Wednesday, February 4, 2009

#19/81 American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson throughout this book appears as paradox, constantly revealed as a mass of contradictions between his written word and his actions. His flaws are specifically enumerated throughout.
He was apparently chosen to draft the Declaration of Independence since he was not an accomplished speaker and frequently used the written word in its place.
Early in his public career, Jefferson advocates the elimination of slavery, however as the years progress his standpoint shifts and he is dramatically quiet about his position on the difference between blacks and whites.
His personal debts influenced him so much that during his Presidency his goal was to eliminate the National Debt. Even while working toward this aim, he continued to overextend his personal expenditures with continuing construction at Monticello.
He was uncomfortable with situations that had any controversy and frequently set social situations to avoid any confrontations.
Jefferson often retreat into silence or propelled others to do his "dirty work" by simply mentioning something did not please him.
His administrative skills were lacking while he was Governor of Virginia leaving the state's fiscal standing in jeopardy. His stance on states' rights and slavery were trumped by the War between the States.
His disgust for a large central government advocated by Hamilton and his belief in the necessity of religious freedom continue to resound even today.
Critics over the years have "cast Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton in the lead roles of a dramatic contest between the forces of democracy and the forces of aristocracy."
How ironic that it was Hamiltonian methods by FDR that brought about Jeffersonian goals of economic equality.
"His life had always been about promise. And his enduring legacy became the most resonant version of the American promise in national mythology. But in his life, if not his legacy, there were some promises he could not keep."
Thomas Jefferson was multitalented - a writer, architect, diplomat. However, his greatest contribution to our nation, in my opinion, is his vision for the future and his determination to provide for western expansion and the continuation of the American Dream which he envisioned for all - "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

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