Paul Perry's Reviews > Thomas Jefferson: Author of America

Thomas Jefferson by Christopher Hitchens
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's review
Oct 27, 2010

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bookshelves: historical, non-fiction, biography, politics, male-author
Read from December 08 to 15, 2010

Hitchens' well-written, lucid biography of the US statesman is certainly no whitewash; the portrait he paints shows Jefferson as a flawed figure who shaped the United States both through his drive and enlightenment principles but also through his willingness to sometimes ignore those principles to achieve his goals, occasionally goals that were pure self interest.

Most interestingly, Hitchens successfully places the man and his beliefs in the context of his era. In almost every respect Jefferson was a man ahead of his time, but more so in some ways than others. For instance, while he detested slavery, he in no way believed that blacks were the equals of whites, or that the two 'races' were capable of living together.

This is also a book about the American experiment. As Hitchens notes in the closing pages, the American revolution is perhaps the only revolution that has not ultimately consumed itself. But mostly a reminder that, however visionary and revolutionary, it is impossible for anyone to not be a product of their time. As he says in closing, this is "a reminder that history is a tragedy and not a morality tale."
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