"The end is where we start from."


-T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"
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Monday, May 2, 2011

Brief Review of History of the United States of America During the Second Administration of Thomas Jefferson, 1805-1809, Vol. 2 (1807-1809)

Henry Adams, in his History of the United States of America During the Second Administration of Thomas Jefferson, 1805-1809, Vol. 2 (1807-1809) (Vol. 4 of the series, Vol. 2 of the history of the Administration) relies largely on governmental dispatches and personal letters to reconstruct the history of the last two years of Thomas Jefferson's presidential career. Beginning with the infamous "Chesapeake" incident in 1807, Adams examines the egos of American, British, and French leaders to demonstrate the causes of the slow but steady decline of foreign relations between the three nations. The author's narrative style distills confusing political events into an understandable and interesting account, and Adam's poetic elongations give the book an entertaining literary twist. Gauging the reaction of the American people after the "Chesapeake" incident, for instance, Adams writes "The brand seethed and hissed like the glowing Olive stake of Ulysses in the Cyclops' eye, until the whole American people, like Cyclops, roared with pain..."(Adams, 27) Adams’s work seems marred by his inability to decide what he thinks about Thomas Jefferson. Familial pride cannot let him be too positive, yet Adams pities Jefferson, and cannot hide this in his treatment. The author's final pages carry Jefferson sympathetically back to his home at Monticello, obscuring an otherwise solid political analysis with indecisive sentiment.