Tag Archives: Biography/Autobiography

The Religious Life of Thomas Jefferson

In this new study we have a comprehensive account of Jefferson's religious thought, one that provides information about his beliefs and practices that will help remove any misconceptions about his religious life.

Jefferson has long been recognized as a creative thinker ahead of his time. As this book makes clear, he was deeply interested in religious questions that the passing years have made more important. Beyond such obvious issues as war and peace, social justice, and racism, he confronted religious and theological problems that have increasingly concerned later religious thinkers.

Martha Jefferson Randolph, Daughter of Monticello: Her Life and Times

As the oldest and favorite daughter of Thomas Jefferson, Martha "Patsy" Jefferson Randolph (1772-1836) was extremely well educated, traveled in the circles of presidents and aristocrats, and was known on two continents for her particular grace and sincerity. Yet, as mistress of a large household, she was not spared the tedium, frustration, and great sorrow that most women of her time faced. Though Patsy's name is familiar because of her famous father, Kierner is the first historian to place Patsy at the center of her own story, taking readers into the largely ignored private spaces of the founding era. Randolph's life story reveals the privileges and limits of celebrity and shows that women were able to venture beyond their domestic roles in surprising ways.
Following her mother's death, Patsy lived in Paris with her father and later served as hostess at the President's House and at Monticello. Her marriage to Thomas Mann Randolph, a member of Congress and governor of Virginia, was often troubled. She and her eleven children lived mostly at Monticello, greeting famous guests and debating issues ranging from a woman's place to slavery, religion, and democracy. And later, after her family's financial ruin, Patsy became a fixture in Washington society during Andrew Jackson's presidency. In this extraordinary biography, Kierner offers a unique look at American history from the perspective of this intelligent, tactfully assertive woman.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

The life and times of Abraham Lincoln have been analyzed and dissected in countless books. Do we need another Lincoln biography? In Team of Rivals, esteemed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin proves that we do. Though she can't help but cover some familiar territory, her perspective is focused enough to offer fresh insights into Lincoln's leadership style and his deep understanding of human behavior and motivation. Goodwin makes the case for Lincoln's political genius by examining his relationships with three men he selected for his cabinet, all of whom were opponents for the Republican nomination in 1860: William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates. These men, all accomplished, nationally known, and presidential, originally disdained Lincoln for his backwoods upbringing and lack of experience, and were shocked and humiliated at losing to this relatively obscure Illinois lawyer. Yet Lincoln not only convinced them to join his administration–Seward as secretary of state, Chase as secretary of the treasury, and Bates as attorney general–he ultimately gained their admiration and respect as well. How he soothed egos, turned rivals into allies, and dealt with many challenges to his leadership, all for the sake of the greater good, is largely what Goodwin's fine book is about. Had he not possessed the wisdom and confidence to select and work with the best people, she argues, he could not have led the nation through one of its darkest periods.
Ten years in the making, this engaging work reveals why "Lincoln's road to success was longer, more tortuous, and far less likely" than the other men, and why, when opportunity beckoned, Lincoln was "the best prepared to answer the call." This multiple biography further provides valuable background and insights into the contributions and talents of Seward, Chase, and Bates. Lincoln may have been "the indispensable ingredient of the Civil War," but these three men were invaluable to Lincoln and they played key roles in keeping the nation intact. –Shawn Carkonen
The Team of Rivals Team of Rivals doesn't just tell the story of Abraham Lincoln. It is a multiple biography of the entire team of personal and political competitors that he put together to lead the country through its greatest crisis. Here, Doris Kearns Goodwin profiles five of the key players in her book, four of whom contended for the 1860 Republican presidential nomination and all of whom later worked together in Lincoln's cabinet. 1. Edwin M. Stanton
Stanton treated Lincoln with utter contempt at their initial acquaintance when the two men were involved in a celebrated law case in the summer of 1855. Unimaginable as it might seem after Stanton's demeaning behavior, Lincoln offered him "the most powerful civilian post within his gift"–the post of secretary of war–at their next encounter six years later. On his first day in office as Simon Cameron's replacement, the energetic, hardworking Stanton instituted "an entirely new regime" in the War Department. After nearly a year of disappointment with Cameron, Lincoln had found in Stanton the leader the War Department desperately needed. Lincoln's choice of Stanton revealed his singular ability to transcend personal vendetta, humiliation, or bitterness. As for Stanton, despite his initial contempt for the man he once described as a "long armed Ape," he not only accepted the offer but came to respect and love Lincoln more than any person outside of his immediate family. He was beside himself with grief for weeks after the president's death.

2. Salmon P. Chase
Chase, an Ohioan, had been both senator and governor, had played a central role in the formation of the national Republican Party, and had shown an unflagging commitment to the cause of the black man. No individual felt he deserved the presidency as a natural result of his past contributions more than Chase himself, but he refused to engage in the practical methods by which nominations are won. He had virtually no campaign and he failed to conciliate his many enemies in Ohio itself. As a result, he alone among the candidates came to the convention without the united support of his own state. Chase never ceased to underestimate Lincoln, nor to resent the fact that he had lost the presidency to a man he considered his inferior. His frustration with his position as secretary of the treasury was alleviated only by his his dogged hope that he, rather than Lincoln, would be the Republican nominee in 1864, and he steadfastly worked to that end. The president put up with Chase's machinations and haughty yet fundamentally insecure nature because he recognized his superlative accomplishments at treasury. Eventually, however, Chase threatened to split the Republican Party by continuing to fill key positions with partisans who supported his presidential hopes. When Lincoln stepped in, Chase tendered his resignation as he had three times before, but this time Lincoln stunned Chase by calling his bluff and accepting the offer.
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General George Washington: A Military Life

“The most comprehensive and authoritative study of Washington’s military career ever written.”
–Joseph J. Ellis, author of His Excellency: George Washington

Based largely on George Washington’s personal papers, this engrossing book paints a vivid, factual portrait of Washington the soldier. An expert in military history, Edward Lengel demonstrates that the “secret” to Washington’s excellence lay in his completeness, in how he united the military, political, and personal skills necessary to lead a nation in war and peace. Despite being an “imperfect commander”–and at times even a tactically suspect one–Washington nevertheless possessed the requisite combination of vision, integrity, talents, and good fortune to lead America to victory in its war for independence. At once informative and engaging, and filled with some eye-opening revelations about Washington, the American Revolution, and the very nature of military command, General George Washington is a book that reintroduces readers to a figure many think they already know.
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Martha Washington: An American Life

With this revelatory and painstakingly researched book, Martha Washington, the invisible woman of American history, at last gets the biography she deserves. In place of the domestic frump of popular imagination, Patricia Brady resurrects the wealthy, attractive, and vivacious young widow who captivated the youthful George Washington. Here are the able landowner, the indomitable patriot (who faithfully joined her husband each winter at Valley Forge), and the shrewd diplomat and emotional mainstay. And even as it brings Martha Washington into sharper and more accurate focus, this sterling life sheds light on her marriage, her society, and the precedents she established for future First Ladies.

The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965

Spanning the years of 1940-1965, THE LAST LION picks up shortly after Winston Churchill became Prime Minister-when his tiny island nation stood alone against the overwhelming might of Nazi Germany. The Churchill conjured up by William Manchester and Paul Reid is a man of indomitable courage, lightning fast intellect, and an irresistible will to action. THE LAST LION brilliantly recounts how Churchill organized his nation's military response and defense; compelled FDR into supporting America's beleaguered cousins, and personified the "never surrender" ethos that helped the Allies win the war, while at the same time adapting himself and his country to the inevitable shift of world power from the British Empire to the United States.

More than twenty years in the making, THE LAST LION presents a revelatory and unparalleled portrait of this brilliant, flawed, and dynamic leader. This is popular history at its most stirring.

Thomas Jefferson: America’s Paradoxical Patriot

This groundbreaking biography has been universally acclaimed as a landmark work on Thomas Jefferson's early and mature years. Mapp follows Jefferson from his birth in 1743 through the American Revolution and up until his inauguration as President of the United States in 1801. Along the way we rediscover Jefferson the student at William and Mary, the Virginia politician, and the foreign diplomat. In these pages, Mapp sheds new light on Jefferson's career and private life. The portrait is rich and full of a living complexity that defies the simple sketches often offered by those who would either canonize or demonize this reluctant founding father.

Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation

A dramatic portrait of George Washington's presidential years, Patriarch is a gripping story of politics and statecraft. Smith describes Washington's struggle to preside over the bitter feud between Jefferson and Hamilton–two brilliant members of his cabinet–while attempting to distinguish the first presidency.

An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America

A major new biography of Washington, and the first to explore his engagement with American slavery

When George Washington wrote his will, he made the startling decision to set his slaves free; earlier he had said that holding slaves was his "only unavoidable subject of regret." In this groundbreaking work, Henry Wiencek explores the founding father's engagement with slavery at every stage of his life–as a Virginia planter, soldier, politician, president and statesman.
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Washington: A Life

From National Book Award winner Ron Chernow, a landmark biography of George Washington.

In Washington: A Life celebrated biographer Ron Chernow provides a richly nuanced portrait of the father of our nation. With a breadth and depth matched by no other one-volume life of Washington, this crisply paced narrative carries the reader through his troubled boyhood, his precocious feats in the French and Indian War, his creation of Mount Vernon, his heroic exploits with the Continental Army, his presiding over the Constitutional Convention, and his magnificent performance as America's first president.
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