Thursday, April 26, 2012

Book Review on Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History by Fawn M. Brodie

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Thomas Jefferson An Intimate History by Fawn M. Brodie, incorporates the overall views of the author and the use of primary and secondary sources as well as Jefferson’s personal perspectives of the revolutionary goals, and commoner’s experiences.


Fawn M. Brodie’s view of Thomas Jefferson is that of a positive attitude. The author’s purpose is to penetrate deep into Jeffersons personal life and psychological ways to better understand Thomas on a personal level. Brodie’s perspective of Jefferson is that of admiration and is apparent particularly when stated, ..the heroic image remained untarnished and his genius undiminished. (pg.18) Fawn tries to obtain an optimistic perspective of the reasons for Jeffersons actions towards things and is clearly conspicuous when she states, “The fault, it can be held, lay not in Jefferson but in the society which condemned him to secrecy. (pg. 17) Jefferson is viewed as “compulsive” in orderliness and utterly prudent.


The author’s use of primary and secondary sources is very efficient. Brodie incorporates Thomas Jefferson’s own writings throughout the biography. Her primary sources mainly consist of letters, pamphlets, autobiographies that were written by Jefferson himself. The Author uses primary sources to “dissect” and identify Thomas Jefferson’s views and problems in his personal life that may have contributed to his writings therefore emphasizing his personal “semi-transparent shadow” (pg. 7) life. She includes several of the primary sources throughout the book and includes an appendix where numerous sources are found as well. Brodie uses secondary sources mostly for those who were acquaintances, or relatives of Thomas Jefferson such as Martha Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and others.


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Thomas Jefferson’s perspectives of the American Revolution are clearly visible throughout the text. Jefferson himself states Our minds were circumscribed within narrow limits, by an habitual belief that it was our duty to be subordinate to the mother country in all matters of government, to direct all our labors in subservience to her interests, and even to observe a bigoted intolerance for all religions but hers, (pg. 10) in which he views America as a secondary and not a primary part of Britain. Jefferson believes that the causes of the Revolution were Britain’s lack of listening, and providing. He believed the empire’s cheating; unfairness, taking back what was rightfully the Americas’, punishment of the innocent, and playing favorites towards America were causes as well.


The goals of the American Revolution, according to Thomas Jefferson, are conveyed efficiently in Brodie’s text. Jefferson viewed slavery as “an infamous practice” (pg. 10) which therefore had to be extinguished and appointed as a goal of the revolution. This goal was one of Jefferson’s ambivalences of the revolution; for he showed a “..kind of seesawing, obvious uncertainty..” (pg. 104) Also, Jefferson believes a goal of the revolution is to not separate from the mother country (Britain) unless the “island” does not recognize America as primary.


Fawn M Brodies descriptive text also expresses Thomas Jeffersons view of the commoners experiences during the American Revolution. Brodie clearly conveys Jefferson’s belief that the commoners were being “lashed like slaves” (pg. 11) because of Britain’s subordinate attention. He also believes that the commoners were not entirely safe, but affected during the revolution. He believed they were united and whatever hurt one man hurt the rest.


Thomas Jefferson An Intimate History by Fawn M. Brodie was indeed thorough in Thomas Jefferson’s life because of Brodie’s emphasize of Jefferson’s psychological side and penetration into his deep and personal life. Doing so, one is able to identify Jefferson’s ideals and a general perspective as well as Brodie’s; therefore providing the reader with a side of Thomas Jefferson unseen by the rest of humanity.


-Ethereal Bibliography


Brodie, Fawn M. Thomas Jefferson An Intimate History. New York W. W. Norton and


Company, 174.


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