I am pretty sure this book has been on my Kindle for over ten years. It is an exhaustive biography of Jefferson, but focused on his career as a political leader. That is not to me the most interesting aspect of the man, and doesn’t fully explore all the things that made him both a genius and a highly controversial figure. But it did provide a mountain of interesting detail about his activities and conduct – even if it didn’t fully reflect his multiple interests in real time. You have to know more about him to know that he perennially had numerous ongoing projects which reflected his wide range of interests, and that is an aspect of his life I am always interested in.
But one thing Meacham does convey is a better understanding of Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings and his children by her. He nails Jefferson’s notations in his daily accounts as to his location and the birth of all of the children of slaves on his estate to confirm that only he – and not some other male member of his family – fathered all of her chilfren. The book also gets across how Jefferson lived on a daily basis with slaves who were not just 7/8th white and his children, but who had three of the same four grandparents as his two daughters – since Sally and Jefferson’s deceased wife were half-sisters. It’s hard to understand what that life was like – Meacham makes that a little easier to understand.