After more than two decades, this dramatic and concise single-volume distillation of James Thomas Flexner's definitive four-volume biography George Washington, which received a Pulitzer Prize citation and a National Book Award for the fourth volume, has itself become an American classic. Now in a new trade paperback edition, this masterful work explores the Father of Our Country - sometimes an unpopular hero, a man of great contradictions, but always a towering historical figure, who remains, as Flexner writes in these pages, a fallible human being made of flesh and blood and spirit - not a statue of marble and wood... a great and good man. The author unflinchingly paints a portrait of Washington: slave owner, brave leader, man of passion, reluctant politician, and fierce general. His complex character and career are neither glorified nor vilified here; rather, Flexner sets up a brilliant counterpoint between Washington's public and private lives and gives us a challenging look at the man who has become as much a national symbol as the American flag.
In Means of Ascent, Book Two of The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Robert A. Caro brings alive Lyndon Johnson in his wilderness years.Here, Johnson's almost mythic personality--part genius, part behemoth, at once hotly emotional and icily calculating--is seen at its most nakedly ambitious. This multifaceted book carries the President-to-be from the aftermath of his devastating defeat in his 1941 campaign for the Senate-the despair it engendered in him, and the grueling test of his spirit that followed as political doors slammed shut-through his service in World War II (and his artful embellishment of his record) to the foundation of his fortune (and the actual facts behind the myth he created about it). The culminating drama--the explosive heart of the book--is Caro's illumination, based on extraordinarily detailed investigation, of one of the great political mysteries of the century. Having immersed himself in Johnson's life and world, Caro is able to reveal the true story of the fiercely contested 1948 senatorial election, for years shrouded in rumor, which Johnson was not believed capable of winning, which he "had to" win or face certain political death, and which he did win-by 87 votes, the "87 votes that changed history." Telling that epic story "in riveting and eye-opening detail," Caro returns to the American consciousness a magnificent lost hero. He focuses closely not only on Johnson, whom we see harnessing every last particle of his strategic brilliance and energy, but on Johnson's "unbeatable" opponent, the beloved former Texas Governor Coke Stevenson, who embodied in his own life the myth of the cowboy knight and was himself a legend for his unfaltering integrity. And ultimately, as the political duel between the two men quickens--carrying with it all the confrontational and moral drama of the perfect Western--Caro makes us witness to a momentous turning point in American politics: the tragic last stand of the old politics versus the new--the politics of issue versus the politics of image, mass manipulation, money and electronic dazzle.
Thomas Jefferson advocated a republic of small farmers--free and independent yeomen. And yet as president he presided over a massive expansion of the slaveholding plantation system--particularly with the Louisiana Purchase--squeezing the yeomanry to the fringes and to less desirable farmland. Now Roger Kennedy conducts an eye-opening examination of that gap between Jefferson's stated aspirations and what actually happened.
Kennedy reveals how the Louisiana Purchase had a major impact on land use and the growth of slavery. He examines the great financial interests (such as the powerful land companies that speculated in new territories and the British textile interests) that beat down slavery's many opponents in the South itself (Native Americans, African Americans, Appalachian farmers, and conscientious opponents of slavery). He describes how slaveholders' cash crops (first tobacco, then cotton) sickened the soil and how the planters moved from one desolated tract to the next. Soon the dominant culture of the entire region--from Maryland to Florida, from Carolina to Texas--was that of owners and slaves producing staple crops for international markets. The earth itself was impoverished, in many places beyond redemption.
None of this, Kennedy argues, was inevitable. He focuses on the character, ideas, and ambitions of Thomas Jefferson to show how he and other Southerners struggled with the moral dilemmas presented by the presence of Indian farmers on land they coveted, by the enslavement of their workforce, by the betrayal of their stated hopes, and by the manifest damage being done to the earth itself. Jefferson emerges as a tragic figure in a tragic period.
Combining firsthand scholarship and material drawn from the Jefferson Papers, Willard Sterne Randall calls on his skills as an investigative journalist to challenge long-held assumptions about the reasoning, motives, and works of this sage, philosopher, politician, and romantic. Exploring both Jefferson's interior and public struggles, Randall sheds important light on Jefferson's thoughts on slavery and his relationship with the slave Sally Hemmings, as well as Revolutionary and diplomatic intrigues.
This book, a National Book Award nominee in 1988, is the life of Thomas Jefferson as seen through the prism of his love affair with Monticello. For over half a century, it was his consuming passion, his most serious amusement. With a sure command of sources and skilled intuitive understanding of Jefferson, McLaughlin crafts and uncommon portrait of builder and building alike. En route he tells us much about life in Virginia; about Monticello's craftsmen and how they worked their materials; about slavery, class, and family; and, above all, about the multiplicity of domestic concerns that preoccupied this complex man. It is and engaging and incisive look at the eighteenth-century mind: systematic, rational, and curious, but also playful, comfort-loving, and amusing. Ultimately, it provides readers with great insight into daily life in Colonial and Federal America.
Despite all that has already been written on Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Joseph Persico has uncovered a hitherto overlooked dimension of FDR's wartime leadership: his involvement in intelligence and espionage operations.Roosevelt's Secret War is crowded with remarkable revelations:
-FDR wanted to bomb Tokyo before Pearl Harbor
-A defector from Hitler's inner circle reported directly to the Oval Office
-Roosevelt knew before any other world leader of Hitler's plan to invade Russia
-Roosevelt and Churchill concealed a disaster costing hundreds of British soldiers' lives in order to protect Ultra, the British codebreaking secret
-An unwitting Japanese diplomat provided the President with a direct pipeline into Hitler's councils Roosevelt's Secret War also describes how much FDR had been told--before the Holocaust--about the coming fate of Europe's Jews. And Persico also provides a definitive answer to the perennial question Did FDR know in advance about the attack on Pearl Harbor? By temperament and character, no American president was better suited for secret warfare than FDR. He manipulated, compartmentalized, dissembled, and misled, demonstrating a spymaster's talent for intrigue. He once remarked, "I never let my right hand know what my left hand does." Not only did Roosevelt create America's first central intelligence agency, the OSS, under "Wild Bill" Donovan, but he ran spy rings directly from the Oval Office, enlisting well-placed socialite friends. FDR was also spied against. Roosevelt's Secret War presents evidence that the Soviet Union had a source inside the Roosevelt White House; that British agents fed FDR total fabrications to draw the United States into war; and that Roosevelt, by yielding to Churchill's demand that British scientists be allowed to work on the Manhattan Project, enabled the secrets of the bomb to be stolen. And these are only a few of the scores of revelations in this constantly surprising story of Roosevelt's hidden role in World War II.
Shortly after he left office, President Harry S. Truman began to write down his typically blunt, honest commentaries about FDR and his other colleagues, the job of the presidency, the workings of the government and the Constitution -- and his picks for the nation's best and worst presidents. Since he minced no words, Truman asked that these writings -- sometimes funny, sometimes very serious, always to the point -- be released to the public only after he and Mrs. Truman were gone.
Now, this totally frank book by the thirty-third president, lovingly edited by his daughter, Margaret, has been published at last. In it, Truman speaks clearly in his own inimitable voice, and with the down-home, across-the-back-fence feeling of a born storyteller from Missouri, he tells you exactly what's on his mind about these and other subjects:
The Years of Lyndon Johnson is the political biography of our time. No president--no era of American politics--has been so intensively and sharply examined at a time when so many prime witnesses to hitherto untold or misinterpreted facets of a life, a career, and a period of history could still be persuaded to speak.The Path to Power, Book One, reveals in extraordinary detail the genesis of the almost superhuman drive, energy, and urge to power that set LBJ apart. Chronicling the startling early emergence of Johnson's political genius, it follows him from his Texas boyhood through the years of the Depression in the Texas hill Country to the triumph of his congressional debut in New Deal Washington, to his heartbreaking defeat in his first race for the Senate, and his attainment, nonetheless, of the national power for which he hungered. We see in him, from earliest childhood, a fierce, unquenchable necessity to be first, to win, to dominate--coupled with a limitless capacity for hard, unceasing labor in the service of his own ambition. Caro shows us the big, gangling, awkward young Lyndon--raised in one of the country's most desperately poor and isolated areas, his education mediocre at best, his pride stung by his father's slide into failure and financial ruin--lunging for success, moving inexorably toward that ultimate "impossible" goal that he sets for himself years before any friend or enemy suspects what it may be. We watch him, while still at college, instinctively (and ruthlessly) creating the beginnings of the political machine that was to serve him for three decades. We see him employing his extraordinary ability to mesmerize and manipulate powerful older men, to mesmerize (and sometimes almost enslave) useful subordinates. We see him carrying out, before his thirtieth year, his first great political inspiration: tapping-and becoming the political conduit for-the money and influence of the new oil men and contractors who were to grow with him to immense power. We follow, close up, the radical fluctuations of his relationships with the formidable "Mr. Sam" Raybum (who loved him like a son and whom he betrayed) and with FDR himself. And we follow the dramas of his emotional life-the intensities and complications of his relationships with his family, his contemporaries, his girls; his wooing and winning of the shy Lady Bird; his secret love affair, over many years, with the mistress of one of his most ardent and generous supporters . . . Johnson driving his people to the point of exhausted tears, equally merciless with himself . . . Johnson bullying, cajoling, lying, yet inspiring an amazing loyalty . . . Johnson maneuvering to dethrone the unassailable old Jack Garner (then Vice President of the United States) as the New Deal's "connection" in Texas, and seize the power himself . . . Johnson raging . . . Johnson hugging . . . Johnson bringing light and, indeed, life to the worn Hill Country farmers and their old-at-thirty wives via the district's first electric lines. We see him at once unscrupulous, admirable, treacherous, devoted. And we see the country that bred him: the harshness and "nauseating loneliness" of the rural life; the tragic panorama of the Depression; the sudden glow of hope at the dawn of the Age of Roosevelt. And always, in the foreground, on the move, LBJ. Here is Lyndon Johnson--his Texas, his Washington, his America--in a book that brings us as close as we have ever been to a true perception of political genius and the American political process.