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Steve Scroggins is a volunteer contributor to the Georgia Heritage Council who lives in Macon.

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Thomas Jefferson, Greatest of the Founding Fathers – Commentary by Steve Scroggins

The title is no exaggeration in my view. April 13 is the birthday of Thomas Jefferson, and I thought it appropriate---nay, NECESSARY----to acknowledge it with a tribute, even knowing my efforts could not measure up to the greatness of this American hero.

The bi-annual Gallup poll released around "President's Day" every few years consistently shows a half-dozen 20th century presidents ranked higher than Jefferson (who's always at bottom) and even Washington. In the poll, Americans are asked to name the greatest U.S. president and Jefferson typically comes in around 1 percent. Even scarier is the fact that Clinton, Lincoln and FDR come in near the top. These polls are designed to instruct the bovine followers and sheep amongst us to believe as the majority reportedly believes. Taken without any critical skepticism, the polls should scare the heck out of any rational thinking person.

I believe this overlooking of Jefferson is due in large part to the de-emphasis of the Founding period in American History education which in turn is due in large part to the scourge of "political correctness" which is opposed to truth when truth contradicts a certain pre-determined mindset. Some see it as a deliberate attempt to prevent Americans from gaining insight into how much liberty we've lost since Jefferson's day. The government we have today ain't even close to what our Founders envisioned.

You'll recall that Kathy Cox, the Georgia education czar proposed in January 2004 to change the curriculum for Georgia kids to cover early American history in elementary school (you know, the Pilgrims and the Indians enjoyed Thanksgiving touch football, Washington never told and lie and he cut down cherry trees---the kids comic book version.)

In high school, they proposed to BEGIN American History in 1876. That's no typo...1876...just as "Reconstruction" was ending. With this approach, it's a sure bet that three fourths of high school graduates, if asked, would say they've never heard of Thomas Jefferson. "Ain't he the dude on the nickel?" Most will not have seen a $2 bill.

There has been a concerted effort on the part of anti-American heritage-haters to "tear down" and besmirch our Founding Fathers, especially the Southern ones such as Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Mason, etc.

Cleon Skousen, in his 1958 book "The Naked Communist," listed 45 Communist Goals to destroy America from within. Number 30 on the list is "Discredit the American Founding Fathers. Present them as selfish aristocrats who had no concern for the "common man." Of course, number 30 goes hand-in-glove with number 29 (discredit the U.S. Constitution) and number 31 (discourage the teaching of American History).

More recently with the rise of "political correctness," there have been repeated uses of phrases like "dead white men" to refer to the Founders and efforts to discredit these men who may have owned slaves or who advocated States rights. "Those guys held slaves, they didn't let women vote and to prove them completely irrelevant, they didn't wear their pants with a "sag" and they didn't like rap music..." (Yes, I know that the phrase "rap music" is an oxymoron.) Obviously, efforts to measure these men by today's social "standards" is inappropriate and unfair.

The ongoing efforts to discredit the Founders (specifically Jefferson) is well illustrated by the events beginning in 1998. A "study" was published suggesting that DNA evidence "proved" that Thomas Jefferson fathered a child by one of his slaves named Sally Hemings. The story was trumpeted by every large newspaper in the country and spawned volumes of commentaries in non-daily publications. It was a "hot" national story for a few weeks. The important part of the story is next.

The story was and is a gross distortion at best, but it would be fair to call it a "bold-faced lie." The evidence basically showed that the father of Hemings' child was one of 25 Jefferson males living within twenty miles of Monticello, most likely Jefferson's younger brother Randolph or one of Randolph's sons. Thomas Jefferson was 64 years of age when this alleged love-child was conceived.

A group of thirteen Jefferson scholars studied the evidence and issued a 550-page report in 2001. Of those 13 scholars, 11 wrote that allegations of Thomas Jefferson's paternity was "almost certainly false," one expressed "strong skepticism" [that Thomas Jefferson was the father] and one dissenter stated his belief that Thomas Jefferson was the father.

The BIG DIFFERENCE is that this 2001 report refuting the 1998 "story" went almost completely unreported. Samuel Francis pointed out the double standard in his syndicted columns (links to two below) and the Wall Street Journal published a story several months later in July 2001.

A columnist for the Macon Telegraph published a column slamming Jefferson as a hypocrite in 1998 but when I contacted him to publish a retraction in 2001, he was too busy investigating the scandals of Macon's mayor. Months later I contacted the columnist a second time to remind him about the Jefferson slander he needed to correct. Nope. He simply wasn't interested in the publishing the truth.

The suggestion is not new, in fact, allegations suggesting Jefferson fathered many children by his slaves were published numerous times while Jefferson was still President. Jefferson never responded to these personal attacks by his political enemies. Wow...times have changed, huh? And I recall reading the suggestion while a student in middle school (we called it junior high in those days). It was in a Gore Vidal 'historical' novel, Burr, on vice-president Aaron Burr (1801-1805) best known for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel.

Even socialists and liberals cannot openly bad-mouth the ideas expressed in the Declaration....so they just snipe about the fact that Jefferson owned slaves and repeat this lie about his having fathered children by slaves. When they read the Kentucky Resolutions, which Jefferson wrote anonymously while vice-president in the Adams administration, they realize that Jefferson was a leading proponent of States rights within the "federal system" that includes the central government as subserviant agent to the States.

That alone is reason enough to make him a target of socialists, who by definition, advocate a large controlling central government. It was Jefferson and subsequent disciples (predominantly Southerners) who staunchly defended the Founders' original vision for a system that strictly limited the concentration of government power in any one place.

That vision has been systematically dismantled in stages ever since Lincoln crushed the Constitution and the concept of State sovereignty in practice. But, as Jefferson wrote to James Madison on the benefits of a Bill of Rights,

"Though written constitutions may be violated in moments of passion or delusion, yet they furnish a text to which those who are watchful may again rally and recall the people. They fix, too, for the people the principles of their political creed."

We're given hope by the expression of another 'Jefferson,' Jefferson Davis, who wrote:

"The principle for which we contend is bound to reassert itself, though it may be at another time and in another form."

As a prolific thinker and writer, Thomas Jefferson stands out among the Founding Fathers. While doing online research some years back, I stumbled onto some websites with extensive quotes by Jefferson. As a result of reading those, I renewed my admiration for Jefferson and resolved to find some worthy books on him.

The following is an excerpt from the duskjacket of The Essential Thomas Jefferson edited by John Gabriel Hunt (1994, Random House). I highly recommend this book to get a good flavor for Jefferson the man, in the context of his time.

"THOMAS JEFFERSON (1743--1826), the greatest of the Founding Fathers, was a philosopher, inventor, scientific theorist, architect, book collector, lawyer, educator, farmer, legislator, statesman, and politician. A master of elegant and precise language, he was an indefatigable letter writer and the author of some of America's most cherished documents. The quality of Jefferson's prose, and the clarity of his reason made him Congress's choice to compose the Declaration of Independence.

The Essential Thomas Jefferson is a collection of the complete texts of the third president's major writings and speeches, including A Summary View of the Rights of British America, the Declaration of Independence, the Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, the Kentucky Resolutions, the two inaugural addresses, as well as selections from his only book, Notes on Virginia.....Also included in this book are many of Jefferson's letters...."

I could go on and on about Jefferson, but I'll hold that for a future commentary and close with a humor piece I wrote back in 1996. At the time, I had just discovered some Jefferson quote websites and Hillary Clinton was the First Lady when the stories broke that she engaged in "paranormal conversations" with Eleanor Roosevelt (the late first lady).

I hope these quotes will inspire you to read more about Jefferson. He is truly inspiring to anyone who values liberty.

An interview with Thomas Jefferson
By Steve Scroggins (April 1996)

I've sought the wisdom of the dead for years, however, with revelations that the First Lady does, too, I'm now willing to share my supernatural experiences. A recent interview with Thomas Jefferson yielded the following:

SS: Mr. Jefferson, a conservative movement is afoot to restrain and reverse excessive government growth. What are your thoughts on government spending?

TJ: "The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest."

SS: By that, do you mean that government should live within its means, stop borrowing from the labors of our children, and stop buying votes with monies taken forcibly from taxpayers?

TJ: "What more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow citizens--a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities. If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them, they must become happy. "

SS: Well said, but many among us think that government should do more. They want the government to take responsibility for their welfare and happiness.

TJ: "I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive."

SS: True. While this fundamental is argued among us, many grow frustrated by the debate, begrudge the "gridlock" and some call their opponents "extremists" when they oppose continued expansion of government largess.

TJ: "If virtuous, the government need not fear the fair operation of attack and defense. Nature has given to man no other means of sifting the truth, either in religion, law, or politics. Men of energy of character must have enemies; because there are two sides to every question, and taking one with decision, and acting on it with effect, those who take the other will of course be hostile in proportion as they feel that effect."

SS: Regarding the Constitution, we currently ignore much of it and grow government to suit the desires of the Supreme Court. Your thoughts?

TJ: "Though written constitutions may be violated in moments of passion or delusion, yet they furnish a text to which those who are watchful may again rally and recall the people. They fix, too, for the people the principles of their political creed."

SS: If only the courts thought words could be fixed in meaning. We have many among us who advocate ignoring the text written by you dead guys and constructing their own meaning in the Constitution; they call the Constitution a "living document."

TJ: "The Constitution, on this hypothesis, is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist into any form they please. Experience [has] shown that, even under the best forms [of government], those entrusted with power have, in time and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny."

SS: What say you on limited terms for the judiciary?

TJ: "I am for responsibilities at short periods, seeing neither reason nor safety in making public functionaries independent of the nation for life, or even for long terms of years. In truth, man is not made to be trusted for life if secured against all liability to account."

SS: An obscure columnist I know well once wrote that "The true enemy of our republic is ignorance and its partner, apathy." Your thoughts?

TJ: "Lethargy is the forerunner of death to the public liberty."

Thomas Jefferson actually wrote the quoted attributions above in similar contexts. Rather than seances or other black magic, my interview was conducted via the Internet at various quotation sites.

Related Links
The Papers of Thomas Jefferson

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial

The Truth About Jefferson
Robert Turner in Wall Street Journal

The Anti-Jefferson Myth Debunked - Samuel Francis 2001

Truth Wins In Jefferson-Hemings Controversy - Samuel Francis 2002

Jefferson site digest

“Never Forget: They Kept Lots of Slaves”
The latest maneuver in the culture wars, and how it is distorting our thinking about the Founding Fathers.

Three Views of the Constitution

All discussions of Secession and States' Rights come back to the Declaration of Independence

The Latest Defamation of Jefferson - Thomas DiLorenzo

Constitutional Futility
DiLorenzo on "The Forgotten Jeffersonian Tradition" and the "Jeffersonian Constitution."

Steve Scroggins is Adjutant of the Lt. James T. Woodward Camp 1399, Sons of Confederate Veterans, in Warner Robins, GA and a frequent GHC contributor of parody and political cartoons and graphics.

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