Saturday, August 08, 2009

Thomas Jefferson "was a very silly man"

In the London Telegraph, a Member of Parliament and admirer of Thomas Jefferson (Daniel Hannan, whose speech went viral a few months ago) reproduces an email he received "explaining that it was Jefferson’s predecessor, John Adams, who was, perversely, the true Jeffersonian." Here's a taste:
“On thinking in the U. S. about the division and dispersal of power, it was not Jefferson but John Adams who was the major figure. Indeed, Jefferson was on the other side, although his rhetoric was designed to mislead. Jefferson may have said that that government is best which governs least, but he never had a useful thought about how to keep limits on government except to recommend revolution in every generation. Which is of course disastrous. But he was a very silly man - a true, because superficial and calculating, product of the Enlightenment. While Adams was horrified by the French Revolution as soon as Burke was, Jefferson was still enthusiastic even after the terror had begun. Jefferson was the inventor of faux egalitarianism, which was a way of keeping the enlightened patrician (and slave-owning) class in power based on the rationale that they were protecting the interests of common folk. FDR and Teddy Kennedy are the direct descendants, and indeed Jefferson was FDR’s hero and model of a patrician who protected the interests of his class by “representing” and looking out for the working man. Jefferson founded the Democratic Party. The Republican Party was founded on the ruins of the Whig Party which was founded on the ruins of the Federalist Party. Unlike Jefferson, Adams was obsessed with how to keep elites in check by dividing power and balancing power against power. In this he is in the tradition of Harrington and Montesquieu and Hume rather than of Locke (Jefferson on the other hand admired Rousseau). He was the deepest thinker of the Revolution and also the most important political figure (as distinguished from leader) - he made the strategy that led to independence, he led the public campaign for independence, and was the leading proponent for independence in the Continental Congress both rhetorically and behind the scenes. He chose Jefferson to write the Declaration, chose Washington to lead the army, and was appointed by the Continental Congress to be supply master of the army before he was sent to Paris to gain French support (which won the war), which Franklin might have accomplished, but seemed in no hurry to do."

Via Iain Murray at The Corner.

The cartoon is from the very odd Married to the Sea Blog.

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