American Sphinx traces the trajectory of Thomas Jefferson's life at key points in his career. Author Joseph Ellis focuses on Jefferson's high points of achievement. These include the writing of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson's sojourn in Paris and his first term as president. Two of Jefferson's respites at his beloved plantation, Monticello, are also included. This technique allows Ellis to focus on Jefferson's most outstanding achievements while glossing over embarrassments such as Jefferson's term as Governor of Virginia. The prologue and appendix of the book address the most burning question that people often have about Jefferson, his alleged relationship with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings.