Thomas Jefferson: Architect of Democracy

Overview

The words of the Declaration of Independence, so familiar to us and so important to our country, were those of Thomas Jefferson. He was a primary force behind United States independence. Without his influence, our country would be vastly different from the nation we know today. Jefferson initiated public education, established a national library, and paved the way for the abolishment of slavery. Although he was not a power-hungry or even ambitious politician, Jefferson served in many different offices, including ...

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Overview

The words of the Declaration of Independence, so familiar to us and so important to our country, were those of Thomas Jefferson. He was a primary force behind United States independence. Without his influence, our country would be vastly different from the nation we know today. Jefferson initiated public education, established a national library, and paved the way for the abolishment of slavery. Although he was not a power-hungry or even ambitious politician, Jefferson served in many different offices, including president, in order to help his fledgling country remain on its feet. His faith and dedication to the idea of self-government never wavered, even in the face of many personal hardships. John B. Severance traces Jefferson's life from his plantation boyhood to his two terms as president and his last days preparing for the opening of the University of Virginia, weaving details of both Jefferson's political career and his rich personal life together to create a thoughtful and well-researched biography. Jefferson quotes, bibliography, index.

Explores the life of the third president, from his childhood in Virginia, through his involvement in the Revolutionary War, to his years in office.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...an energetic account of a humane and dynamic leader." School Library Journal
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Severance's (Gandhi: Great Soul) ambitious portrait of America's third president chronicles Jefferson's life and career from his early education through his positions as author of the Declaration of Independence, governor of Virginia, ambassador to France, U.S. vice president and president, and finally as founder of the University of Virginia. Severance makes his gripping subject immediately relevant to modern readers by asserting that the soft-spoken Jefferson (who could barely make himself heard beyond the third row of Congress) would never have been elected in our present era of microphones and television sound bites. Severance is largely successful placing Jefferson in the context of the ideas and personalities of his time, but he sometimes assumes a prior familiarity with American history (e.g., after describing the protest against the 1773 Tea Act, he then uses the term Boston Tea Party without explicitly making a connection between the two). The most powerful passages rely on Jefferson's own words to strengthen this characterization of one of America's valiant proponents of democracy. However, when Jefferson's words and deeds conflict--as in his vehement statements against slavery juxtaposed with his lifelong dependence on slave labor--Severance points out the contradictions but does not analyze the issues. Still, the text encompasses the spectrum of both professional and private life, highlighting Jefferson's less famous roles as a devoted father and grandfather, enterprising architect and methodical scientist. Black-and-white archival prints effectively support the impressive span of events and people. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Sharon Salluzzo
The third president of the United States comes to life in an informative, engaging biography. Severance discusses Jefferson's youth but concentrates on his adult life. Readers will learn how he became a leader in the fight for independence, and the events that led to his election as President of the United States. The relationships between the new nation and the European powers of England, France and Spain are also explored. Jefferson's personal life is skillfully interwoven with the major historical developments. Severance speaks highly of Jefferson's intellect and his varied interests such as his proposal for an "academic village" which would become the University of Virginia. Severance's broad research is reflected in his coverage of Jefferson's thoughts and actions on the question of slavery, and the reporting of scandals in his personal life. A bibliography of primarily adult books, an extensive index, and a listing of some of Jefferson's "quotable quotes" can be found in the back of the book.
VOYA - Marian Rafal
Much has been written about Thomas Jefferson over the years. He was a leader, statesman, architect, inventor, president, slaveholder, ladies' man, and philanthropist. He was the author of one of the cornerstones of our democracy, the Declaration of Independence. While this book does not break any new ground, it is an accessible glimpse into the life and times of Thomas Jefferson. Cautioning the readers not to judge Jefferson using twentieth-century standards, Severence presents Jefferson as a forward thinker for his times, whose "intellectual legacy served to aid the liberation of both women and blacks." It is also noted that the extensive editing of the Declaration of Independence by that early Congress removed all references to the condemnation of slavery. Jefferson himself said that the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom was one of the most significant achievements of his life.

Severance takes readers on a journey through the political intricacies of the emerging nation; from the hated Stamp Acts to his own election as the third president of this young country, Jefferson was an active and integral force in our history. Through the extensive use of photos, illustrations, and maps, readers get a sense of the people and events of those chaotic years of revolution, war, and shifting alliances and borders. Jefferson is presented as an extraordinary man, as complex as the times in which he lived. This will be a solid resource for reports or for the interested reader of American history. Index. Illus. Photos. Maps. Biblio.

VOYA Codes: 3Q 3P M J (Readable without serious defects, Will appeal with pushing, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8 and Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9).

Kirkus Reviews
A thorough and sympathetic biography; Severance (Gandhi, 1997, etc.) focuses on the early education of Thomas Jefferson, especially on his sister Jane's encouragement of his interest in music and books. As one of the most educated of the early colonists, Jefferson, at 33, was chosen to compose a declaration explaining the resolution that the US colonies ought to be "free and independent states." The wonderful black-and-white archival prints throughout add scholarly and visual credibility to this work; the inclusion of many of Jefferson's famous quotes further enhances this investigation of a man who was, in his time, a model American, as full of contradictions (a man against slavery who owned slaves, a former president who died bankrupt, a devoted family man who had a relationship with a married woman, a deeply private man who held political offices and led a public life) as the young country in which he lived. (b&w reproductions, maps, bibliography, index) (Biography. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395845134
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/28/1998
  • Edition description: None
  • Pages: 192
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Formerly a school teacher, John B. Severance now writes full time. He lives in Savannah, Georgia.

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