Joseph Ellis Writing Styles in American Sphinx

Joseph Ellis
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Perspective

The central thesis of American Sphinx relates to Ellis's interpretation of Jefferson's many complexities. Many historians have noted that Jefferson often related radically different opinions to different audiences at the same time. Some see this as evidence of hypocrisy or even amorality. Others suggest that Jefferson was a consummate politician, practicing spin control. Either view is at odds with Jefferson's distaste for political maneuvering when it affected his work.

While an ambassador in France, Jefferson repeatedly assured the French that the American constitution would ban slavery, while admitting in letters to Madison that this was impossible. Slavery was illegal in France, and any slave transported into the country could immediately claim his or her freedom. While assuring French friends that slavery was an immoral institution, Jefferson assiduously concealed French law from the slaves who accompanied him, illegally and permanently depriving them of their freedom.

Ellis suggests that Jefferson...

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This section contains 722 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the American Sphinx Study Guide
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