Tag Archives: Jefferson

Facts in Five

Jefferson : Foreign Policy edition

  • First War on Terror-  Jefferson never supported large standing armies until he was forced to send a fleet to the Mediterranean and Marines to the shores of Tripoli  in 1801.  Jefferson signed the bill creating the US Military academy at West Point.
  • Deal for the ages-  Always a strict constructionist, Jefferson quickly altered his interpretation of the Constitution when the French government offered the Louisiana territory for three cents an acre.  No nation had ever purchased an empire. 
  • Getting a jump on things-  Before the ink was dry on the Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson had commissioned the Lewis and Clark expedition.  The Corps of Discovery were to explore the Northwest Passage and lay claim to land on the Pacific coast.
  • Snake in the Grass-  Frustrated by his rejections in the political circles of Washington and New York, Vice-President Aaron Burr organized a private militia and openly spoke of organizing the Louisiana Territory into an independent state.  Jefferson called out the troops and had Burr arrested for treason. 
Commander-in-Chief when needs be

Commander-in-Chief when needs be

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On Religion

Jefferson believed religious conflicts were the fault of theological teachings… not the people practicing faith.

As the crisis over Muslim immigration to America intensifies, both sides look to Jefferson to defend their positions.  Former President Obama’s claim that Jefferson helped enshrine Islam into our national fabric is blatant exaggeration.  President Trump’s allies are equally mistaken portraying Jefferson as an anti-Islamic warrior. 

Author of Religious Freedom

Author of Religious Freedom

Jefferson’s problems with Islam were philosophical… for he believed the faith to be anti-science and irrationally intolerant to open inquiry.

“I never told my own religion, nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert, nor wished to change another’s creed. I have ever judged of the religion of others by their lives…For it is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be read. By the same test the world must judge me.”

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The belief in religious freedom does not excuse its transgressions… Jefferson explained to friend and ally, James Madison.

 

“The declaration that religious faith shall be unpunished does not give immunity to criminal acts dictated by religious error.”

 

 

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On the Press

President-Elect Trump continues his war on the free pressclearly what he seeks is capitulation and endorsement from America’s media.  No doubt, he envies Putin’s veneration from the docile Russian press.

Only those who approve

Only those who approve

Not only does power corrupt, it causes us to forget our most basic principles…  Jefferson said to Washington in 1792:

The virtuous will not fear a free press

The virtuous will not fear a free press

“No government ought to be without censors, and where the press is free, no one ever will. If virtuous, it need not fear the fair operation of attack and defense. Nature has given to man no other means of sifting out the truth whether in religion, law or politics. I think it as honorable to the government neither to know nor notice its sycophants or censors, as it would be undignified and criminal to pamper the former and persecute the latter.”

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Healing Words Required

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams waged a bitter and divisive Presidential campaign in 1800… deeply dividing their countrymen.  Adams’ party was swept out of power and many expected Jeffersonians to settle scores.  The speech Jefferson gave on March 4, 1801  was barely heard by those in attendance, but his call for political unity and patriotic harmony, resonated with his people…

Unite with one heart and one mind

Unite with one heart and one mind

During the contest of opinion through which we have passed the animation of discussions and of exertions has sometimes worn an aspect which might impose on strangers unused to think freely and to speak and to write what they think; but this being now decided by the voice of the nation, announced according to the rules of the Constitution, all will, of course, arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in common efforts for the common good. All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression. Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions.”

 

“But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.”

140 Characters or less...

140 Characters or less…

News of Donald Trump’s efforts at writing his own Inaugural Addressshould worry us all.  Can a man whose literary record consists only of insulting other celebrities and the media in less than 140 characters be expected to unite a deeply divided nation?

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Surpassing the Father

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

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”

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Christmas on the Mountain

Thomas Jefferson celebrated Christmas… but not with stockings and Christmas trees- modern incarnations of the season didn’t take hold in America until after the Civil War.  Jefferson’s Christmas was a time for family, friends, and as he described it, “merriment.”   Family was all important to the Sage of Monticello, and he described the day”  “the day of greatest mirth and jollity.”

Christmas in Albemarle

Christmas in Albemarle

He received the greatest joy from watching his grandchildren… opening gifts and playing games in Monticello.  Describing the scene to a friend, Jefferson observed his youngest grandson; “He is at this moment running about with his cousins bawling out ‘a merry christmas’ ‘(this is) a christmas gift”  His music library included  many Christmas standards including the family favorite, Adeste Fideles. 

Mincemeat for the season

Mincemeat for the season

Good friends, good food, and good conversation… marked the holiday season at Monticello.  Plenty of wine was on hand to compliment Jefferson’s holiday favorite, mince pie.  Mince at Monticello consisted of  apples, raisins, beef suet(fat), and spices.

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Drink Like a Founder pt. 2

3-4 glasses at dinner

3-4 glasses at dinner

Jefferson’s love of wine is well documented… but his first journey to France in 1784 permanently changed his tastes.  British trade policies before the Revolution limited colonial access to French wines. Jefferson and the other Founders largely drank the stronger, heavier wines from Portugal, like Madeira.  Jefferson definitely sought something easier to drink:

“The taste of this country was artificially created by our long restraint under the English government to the strong wines of Portugal and Spain.”

Most superlatively good.

Most superlatively good.

The lighter more flavorful wines of France  appealed to his evolving palate… Jefferson’s favorites were reds from the Hermitage region of the Rhone Valley.  He described it as  “the first wine in the world without a single exception.”  World conflicts continued to affect his wine supplies and this was made known to the merchants stocking Monticello’s wine cellar:

“Disappointments in procuring supplies have at length left me without a drop of wine. I must therefore request you to send me a quarter cask of the best you have. Termo is what I would prefer; and next to that good port. besides the exorbitance of price to which Madeira has got, it is a wine which I do not drink, being entirely too powerful. wine from long habit has become an indispensable for my health, which is now suffering by it’s disuse.”

Weaning his people

Weaning his people

Jefferson wanted nothing more than to change his countrymen’s taste in wine… He had lost his taste for port and fortified wine- blended French wines were his passion and he was willing to use his political influence to convince people he was right:

” I have labored long and hard to procure the reduction of duties on the lighter wines, which is now effected to a certain degree. I have labored hard also in persuading others to use those wines. habit yields with difficulty. perhaps the late diminution of duties may have a good effect.”

 

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