Sunday, October 18, 2009

Thomas Jefferson says, "Ouch!"

I was becoming concerning that Gordon Wood was going to gloss over Thomas Jefferson's dark side. Not to worry. How's this for a no-holds-barred body slam:

In trying to implement his policy [of supporting the right of neutrals like the United States to carry goods], he [Jefferson] ended up completely stopping the flow of all American overseas trade and at the same time repressing his fellow citizens to a degree rarely duplicated in the entire history of the United States. Jefferson's extraordinary efforts to defend the rights of neutrals to trade freely drove the country into a deep depression and severely damaged his presidency. He ended up violating much of what he and his party stood for.

There's a bit too much of Robespierre in the Sage of Monticello for my taste.


  1. As one who has portrayed Thomas Jefferson professionally to convention audiences from Boston to Honolulu for almost 20 years, may I offer another view?

    While Jefferson favored the embargo, it was the Congress which authorized it. Jefferson, as President, was simply doing what the executive is supposed to do: Carry out the laws enacted by the people's representatives.

    To categorize the embargo as something solely and exclusively as Jefferson's doing is to misunderstand the whole issue.

  2. Patrick,

    I actually just ordered yesterday a couple of books on Jefferson's foreign economic policy and the embargo in particular. I will bear your observation in mind as I read them. That said, I will need some convincing, since I think it is fair to note that both Gordon Wood and Leonard W. Levy (Jefferson and Civil Liberties: The Darker Side) portray Jefferson as the driving force behind the embargo and the abuses that accompanied it. I may try to go back and pluck out a quote or two if I have the time later in the week.


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