The United States was barely a nation in 1785… but we were already feeling the pinch of international commerce. America’s commercial fleet was under attack in the Mediterranean by the Islamic Barbary states of North Africa. Between 1650-18oo near 2 million European and American sailors were sold into slavery by Muslims.
Negotiate from strength
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were part of our first… diplomatic delegation in London in 1785. They were instructed to seek out Tripoli’s ambassador, Abdra-Rahman, and seek a maritime agreement. The ambassador shocked the Americans with his exorbitant demands for ransom and tribute- even a fee for his personal attention. Jefferson protested the piracy by stating the facts: The US had no quarrel with the Muslim world, we had never been Crusaders, we took no part in the Spanish conquests of Muslim lands- what right did Tripoli have to exact such a toll?
War on Terror, phase 1
The response must have struck every reasoned bone… in Jefferson’s body- Abdra-Rahman claimed that the Koran gave Tripoli permission; The US and Europeans were infidels, and therefore subject to war and slavery by the Holy Ottoman Empire. Monarchy and theocracy combined to create terror and wickedness. Jefferson immediately responded to the US Congress that no such payment should be made to such an objectionable form of tyranny and banditry. He advised that a naval squadron be outfitted and sent to the Mediterranean to enforce our commercial rights.
Never negotiate with terrorists
John Adams was appalled by the Barbary terror… but felt the bribe was worth paying to maintain peace. This policy carried over to the new Federal government and the Washington administration. The negotiations would take place yearly, the tribute increased, yet the results were a travesty. Jefferson predicted that negotiations and payment would only embolden the terrorists and prompt more and bolder transgressions. When elected President in 1800, Jefferson made pacifying the Barbary states his #1 foreign policy initiative.
Filed under Ephemera, News
99 men signed the Declaration of Independence and Constitution… a group we consider the Founders. Plenty has been written about what set this generation apart- today, it seems most writers attempt to separate them for alleged transgressions. Today we accuse them of being greedy aristocrats determined to maintain their vast fortunes- we forget what actually made the Founders different. Of the 99 signers- only eight had fathers who attended college…
The Enlightenment in America
By all accounts, Peter Jefferson was a significant… part of early Virginia society. A wealthy planter, surveyor, and political leader- he had married into the powerful Randolph family. Jefferson was part of the vanguard of planters pushing into western Virginia. He was a self-made man whose hard work and ambition propelled him into the upper crust of Virginia society. But, he did not read Latin, he couldn’t play the violin, he wasn’t fluent in all the Romance languages, and he never questioned the religious or slave owning hierarchies in Virginia. The generation his son excelled in was very different- Thomas Jefferson was exceptional- yet, somehow, we have come to forget it today.**
**Gordon Wood explains this quite well in “Revolutionary Characters”
Filed under Ephemera, News
Trump continues to vow an overhaul of America’s libel laws… in an obvious effort to silence those who disagree with him. His distrust of the current standards indicate a deeply flawed understanding of true free speech. Combine this with his disdain for a free press, and dangers not seen since the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 begin to emerge.
I can’t define sedition, but I know it when I hear it…
Jefferson warned his people of these dangers… “that if the acts before specified should stand, these conclusions would flow from them; that the general government may place any act they think proper on the list of crimes and punish it themselves whether enumerated or not enumerated by the constitution as cognizable by them: that they may transfer its cognizance to the President, or any other person, who may himself be the accuser, counsel, judge and jury, whose suspicions may be the evidence, his order the sentence, his officer the executioner, and his breast the sole record of the transaction…”
Trump and his corrupt administration would determine what speech is libelous… Truth would become subjective rhetoric rather than objective fact. Discourse would be stifled and the country force fed Trump’s propaganda.
Jefferson wanted more for his people and expected more of his government…. “…and will furnish new calumnies against republican government, and new pretexts for those who wish it to be believed that man cannot be governed but by a rod of iron: that it would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights: that confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism”
To stop destroying our liberty
There is nothing particularly dangerous in Donald Trump’s hatred of the media… Presidents have always disliked and distrusted hostile press coverage. What separates Trump’s rhetoric from his predecessors is his insistence that the free press is a threat to the American people.
No, Mr. President, the press is not an enemy of the people… nor should they be in the business of supporting your agenda(whatever that may be.) You are free to criticize the press at your convenience, but you can never limit it in the name of the People.
Jefferson had a contentious relationship with poor press coverage… and experienced plenty of “fake news” during his presidency. Despite his frustration, Jefferson never doubted the necessity of a free press; he trusted that the American people would be able to sort through the vitriol and nonsense to find the truth.
“And were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”
The grieving optimist- Jefferson lost nearly everyone dear to him…. so he could relate grief to his dear friend, John Adams upon hearing of the death of Abigail. Relating grief is not the same as understanding it, however…..
“Tried myself in the school of affliction, by the loss of every form of connection which can rive the human heart, I know well, and feel what you have lost, what you have suffered, are suffering, and have yet to endure. The same trials have taught me that for ills so immeasurable, time and silence are the only medicine….although mingling sincerely my tears with yours, will I say a word more where words are vain, but that it is of some comfort to us both, that the term is not very distant, at which we are to deposit in the same cerement, our sorrows and suffering bodies, and to ascend in essence to an ecstatic meeting with the friends we have loved and lost, and whom we shall still love and never lose again.”
” I have often wondered for what good end the sensations of Grief could be intended.”
To the chagrin of revisionists… Thomas Jefferson is part of the national fabric of America. He gave us our creed, the words that define what it means to be an American. No other country on earth has such a luxury. A simple look at our landscape will provide a clear picture of Jefferson’s impact on posterity:
Named after Thomas Jefferson–
- 45 High schools
- 5 Colleges or Universities (including the University of Virginia)
- 9 cities (larger than 10,000 residents)
- Counties in 16 states
- 13 mountains
- Thomas Jefferson Building, Library of Congress
- Jefferson National Expansion Site (includes the Great Gateway Arch)
- Jefferson Alberta, Canada
Named for Thomas Jefferson–
- Thomas Jefferson Randolph– Jefferson’s eldest grandchild and executor of his estate. (1792-1875)
- Thomas Jefferson Truitt– 2nd Lt. in the 62nd Penna. Volunteers from Kellersburg, PA. Enlisted for three years service in July of 1861. Killed in action near Bethesda Church, Va June 3, 1864. (1837-1864)
- Thomas Jefferson Sheaffer— Youngest child of Alissa Hegge and Gordon Sheaffer. Born in peaceful sleep, January 11, 2008.
Even the eternal optimist within… Thomas Jefferson was dragged down to earth by loss. Behind the iconic image was a man who loved deeply and lost nearly everyone dear to him. Despite the pain, Jefferson remained optimistic, immersing himself in books and his correspondence. He told his friend John Adams;
“You ask if I would agree to live my 70. or rather 73. years over again? To which I say Yea. I think with you that it is a good world on the whole, that it has been framed on a principle of benevolence, and more pleasure than pain dealt out to us.”
Tugging at his enlightened nature… was the depression that followed the loss of his loved ones. Jefferson pondered the concept of grief to Adams;
“I have often wondered for what good end the sensations of Grief could be intended. All our other passions, within proper bounds, have a useful object.”
Jefferson outlived his wife and all but one… of their children. The thought of living out his days alone terrified him;
“This morning between 8 & 9. a clock my dear daughter Maria Eppes died…. My evening prospects now hang on the slender thread of a single life. Perhaps I may be destined to see even this last chord of parental affection broken!”
Sadness and reflections….