clear, it is argued that Sally also learned French, and that she and James were both well dressed and that they freely enjoyed the French culture. While they each lived a life that allowed them extensive movement beyond the gates of their French home, Gordon-Reed argues that they each would have known that in France they were free – not slaves. And with that taste of freedom, they each chose to return to the United States and resume their legal status as slaves.
While there may have been a hesitation by Sally to return to America, the now pregnant Hemings struck a bargain with Jefferson that included the eventual freeing of her siblings and her children from the bonds of slavery, there were also signs that Jefferson deeply cared for Sally and wished her to return to America with him. Gordon-Reed argues that it would likely have been more expedient for Jefferson to have quietly left Sally and her brother in France freeing Jefferson from having to explain in the future whose child this was and why the child so resembled Jefferson.
While the purpose of the book is to explore the relationship between the Hemings and Jefferson, the text is rich with a retelling of the history of the life of the third president. The fresh look, and revisiting of tales that all Jeffersonites are familiar with, this telling of, for example, the tensions between Jefferson and Hamilton, and his resignation from Washington’s cabinet, is told from the perspective of how the turns of events affected Jefferson’s personal life and reverberated through the lives of his daughters from his marriage to Martha and the effects on his children with Hemings.
As Jefferson climbed the political ladder, the possibility loomed that the relationship between Jefferson, which was already fairly well known in Charlottesville, would become a political scandal. While the nation was new, there had already been a sex scandal - the treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton admitted to having an adulterous affair with Maria Reynolds. And in 1790, the first hints of dirty politics surfaced when it was printed that there was damning proof of Jefferson’s depravity. In 1791 a New York paper said that Jefferson’s private life was far from spotless. It was not until September 1, 1802 that James Callendar wrote in the Richmond Recorder: “It is well known that the man, whom it delighteth the people to honor, keeps, and for many years has kept, as his concubine, one of his slaves. Her name is SALLY.” It was likely that the rumors and publicity caused Jefferson not to bring Sally Hemings to the President’s house when he finally took up residence there.
Amongst the evidence that Gordon-Reed presents of Jefferson’s paternity, is that each of their common children are named after people prominent in Jefferson’s life, naming his sons William Beverly Hemings and James Madison Hemings.
Gordon-Reed goes to great lengths to suggest that not only did Jefferson father the children of Sally Hemings, but he also cared for Sally, her siblings, and her children, and took care of them as long as he lived. The sad conclusion to the book was that upon Jefferson’s death, all reverted to the class of slavery and were sold off to pay Jefferson’s debts. Even those that were promised their future freedom in writing were denied their due, as they were security for Jefferson’s debt. Alas, Jefferson’s beloved Monticello and all of his property, including his slaves, were sold after his death, to satisfy the massive debt that he had incurred and inherited throughout his lifetime.
Other historians who reviewed the book felt that Gordon-Reed supported her thesis and left them with little doubt of Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings. Edward Countryman reviewed the book in the William and Mary Quarterly and called the book “Lengthy, humane, thoughtful, griping in its prose, compelling in its rich, sensitive argument. . .” Lorri Glover, of Saint Louis University, who reviewed the book for the American Historical Association wrote:
Gordon‐Reed is forthright about the evidentiary limitations, and she invites her reader to reason with her, to imagine what the sources cannot tell us definitely. When did Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings begin their sexual relationship? Did they care for one another? Why did Sally and her brother, James, return from Paris (where they would have been free people) to Virginia? What was it like to be reunited with their Virginia relatives—and with Virginia slavery? Gordon‐Reed shows that just because we cannot know for certain the answers does not mean we ought not to ask such questions. She offers her reasoned assessment of these and a myriad of other matters only after carefully considering alternative theories. Gordon‐Reed's curiosity is infectious, and her candor inspires confidence.
The book was well received amongst historian and Jefferson scholars. It is referenced often when an author requires a source for the Jefferson-Hemings relationship. While the book title, subject, and sex appeal make it attractive to the casual reader of history, the non-academic reader may find eye blurring the depth that the author goes into, at times up to four chapters to support one specific argument. The date that Sally and Jefferson first “hooked up” for example was supported by not less than four chapters. And in the end of the argument it took review, note taking and some mathematics to fully quantify the author’s point. In all fairness, the truth of the exact time and date are unknown, and the author used that intrigue to draw the reader into her argument. Also interesting is how the author jumps in and out of full commitment to her thesis that Jefferson and Hemings co-parented children when at one point she calls Hemings first male child “Jefferson’s first son”, and later states “Jefferson did not separate himself from Heming’s children”, rather than saying Jefferson did not separate himself from the children he had with Hemings.
This book is a must read for any person who has a passion for studying the lives of the presidents, or the early revolutionary governments. Whether you subscribe to author Annette Gordon-Reed’s argument that Jefferson had a strong and family like relationship with Sally Hemings, the book gives a great and refreshing approach to studying the day to day life of Thomas Jefferson.
The Prize, by Daniel Yergin covers the entire history of the oil industry from its inception in Titusville Pennsylvania, includes John D. Rockefeller'The Prize, by Daniel Yergin covers the entire history of the oil industry from its inception in Titusville Pennsylvania, includes John D. Rockefeller's rise to power and the Arab nation’s rise to self-control over their own oil industry. While the over 900 page text was the anchor in a graduate history course that I recently completed, It is a great source for many historical events including Japan’s rise to power and the conflicts with the United States leading up to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the Yom Kippur War and the Arab Oil Boycott. This is not just a study of oil, but rather how oil is so intertwined with historical events. ...more