Thursday, August 10, 2006

TJ, Limousine Liberal

I will admit to an embarrassing ignorance on many of the finer and intriguing details of American history and particularly the founding era. For instance my knowledge about Thomas Jefferson was confined to only the most salient details of his role in our founding and as our third President. Thanks however to Ron Chernow's excellent biography of Alexander Hamilton, I am getting more of a detailed picture of Thom. Jefferson the man.

Jefferson was an abolitionist who of course did not free his own slaves, because his lifestyle depended on their toil on his plantation, which was perpetually in debt due to his luxurious lifestyle.

He was suspicious of finance and commerce, feeling that America should be principally an agrarian society, apparently believing that wealth and power should concentrate among landholders, which of course is good for people who own land but bad for people who seek to create and broaden societal wealth outside of land ownership through commerce. This is very much an 'I got mine, you can't have yours' attitude.

Jefferson was deeply enamored of the French revolution and did not recoil or lose zeal for it while the likes of Marat and Robespierre were declaring 'enemies of the people' and commiting open slaughter.

Jefferson appeared to see tyranny in every move of the new federal government such as the establishment of the Bank of the United States, although when in office it was cool for the federal government to buy land to double the size of the nation or fund the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Jefferson's demeanor prior to his political career was that of a foppish aristocrat, enjoying a sybaritic life in the salons of Paris. Upon returning to the US to take his post as Sec. of State in New York, he went to great expense and effort to decorate his New York residence with the finest, extravagantly expensive French furniture.

He did not look favorably upon the ascendancy to power of thoroughly capable albeit not well-born figures, such as the illegitimate, immigrant Hamilton.

Naturally Jefferson's career and role in our nation's history is long and complex, and his importance can hardly be understated but by Jove, is it not obvious - Thomas Jefferson was America's first prominent Limousine Liberal!


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