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Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 15, 2012 08:28AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
This thread is for the Q&A with Jon.

GOOD NEWS UPDATE: The author will be joining us so keep those questions coming in.

But in the meantime, please begin posting your questions for the author Jon Meacham on this thread.

Many of you who are joining in on this discussion will be receiving your ARC in the next few weeks. For those of you not as fortunate, the release date is November 13th. So everyone will be able to participate fully and acquire a copy of the selection.

Regards,

Bentley

Thomas Jefferson The Art of Power by Jon Meacham by Jon Meacham Jon Meacham

Note: To make it easier for the author to tell what is your question and what is just personal musings on your part; please preface your question with the word Question: in bold or Questions: - if you have multiple ones. Remember the author has limited time and is sometimes checking in and responding when they are on book tour. So by making everything straight forward - it gets right to the questions that you have.

For example:

Question: In your view, what trait distinguishes Thomas Jefferson from others of his generation and today?


message 2: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Great questions Cheryl, thank you in advance.


message 3: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 25, 2012 03:35PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Peter posted these questions for Mr. Meacham:

Questions:

1. What future presidents are reminiscent of Jefferson and why?

2. What is your view of Jefferson's many hypocrises (e.g. declaration of independence - owned slaves; praised being frugal but spent way beyond his means; praised small farmers but owned (and didn't do a great job of running) a huge plantation, claimed to hate politics and 'faction' but ran a filthy campaign for president)?

3. To what extent do these contribute to his legacy being claimed by people of widely divergent political views.

4. Why do you think he is generally ranked pretty high by historians?


message 4: by Mark (new)

Mark Mortensen Questions:

1. Among the many qualities surrounding Monticello, both inside and out, is there one feature that you found particularly interesting?

2. After a lengthy period of researching and writing do you ever take a slight break to read a personal book that has nothing to do with your subject just to refresh yourself?


message 5: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Great questions folks; keep the questions coming and when Mr. Meacham does log in - he will have a plethora of questions to dig into.

Make sure to follow the format.


message 6: by Steve D (last edited Sep 25, 2012 04:29PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Steve D | 43 comments Question:

What do you think was the true inspiration behind Jefferson and Adams rekindling their friendship later in life? Did it have to do with their mutual respect for each other as patriotic and political giants, or were they more concerned with posterity and how it would be viewed if they never made amends?


message 7: by Mike (new)

Mike (xolotl-ltolox) Questions:

1. What do you think Jefferson would make of the Arab Spring and the recent events in North Africa (specifically the attacks on USA embassies)?

2. What do you think Jefferson would make of the Occupy movement?

3. Do you think Jefferson could be elected today (assuming no racial/slavery past)?

4. How do you think he would answer the current economic crises?


Bryan Craig Great questions, everyone. Keep them coming :-)


message 9: by Jill (last edited Sep 26, 2012 07:09AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Question

What do you think of Jefferson's idea that every government contains “some germ of corruption and degeneracy?"


message 10: by Dave (new)

Dave Kalach | 2 comments Question:

Whose legacy is greater in terms of shaping the development of our federal government, Jefferson or Hamilton?


message 11: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Question:
What made you want to research and write a book about Thomas Jefferson?


message 12: by G (new) - rated it 4 stars

G Hodges (glh1) | 901 comments Question
What do you think are the two or three similarities (if there are any) which made Jefferson, Churchill, and Roosevelt great men of their time who were able to rise to their respective crises?


Steve D | 43 comments Question:

In American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, you wrote, "Yes, Jefferson philosophically believed in a smaller federal establishment, in the rights of the states, and in congressional supremacy. In practice, however, he cheerfully extended the role of the executive to, among, other things, acquiring the Louisiana Territory." [p. 48]

After writing Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, why do you think Jefferson was so willing to deviate from his political ideals?

American Lion Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham by Jon Meacham Jon Meacham


message 14: by Shelly♥ (last edited Oct 13, 2012 10:44AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Shelly♥ (shellysjournal) QUESTION:
Why do you think Jefferson was able to establish such a close working relationship with Madison and Monroe, and yet could not somehow work with Hamilton, Adams and even John Marshall?


message 15: by Jill (last edited Oct 13, 2012 10:33AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Questions

1. How did Native Americans fit into Jefferson's particular vision of American democracy?

2. Would Jefferson's vision of democratically-elected United States government work better or worse than the republic we have today?


Bryan Craig Great questions, everyone. Thank you for posting early.


Shelly♥ (shellysjournal) Question:
Do you think there were other women that Jefferson dallied with after Martha's death besides Maria Cosway and Sally Hemmings?


message 18: by Mark (last edited Oct 18, 2012 03:21PM) (new)

Mark Mortensen Writing nonfiction requires both research and writing skills and you certainly have talents with each.

Question:
Would you say your personal satisfaction is a 50/50 blend or do slightly find more enjoyment with one over the other?


Bryan Craig Question: I read that you slept in TJ's bedroom for one night. Can you tell us about that experience? Also, what other things did you do outside of reading primary material that helped you get into the time period?


Brian | 6 comments Questions:

1). In your opinion what were some of the main differences in opinion that lead Thomas Jefferson and John Adams to have similar thoughts of so many topics but not politics in the late 1700’s to early 1800’s.

2). Do you think the multiple party model that formed helped to keep democracy alive or caused worse political rifts and gridlocks later in history.


Sherry (directorsherry) | 129 comments Question: How many of Alexander Hamilton's financial policies created when he was secretary of the treasury are still a part of our current national financial policies? Love the book! Thanks


message 22: by Joanne (new) - added it

Joanne | 647 comments In the book, you suggest a few ways in which Jefferson's childhood may have shaped his personality. Given the paucity of information about his life prior to his studies at William and Mary, do you remain curious about his childhood and early family life?


message 23: by R.M.F. (new)

R.M.F. Brown QUESTION: After watching Ken Burns' documentary on Jefferson, and reviewing some of the academic literature about Jefferson and other founding fathers, do you feel that modern analysis of the founding fathers tends to veer towards the realm of hagiography, rather than critical analysis?


message 24: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Folks, thanks for posting your questions early and there are a bunch of very good ones here. Random House has indicated that Jon Meacham will be here once they set up his goodreads account. So not too much longer. He will answer the questions on this thread which deal with Thomas Jefferson and/or his book. He will pop in as he has time much as Sally Bedell Smith did so keep the questions coming.

Sally Bedell Smith Sally Bedell Smith


Bryan Craig Thanks for the update, Bentley.


message 26: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
You are welcome.


message 27: by Lisa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa | 8 comments "Question" Sir, first of all, I want to thank you for allowing us to preview this wonderful work. I am thoroughly enjoying it.

My question is, when researching Jefferson or for that matter any of your subjects. What is it that draws you to them?


message 28: by Bryan (last edited Dec 06, 2012 07:15AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bryan Craig Question: People consider Jefferson a humble person (for example, the things he wrote on his own tombstone). Do you see this really as a tactic as Jefferson the politician?


message 29: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 19 comments Question:

Much has been made of the gap between Jefferson's ideological stances and his personal behavior. Is there any indication that he himself was aware of this gap and what he felt about it, whether he himself would have agreed, or whether this is a question mainly addressed in posterity.

Question:

Especially recent histories have made much of the reconciliation in the friendship between Adams and Jefferson. While certainly they did rekindle the correspondence, it is my impression that there is much more left to posterity in Adams writings about how much he valued this friendship than anything left by Jefferson. Did Jefferson renew the friendship with as much enthusiasm as Adams, and if not, why would this be so for someone who so deftly managed relationships in his political career? Did he intentionally edit or destroy any of this correspondence and, if so, why would that be?


message 30: by Jon (new)

Jon Meacham (jonmeacham) | 9 comments Cheryl wrote: "In your view, what trait distinguishes Thomas Jefferson from others of his generation and today?"

The central distinction, I think, is that Jefferson's generation was constantly aware of the connection between ideas and politics. They believed they were creating a political arena in which crucial notions about human nature, human freedom, and human destiny were to be tested. Today I think it's safe to say that politicians are more concerned with problem-solving---which is, in a way, a testament to the success of the Jeffersonian model. But I think we'd all like to see a renewed role for the life of the mind amid the pressures of public business.


message 31: by Jon (new)

Jon Meacham (jonmeacham) | 9 comments Cheryl wrote: "Question: Jon, Jefferson was a polymath. What differences, if any, are there between a man of letters and the specialists of today in terms of decision making?"

Being a polymath can cut both ways. On the one hand, as noted above, the link between ideas and action can be essential. On the other, we don't really want philosophers using politics to test theories that might be deleterious to the public good. As with nearly everything in life, then, it's a balancing act, and Jefferson understood that politics was just that: a matter of give and take.


message 32: by Jon (new)

Jon Meacham (jonmeacham) | 9 comments Bentley wrote: "Peter posted these questions for Mr. Meacham:

Questions:

1. What future presidents are reminiscent of Jefferson and why?


I think Lincoln with his compelling interest to balance the ideal and the real; FDR and his self-acknowledged capacity to juggle in the service of political ends; Kennedy and his wide-ranging interests; Reagan and his ability to project a vision of optimism; and Obama with his semi-detached, politician-writer ambivalence about politics.


message 33: by Jon (new)

Jon Meacham (jonmeacham) | 9 comments Bentley wrote: "Peter posted these questions for Mr. Meacham:

Questions:

2. What is your view of Jefferson's many hypocrises (e.g. declaration of..."



My view of his hypocrises--and you're right, they are legion--is that they are just that: hypocrises. He was a deeply flawed man, often inconsistent and given to hours of poor judgment. And yet I also believe he accomplished remarkable things, and that we must take him all in all.


message 34: by Jon (new)

Jon Meacham (jonmeacham) | 9 comments Bentley wrote: "Peter posted these questions for Mr. Meacham:
2. What is your view of Jefferson's many hypocrises (e.g. declaration of independence - owned slaves; praised being frugal but spent way beyond his means; praised small farmers but owned (and didn't do a great job of running) a huge plantation, claimed to hate politics and 'faction' but ran a filthy campaign for president)?

3. To what extent do these contribute to his legacy being claimed by people of widely divergent political views.


Terrific point. He can be so eloquently quoted on such a range of questions, sometimes on opposing sides of the same issue, that his is a legacy always in flux.


message 35: by Jon (new)

Jon Meacham (jonmeacham) | 9 comments Bentley wrote: "Peter posted these questions for Mr. Meacham:

Why do you think he is generally ranked pretty high by historians?


Because he was an effective revolutionary voice, a capable diplomat, an accomplished politician, and a president whose two terms, while predictably imperfect, repay our attention.


message 36: by Jon (new)

Jon Meacham (jonmeacham) | 9 comments Mark wrote: "Questions:

1. Among the many qualities surrounding Monticello, both inside and out, is there one feature that you found particularly interesting?


The play of light in Jefferson's rooms. Given the windows and skylights, and the various chambers where he could read and work, I was struck by how differently the rooms could seem at different times of the day.


message 37: by Jon (new)

Jon Meacham (jonmeacham) | 9 comments Mark wrote: "Questions: After a lengthy period of researching and writing do you ever take a slight break to read a personal book that has nothing to do with your subject just to refresh yourself?




Absolutely. Just this season I've re-read Trollope's "Can You Forgive Her?" And I loved Hilary Mantel's "Bring Up the Bodies" and Gillian Flynn's "Sharp Objects" and "Gone Girl."


message 38: by Jon (new)

Jon Meacham (jonmeacham) | 9 comments Steve wrote: "Question:

What do you think was the true inspiration behind Jefferson and Adams rekindling their friendship later in life? Did it have to do with their mutual respect for each other as patriotic and political giants, or were they more concerned with posterity and how it would be viewed if they never made amends? "


I think they were linked more by their common experiences, and they were getting old, which meant there were fewer and fewer correspondents with whom they could speak as fellow revolutionaries. The view of posterity mattered, too, of course, but my own opinion is that the common bonds were more important in reuniting by letter than reputation-management.


Bryan Craig Thanks for joining us, Mr. Meacham, and giving us some of your valuable time. We do appreciate it.


message 40: by Katy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Katy (kathy_h) Jon wrote: "Bentley wrote: "Peter posted these questions for Mr. Meacham:

Questions:

2. What is your view of Jefferson's many hypocrises (e.g. declaration of..."


My view of his hypocrises--and you're right, they are legion--is that they are just that: hypocrises. He was a deeply flawed man, often inconsistent and given to hours of poor judgment. And yet I also believe he accomplished remarkable things, and that we must take him all in all. "


Thank you Mr. Meacham for this thought, I love your answer. Many times as people we look back at historical figures and either want to see the hero or the flaws and not the whole person and how they worked with their flaws to accomplish what needed done.


Bryan Craig I agree, Kathy, many people put TJ on a pedestal and it quite an awakening when you look at him as a person.


Miranda Carbaugh | 9 comments If Thomas Jefferson were to run for President today, ideologically which political party would he identify with the most?


message 43: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Greg, this thread is a Q&A for Jon Meacham.


Bryan Craig Question: Why did you think Jefferson loved to garden? Did it fit into his scientific, orderly view of the world?


William Mego (willmego) Question 1 of 2: on page 133 of the version we've received, you bring your assessment of the events of the British Invasion of Richmond of January 1781. You make the interesting point of Jefferson's decisions being a mistake stemming from his political experiences of the time, which seems quite reasonable. My question is then why is this a mistake? Considering the difficulties Virgina had historically had mustering foot soldiers previously (Jefferson's earlier suggestion that perhaps a cavalry could be more easily raised than foot soldiers to fulfill a quota, for example) and the general distaste the people in the region seem to have had in mustering militia, combined with both the political reality you mention AND the poor reliability of the intelligence of the time seem to allow no other action. If this is a mistake, could this only be considered a mistake with the knowledge of situations and intelligence knowable only in hindsight? What actions would you instead suggest he could have reasonably taken? The only one that springs to my mind as a possibility is the de-emphasizing of the Western defenses.

Questions 2 of 2: I apologize for asking you a military question here, feel free to not address it in depth should you so be inclined... Even if he had mustered every possible defensive resource and brought it to bear on the defense of Richmond could any chance exist of a successful defense? I quote from Chapter LXXX of Henry B. Dawson's Battles of the United States, Volume I, New York, 1858, pp. 641-644.
This descent of the enemy appears to have been entirely unexpected, and no provision had been made to guard against the contingency. When the fleet arrived, the State had no immediate means of defense, and the people appear to have been comparatively helpless. It is true that Governor Jefferson sent General Nelson to "the lower country" as soon as the presence of the fleet had become known, and had vested in him full "powers to call on the militia in that quarter, or act otherwise, as exigencies would require;" and it is no less true that General Steuben, supposing the stores at Petersburg were the objects of attack, employed about two hundred Continental troops, which he had under his command, to remove them beyond the reach of the invader. It is equally true, however,--and it was the source of evident mortification to the patriotic leaders in Virginia,--that the enemy moved into the heart of the country, accomplished his work, and retired with, comparatively no opposition, while every foot of his progress was susceptible of an obstinate and successful defence. The causes which have been assigned--the numerous impassable rivers which intersect "the lower country," and the thinness of the population--in fact, furnish reasons against the surprise and disgrace with which she was then overtaken, and Virginia can never wholly excuse the apathy which was apparent throughout the entire extent of her central and lower counties.


This seems to be the overriding feeling of history up to this point, that Jefferson did do many reasonable things to prepare, but yet somehow failed utterly to do...something. I understand the concept of the terrain making a running guerrilla defense possible, but considering the previous failures outnumbering the successes of militia engaging in complex operations against regular British forces especially those involving complex movement, is this still a reasonable expectation in your mind? To put it in plainer language: Are you personally able to imagine Jefferson assembling and directing a militia run delaying guerrilla action in the low-country against what Arnold later store in deposition to be 1,500 regulars? (Clinton later claimed they landed 1,800) to me, it just seems that they're angry at their own innate structural deficiencies, an argument I believe explains the strange twin resolutions debated afterwards, to blame the Governor and/or the Governorship. I'm very curious if you have any further thoughts related to ANYTHING concerning January-May 1781.


Tomerobber | 334 comments QUESTION This refers to the published version of the book itself . . . I was leafing through a hardback edition of this book at my local B&N store last noc. and noticed all the wonderful illustrations and photos in that copy and I was wondering if the eBook edition of your book has these same photos and illustrations as well? In my ARC copy provided by the publisher these were not included so I had no knowledge of them.

It has been my experience of late that these are integral to the book most of the time or the author wouldn't have bothered to include them . . . but publishers seem to think it's not necessary to provide them in eBook editions. Could you make sure that your publisher is aware of this issue and that as a consumer and purchaser of many eBooks . . . I would like to have this issue resolved.

Thanks so much for reading this.


Bryan Craig Question: What preconceived notions of Jefferson were shattered by your research and writing of your book?


message 48: by Mark (last edited Dec 19, 2012 12:40PM) (new)

Mark Mortensen Tom Brokaw along with many others has heralded America’s World War Two generation as “The Greatest Generation”. My parents were a part of that generation. Additionally I have living friends, whom I admire for their dedicated service. One friend is 95 year old Col. J Shelton Scales USMC (Ret), who was a battalion commander over 1,000 men on D-Day at Iwo Jima. On a side note his father, born in 1847 married for the first time at age 64 and the colonels' grandmother was 19 years old when Thomas Jefferson died! I would not take any credit away from the WWII generation, which sacrificed so much.

Personally I regard those of the World War One generation, as one like no other too. Both of my grandfathers fought in the Great War and like others of the generation, following Armistice they came home in 1919, got married and started families. As youthful parents they faced the stock market crash of 1929 and through necessity, determination and perseverance they found ways to become role models by providing for their children through the Great Depression of the early 1930’s. I can not fathom anything more terrible than years later for the men of the WWI generation, who witnessed death and destruction followed by lifetime nightmares to face sending their own sons off to an even more powerful war. The women of that generation who toiled so hard raising the family were left with years of constant worries of becoming a Gold Star mother. Those Americans from the forgotten WWI generation were grand too.

Question:
What comments do you have regarding the status of the American generation of our Founding Fathers?


Bryan Craig Question:Would you consider Jefferson consistent with his core political values throughout his career, or did he modify them as he became president?


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