American Sphinx : The Character Of Thomas Jefferson

3030 Words13 Pages
American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, a biography by Joseph Ellis, encompasses many aspects of one of the most controversial and unforgettable American Founding Fathers. Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and a man of astonishing achievements, left behind a legacy of paradoxes and mysteries, which are thoroughly analyzed throughout the novel. Unlike some people, who are easily characterized and have definite opinions, Thomas Jefferson’s beliefs and intentions remain unclear to many. Simply stated, Ellis describes Jefferson as “the enigmatic and elusive touchstone for the most cherished convictions and contested truths in American culture” (51). His words were often not reflected in his actions and similarly, his thoughts on important matters appeared wavering. Despite this uncertainty, Thomas Jefferson played a dominant role in the establishment and maintenance of a new nation and continues to influence American culture and politics to this day. Thomas Jefferson’s domestic policy was based principally on the organization of a new, limited federal government that concerned itself solely with current affairs, leaving state governments in control of responsibilities at home. His first order of business as President was the establishment of a “wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another” but should otherwise leave them alone to handle their own matters of business (567). Jefferson “favored
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