The Ideas of Thomas Jefferson

Steve Scroggins

Steve Scroggins is a volunteer contributor to the Georgia
Heritage Council who lives in Macon.
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The Ideas of Thomas Jefferson – Commentary by Steve Scroggins, 4/13/10

We regularly quote the ideas and words of Thomas Jefferson on this website. Without question Jefferson is one of the key
movers and thinkers among the Founding Fathers. As a young man (age 33) among his elders, the Founders recognized the wordsmithing talent in Jefferson, and he was
nominated to write the Declaration of Independence as part of a committee of five, which included his future rival, John Adams. The committee delegated the first
draft to a sub-committee of Jefferson and Adams. Adams, in turn, insisted that Jefferson write the first draft.

I think he had one more vote than any other, and that placed him at the head of the committee. I had the next highest number, and that placed me the second.
The committee met, discussed the subject, and then appointed Mr. Jefferson and me to make the draft, I suppose because we were the two first on the list.

The subcommittee met. Jefferson proposed to me to make the draft. I said, 'I will not,' 'You should do it.' 'Oh! no.' 'Why will you not? You ought to do it.'
'I will not.' 'Why?' 'Reasons enough.' 'What can be your reasons?' 'Reason first, you are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this
business. Reason second, I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third, you can write ten times better than I can.'
'Well,' said Jefferson, 'if you are decided, I will do as well as I can.' 'Very well. When you have drawn it up, we will have a meeting.'
---John Adams, 1822 letter to Timothy Pickering, published 1850.

In addition to official documents, Jefferson was a prolific writer of letters which serve as a rich source of ideas and quotes.
Jefferson's ideas of liberty, limited government and states powers within the federal system are gaining as the counter
movement grows in response to the Leviathan, the welfare/warfare empire known as the U.S. of A.

The media and prevaling powers in D.C. clearly prefer the
Hamiltonian nationalist empire vision to the decentralized vision of Jefferson, but the excesses of the Obama administration
and the Democrat controlled Congress are prompting a new generation to learn about the
Founding Principles, the 10th Amendment, the
Kentucky Resolutions, and state sovereignty.

As April 13th is the birthday of Thomas Jefferson, it's appropriate that we celebrate his legacy and contemplate his words and ideas,
even if we have to recycle some previous commentary in the interest of time.

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 (supposedly) 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 State powers and state sovereignty. "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...."

Every American should make it a point to acquire and read books on Jefferson and to understand his ideas in the context of the Founding period.

 
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Related Links
The Papers of Thomas Jefferson
The Thomas Jefferson Memorial
The Truth About JeffersonRobert 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 ConstitutionAll discussions of Secession and States' Rights come back to the Declaration of
Independence
Constitutional FutilityDiLorenzo on "The Forgotten Jeffersonian Tradition" and the "Jeffersonian Constitution."

Steve Scroggins
is Commander of the Lt. James T. Woodward Camp 1399, Sons of Confederate
Veterans, in Warner Robins, GA and the deranged creative force behind the X-Files parodies.

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