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In the Hands of the People: Thomas Jefferson on Equality, Faith, Freedom, Compromise, and the Art of Citizenship

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Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham offers a collection of inspiring words about how to be a good citizen, from Thomas Jefferson and others, and reminds us why our country's founding principles are still so important today. Thomas Jefferson believed in the covenant between a government and its citizens, in both the government's responsibilities to its people and al Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham offers a collection of inspiring words about how to be a good citizen, from Thomas Jefferson and others, and reminds us why our country's founding principles are still so important today. Thomas Jefferson believed in the covenant between a government and its citizens, in both the government's responsibilities to its people and also the people's responsibility to the republic. In this illuminating book, a project of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello, the #1 New York Times bestselling author Jon Meacham presents selections from Jefferson's writing on the subject, with an afterword by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed and comments on Jefferson's ideas from others, including Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, Frederick Douglass, Carl Sagan, and American presidents. This curated collection revitalizes how to see an individual's role in the world, as it explores such Jeffersonian concepts as religious freedom, the importance of a free press, public education, participation in government, and others. Meacham writes, "In an hour of twenty-first-century division and partisanship, of declining trust in institutions and of widespread skepticism about the long-term viability of the American experiment, it is instructive to return to first principles. Not, to be sure, as an exercise in nostalgia or as a flight from the reality of our own time, but as an honest effort to see, as Jefferson wrote, what history may be able to tell us about the present and the future."


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Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham offers a collection of inspiring words about how to be a good citizen, from Thomas Jefferson and others, and reminds us why our country's founding principles are still so important today. Thomas Jefferson believed in the covenant between a government and its citizens, in both the government's responsibilities to its people and al Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham offers a collection of inspiring words about how to be a good citizen, from Thomas Jefferson and others, and reminds us why our country's founding principles are still so important today. Thomas Jefferson believed in the covenant between a government and its citizens, in both the government's responsibilities to its people and also the people's responsibility to the republic. In this illuminating book, a project of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello, the #1 New York Times bestselling author Jon Meacham presents selections from Jefferson's writing on the subject, with an afterword by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed and comments on Jefferson's ideas from others, including Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, Frederick Douglass, Carl Sagan, and American presidents. This curated collection revitalizes how to see an individual's role in the world, as it explores such Jeffersonian concepts as religious freedom, the importance of a free press, public education, participation in government, and others. Meacham writes, "In an hour of twenty-first-century division and partisanship, of declining trust in institutions and of widespread skepticism about the long-term viability of the American experiment, it is instructive to return to first principles. Not, to be sure, as an exercise in nostalgia or as a flight from the reality of our own time, but as an honest effort to see, as Jefferson wrote, what history may be able to tell us about the present and the future."

30 review for In the Hands of the People: Thomas Jefferson on Equality, Faith, Freedom, Compromise, and the Art of Citizenship

  1. 5 out of 5

    Raymond

    A good little book of quotes said or written mostly by Jefferson, there are also a few historical and contemporary quotes from people who referenced him and his ideas too. Check out my highlights and notes for some excerpts. I received this book as a Goodreads Giveaway. Thanks to Goodreads and Random House for the free Kindle copy of the book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    Summary: A collection of the sayings of Thomas Jefferson, reflecting his belief in the critical responsibility of the people to the health and growth of the new Republic, with commentary by the author. Thomas Jefferson was the optimist to the pessimism of a John Adams. He once remarked in their correspondence: "I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past." A significant reason for that was his belief in the citizens of the new nation, and in the government that they had fo Summary: A collection of the sayings of Thomas Jefferson, reflecting his belief in the critical responsibility of the people to the health and growth of the new Republic, with commentary by the author. Thomas Jefferson was the optimist to the pessimism of a John Adams. He once remarked in their correspondence: "I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past." A significant reason for that was his belief in the citizens of the new nation, and in the government that they had formed.  It can be readily granted that Jefferson was a flawed individual. His university was a gentleman's university. He owned slaves who had to be sold off after his death.  It was not his example, but the ideals of equality, of the consent of the governed, of an educated citizenry, of the important of religion and keeping the state out of it, of patriotism above partisanship, the value of immigration, and of compromise. Historian Jon Meacham has collected the statements of Jefferson on all of these topics and more around the central idea of citizenship, how it may both be trusted, and how important the practice of good citizenship would be to the future of the Republic. He groups these under eleven topics, devoting a chapter to each. Meacham provides brief introductions in each chapter, followed by quotes from Jefferson, and others talking about Jefferson's ideas.   The last two chapters are statements by an assorted group of others about Jefferson, and by other presidents on Jefferson. Here are a few of those quotes: On the right and responsibility to vote: It has been thought that corruption is restrained by confining the right of suffrage to a few of the wealthier of the people: but it would be more effectually restrained by an extension of that right to such numbers as would bid defiance to the means of corruption. On the vitality of a free press: But the only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. On education: It is safer to have a whole people respectably enlightened than a few in a high state of science and the many in ignorance. This last is the most dangerous state in which a nation can be. On threats to the Republic: I am not among those who fear the people. They, and not the rich, are our dependence for continued freedom. And, to preserve their independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. One more, from the collection of presidential quotes on Jefferson, this one from Jimmy Carter: Thomas Jefferson conceived our United States of America as no other nation had ever tried to be--dedicated to human fulfillment, where individual liberty was guaranteed. But Thomas Jefferson also founded a university, collected a national library, planned beautiful cities, mapped the wilderness, and being a farmer, he invented a better plow! This book comes out at a time riven with controversy where we may be greatly tempted to fear for the future of the republic. Yet it strikes me that so many of our protests concern the disparity between our ideals of unalienable rights and the equality of all, and realities that fall short for some. Jefferson would challenge us all to patriotism above partisanship, and to the hard work of responsible citizenship that seeks the common good above our personal profit. I could wish that all of us would buy a copy, and read it as we prepare to celebrate another July 4 and look ahead to national and local elections in November, as we consider what obligations we have to one another in time of pandemic. If ever there was a time for the renewal of an understanding of responsible citizenship and civic engagement, this is time. Jefferson offers guidance both about what we must value, and why we might hope. ________________________________ Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Christy Martin

    .I had no idea when I started "In the Hands of the People" that it was a book that consisted only of quotes by and about Thomas Jefferson. At first I found this disconcerting and was totally turned off by the book but as I continued I realized that what I was reading was adding to my knowledge about Jefferson and was causing thought in an otherwise quarantined soaked brain. What did a racially prejudiced man like Jefferson mean by being a proponent of public education, immigration, political dis .I had no idea when I started "In the Hands of the People" that it was a book that consisted only of quotes by and about Thomas Jefferson. At first I found this disconcerting and was totally turned off by the book but as I continued I realized that what I was reading was adding to my knowledge about Jefferson and was causing thought in an otherwise quarantined soaked brain. What did a racially prejudiced man like Jefferson mean by being a proponent of public education, immigration, political discussion, etc.? Did he, as a founding father envision the American we have today? Did he see in front of him the journey America was to take in the years after its beginnings? How could someone like Jefferson with his wealth and influence be a champion for the common man.? This book did not give me the factual stories about Jefferson that I expected. What it did do for me was add to the impression I had of the man. He was a multifaceted individual. Staunch in his beliefs, arrogant in his intelligence, but loyal to a fault regarding this great American experiment.. Reading this book is like reading a Jefferson Bible of quotes but deepening the questions about the man himself. What he said sounds so modern day but his actions were typical of a man of the time, and of one who had been well educated, lived a physically easy life, and was exalted by many. He was a slave owner and father of slave children...treating his mistress, caretaker, and mother of his biracial children with the same disrespect all women and slaves were treated...yet he spoke of liberty, freedom for all with an eloquence we still quote today. I would encourage you to read this book if you want to think about Jefferson...it adds to the puzzle and mystery of the man.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Newell

    This was a quick and enjoyable read overall. As far as the content goes, it is basically five stars. Meacham's selections of quotes showcase the brilliance and forethought of Jefferson clearly throughout a variety of political realms. However, the drawback of the book is just that...it really is just a Jeffersonian quote book. Which to a certain extent is fine, but I was personally hoping to read a bit more of Meacham's exposition. The other annoyance for me was that, apart from the second-to-la This was a quick and enjoyable read overall. As far as the content goes, it is basically five stars. Meacham's selections of quotes showcase the brilliance and forethought of Jefferson clearly throughout a variety of political realms. However, the drawback of the book is just that...it really is just a Jeffersonian quote book. Which to a certain extent is fine, but I was personally hoping to read a bit more of Meacham's exposition. The other annoyance for me was that, apart from the second-to-last chapter, the quotes from modern speakers at the Monticello Independence Day celebrations seemed slightly irrelevant. I personally have no need to be told how much of an impact Jefferson's thought has on the modern politician and thinker every few pages. After all, I am already reading a book about him in 2020... the reader probably already knows he is still important if nothing else.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Great source for quotes

  6. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Short chapters dealing with different topics found in Jefferson's writings along with an introduction by the editor and an afterword by Pulitzer Prize winning Jefferson Scholar Annette Gordon-Reed. These notes and comments remind the reader that while we know that Jefferson and the other founders weren't perfect, their thinking was limited to white men, their vision was broad and powerful, defining what is great about America. Great wisdom from Jefferson's public writing as well as his personal Short chapters dealing with different topics found in Jefferson's writings along with an introduction by the editor and an afterword by Pulitzer Prize winning Jefferson Scholar Annette Gordon-Reed. These notes and comments remind the reader that while we know that Jefferson and the other founders weren't perfect, their thinking was limited to white men, their vision was broad and powerful, defining what is great about America. Great wisdom from Jefferson's public writing as well as his personal correspondence on the ongoing quest for equality, voting, free press, faith, education, patriotism vs partisanship, compromise, wealth, immigration, and hope. Also included are references to Jefferson in the writing and speeches of other prominent Americans as well as presidents and international leaders. A great reminder of the principles that inspired the American Revolution and the principles that we still aspire to be as we continue to work toward attaining the universally applicable vision of what America can be. I received a free Kindle edition of this book through the Goodreads First Reads giveaways.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Peggy

    Interesting book. Gives the sense of what Jefferson aspired to be, not necessarily what he always achieved. The quotes chosen, unfortunately, are jumbled in time to meet the authors intent. Jefferson himself did change goals throughout his political career. He seemed to be more idealistic as a revolutionary, more calculating as a political contender for presidency. His negative writings are not quoted. He then became an elderstatesman, more or less. His last correspondences with Adams were compo Interesting book. Gives the sense of what Jefferson aspired to be, not necessarily what he always achieved. The quotes chosen, unfortunately, are jumbled in time to meet the authors intent. Jefferson himself did change goals throughout his political career. He seemed to be more idealistic as a revolutionary, more calculating as a political contender for presidency. His negative writings are not quoted. He then became an elderstatesman, more or less. His last correspondences with Adams were composed as much for John Adams as for posterity, for clearly both men knew their letters would be preserved. In any event, the striving for equality for all is worth reading about. This book has a chapter devoted to what Jefferson meant by separation of Church and State, and is good to read. The book is worth reading, even if it is a bit biased. It does make the point Jefferson was a product of his times. He wasn't perfect, but none of us are. How we will be judged in the future has yet to be seen. It is a short book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    Goodreads giveaway book -- delighted to have received this book. Any book by Jon Meacham is a good book for so many reasons. Jon Meacham writes in the same measured tone in which he speaks and that makes his books easy to absorb and put into context. As I say that, this book is really a book of Thomas Jefferson's words but I love the way the book is structured and presented. History does inform our future or at a minimum, gives us perspective on how to approach our current environment. Basics mat Goodreads giveaway book -- delighted to have received this book. Any book by Jon Meacham is a good book for so many reasons. Jon Meacham writes in the same measured tone in which he speaks and that makes his books easy to absorb and put into context. As I say that, this book is really a book of Thomas Jefferson's words but I love the way the book is structured and presented. History does inform our future or at a minimum, gives us perspective on how to approach our current environment. Basics matter, kindness matters and facts are essential. All of us have a responsibility to make a difference. Thomas Jefferson was an advocate for education for all and in other core values demonstrates that he could have been effective in our time. I was especially taken with his comments about a free press. This book left me with hope for our future, history bringing light to our future. I would definitely recommend this book to history buffs, political types and everyday Americans who are facing an election this fall to protect our democracy.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Cathy Allen

    I spent my first day of post-pandemic freedom - two weeks after my second vaccine - at Monticello. I stuck my nose in Mr. Jefferson's lilacs, toured the gardens and outbuildings, took my time going through the house, chatted with docents, and thought about the convoluted, complicated legacy our founders left to us. One volunteer mentioned that her husband had just collaborated with The Thomas Jefferson Foundation and Jon Meacham to compile a book of instructive quotes. Later on in the gift shop, I spent my first day of post-pandemic freedom - two weeks after my second vaccine - at Monticello. I stuck my nose in Mr. Jefferson's lilacs, toured the gardens and outbuildings, took my time going through the house, chatted with docents, and thought about the convoluted, complicated legacy our founders left to us. One volunteer mentioned that her husband had just collaborated with The Thomas Jefferson Foundation and Jon Meacham to compile a book of instructive quotes. Later on in the gift shop, when I picked up the volume and saw that Professor Annette Gordon Reed was also involved with the project, I knew it would be a winner. And so it was. Every American should spend time contemplating the rights and responsibilities of democracy and recommitting to doing their part. This little book was a great companion to my 4th of July reading of the Declaration in Independence. I may just re-read it every year. Highly recommended.

  10. 4 out of 5

    John McManus

    My first interest in life was Thomas Jefferson. Before playing baseball or writing songs, I was enthralled with the words he wrote in the sweltering summer of 1776 at the Graff House. Philadelphia is a mere twenty minutes from where I lived my whole life. In the Hands of the People, edited by Pulitzer Prize winning author Jon Meacham, allows Jefferson to speak to us directly on a myriad of topics, including equality, freedoms of the press and religion, and the duties and rights of citizens. Jeff My first interest in life was Thomas Jefferson. Before playing baseball or writing songs, I was enthralled with the words he wrote in the sweltering summer of 1776 at the Graff House. Philadelphia is a mere twenty minutes from where I lived my whole life. In the Hands of the People, edited by Pulitzer Prize winning author Jon Meacham, allows Jefferson to speak to us directly on a myriad of topics, including equality, freedoms of the press and religion, and the duties and rights of citizens. Jefferson had great hope for the future of America, and his words provide essential guidance and inspiration for all. To be certain, Thomas Jefferson was a privileged man of his times, but his words and vision for America have resonated for generations and speak to the better angels of our nature. In the Hands of the People will be published by Random House on October 6, 2020

  11. 5 out of 5

    Boston64329

    Not sure what my expectations were when I bought this book to read. I saw Annette Gordon-Reed and Jon Meacham being interviewed. Probably on a PBS show. Just based on their credentials, I bought the book and Prof. Gordon-Reed's, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, a Pulitzer winner which fits my bucket list of reading Pulitzer winners (and some nominated). In the Hands of the People is primarily Thomas Jefferson quotes, the quotes of notable US citizens and former presidents quoting Not sure what my expectations were when I bought this book to read. I saw Annette Gordon-Reed and Jon Meacham being interviewed. Probably on a PBS show. Just based on their credentials, I bought the book and Prof. Gordon-Reed's, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, a Pulitzer winner which fits my bucket list of reading Pulitzer winners (and some nominated). In the Hands of the People is primarily Thomas Jefferson quotes, the quotes of notable US citizens and former presidents quoting or thoughts on Jefferson in speeches. Thank goodness it wasn't very long. In fact, I probably would have returned it to a library within hours of my first pages read, if I hadn't bought it. I forced myself to finish it. It's a nice little reference book. But after that?

  12. 5 out of 5

    Paul Fox

    Jefferson Lives In this time when we are all faced with such uncertainty, it is wonderful to read such wonderful words of truth. No,Thomas Jefferson was not perfect, but he was an Avatar of the truth. A beacon of wisdom and a guide for America wether it was America in it's infancy, or an America frustrated, angry and seeming beset by problems insurmountable. Every American should read these words again and again, good times as well as bad to remind themselves of their wisdom and take heed of them Jefferson Lives In this time when we are all faced with such uncertainty, it is wonderful to read such wonderful words of truth. No,Thomas Jefferson was not perfect, but he was an Avatar of the truth. A beacon of wisdom and a guide for America wether it was America in it's infancy, or an America frustrated, angry and seeming beset by problems insurmountable. Every American should read these words again and again, good times as well as bad to remind themselves of their wisdom and take heed of them. Author Jon Meacham has done a wonderful job of collecting a balm to soothe the angriest and desperate amongst us, to show us the way forward together, as T. Jefferson did so long ago.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Roger Briggs

    The Importance of Jefferson The words of Thomas Jefferson are immortal: June 1776: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness [and] that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” This the central basis of our democracy. His writings are profoundly impo The Importance of Jefferson The words of Thomas Jefferson are immortal: June 1776: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness [and] that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” This the central basis of our democracy. His writings are profoundly important in these times where threats to his vision of equality for all is now seriously threatened.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Toni Edson

    John Meacham can always make American history so relevant to today. I love reading him (has a new one on John Lewis coming out next week!!!!) Jefferson always seems so complicated. Such a large personality in such a pivotal time in our history. The author of our dreams and one of the determinats of our country's original sin. A paradox. Meacham doesn't make apologies for it but he does an admirable job at explaining how the man and his times gave us a living document that was to grow with this c John Meacham can always make American history so relevant to today. I love reading him (has a new one on John Lewis coming out next week!!!!) Jefferson always seems so complicated. Such a large personality in such a pivotal time in our history. The author of our dreams and one of the determinats of our country's original sin. A paradox. Meacham doesn't make apologies for it but he does an admirable job at explaining how the man and his times gave us a living document that was to grow with this country and not simply define it. This is one I'll reread often.

  15. 4 out of 5

    C.

    The Hands of the People is an interesting look into the minds of the people selected to establish the republic of the United States. The book is full of sound bites, quotes, notes, and excerpted to evaluate Ameria as it was envisioned, planned, and continues to evolve. A quick yet enlighting read. The audio book includes music, hymns, multiple voices, and is well produced. A good experience for history enthusiasts.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Susan Waller

    I always enjoy reading about my favorite president in his own words. This collection of his quotes and letters is interesting in that it arranges his writings by concept. It brings home Jefferson's optimism and his confidence in the American people. I always enjoy reading about my favorite president in his own words. This collection of his quotes and letters is interesting in that it arranges his writings by concept. It brings home Jefferson's optimism and his confidence in the American people.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Lovejoy

    Because Thomas Jefferson is one of my favorite presidents (and founders of our nation) and Jon Meacham is one of my favorite historians, I was super excited to read this book. It is absolutely wonderful. I highly recommend that everyone read it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Emily Eisenman

    Short read with quotes on a variety of themes from Jefferson and from others about Jefferson.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Urstoff

    A collection of short excerpts, many basically aphorisms. It gives a good sense of what Jefferson believed, but not what he thought.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Robert D

    Wonderful collection of Jefferson’s writings and thoughts from many of out presidents. All point to the brilliance of Jefferson!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ashby

    Trash!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mam

    This day I needed to hear some of those words and their echoes throughout the history of this young country.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ben Zimmerman

    P

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rkrynak

    Enjoyed this book. Lots to think about.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Al Lock

    A very short book, it is certainly a worthwhile read. Make sure to read the afterword.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Norjak

    short, lots of quotes.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    Great commentary accompanying Jefferson's work. The author organizes the book in a manner that makes it easy for the reader to understand Jefferson's concepts. Great commentary accompanying Jefferson's work. The author organizes the book in a manner that makes it easy for the reader to understand Jefferson's concepts.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Amy

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lee

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Montefour

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