Thomas Jefferson: A Life

by Willard Sterne Randall

Hardcover, 1993




New York : H. Holt, 1993.


George Washington is the story of a man who turned an impoverished childhood and frequent humiliations at the hands of the mother he feared into a career of rebellion and creation. He learned from the British commanders who rejected him during his days on the frontier how to fight a war of rebellion. When he had worn out and nearly bankrupted his soldiers and his allies, Washington disbanded the victorious army he had forged and resigned to Congress, giving life to democratic government. George III once said that Washington would be the greatest man of the eighteenth century if he could give up power. And he did. Twice.A backwoods fighter before and during the French and Indian War, he employed a largely ragtag army of volunteers and the tactics of guerrilla warfare to defeat the world's most feared military power. His maneuvers to escape direct confrontation would be studied years later and serve as a model for Ho Chi Minh's field commanders in Vietnam. And, most important, as this fresh and authoritative narrative reveals, he exhibited the temperament for leadership in war and in peace, while suffering scoundrels, hardships, and a rogue press bent on his destruction.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member RudyJohnson
In my opinion, I believe that this book should be rated right up there with the top Thomas Jefferson Bio’s out on the market today. The author wrote the biography of Thomas Jefferson in such a way that made reading interesting and comprehensible. The book covers the span of Jefferson’s life and pays close attention to Jefferson’s contributions to the founding of our country during his stay in Paris. If you haven’t read any books on Jefferson I would eagerly recommend this book by Mr. Randall.… (more)
LibraryThing member dannywon
What a monumental personality. Like Franklin, very much a renaiissance man with his scientific, political, artistic pursuits. A highly evolved intellect contained in a non-confrontational package (unlike his friend John Adams) though with a deceptively conyving personality. A lover of French cuisine, classical architecture, horticulture, the natural sciences, arts, philosophy, diplomacy, commerce; and a magnificent legal mind. The one achilles heal, and he knew it, was his being a slave holder. although, conficted about its evils, still unable to freee his own.… (more)
LibraryThing member ursula
One interesting thing about this book is that you go quite far (about 80%) before you get to Jefferson's presidency. That's kind of strange, although perhaps that choice was made because his time as a lawyer and in Virginia politics really shaped his legacy. It still felt incomplete, though, to have such a small section devoted to that. I did enjoy learning more about his marriage and personal life. I didn't realize that he experienced so many losses and that his wife was in such ill health. He seemed very devoted to her, and was much affected by her difficulties.

Some serious editing could have been used in the book - I often found myself thinking, "Didn't I already read this quote?" or "Why is he telling me this again?" Perhaps with that editing, more time could have been spent on the presidential years. Also, the author is thoroughly anti-the Sally Hemings relationship, dismissing it out of hand. The book was written before DNA tests were done, but even so, Randall considered it ridiculous and barely mentions the possibility.

Overall, a good book about Jefferson although over-long and occasionally a bit of a slog.
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