The Best Letters of Thomas Jefferson

The Best Letters of Thomas Jefferson

The Best Letters of Thomas Jefferson

The Best Letters of Thomas Jefferson

Excerpt

A description of Thomas Jefferson as a man comparatively unknown to Americans of the present time may seem at first blush extreme, if not indeed unwarranted. His name is one of the most familiar in American history. He was closely associated with many of the most important events of the rise and early life of the Republic. His political principles are invoked on every occasion where liberals, or those who pass for liberals, are gathered together, or where they seek to secure the favor of the multitude. The older of the American political parties claims him proudly as its founder, and professes to hold up his political doctrines unchanged as its guide of public policy and public conduct. Its leaders claim, too, by a quasi-apostolic succession, the right to interpret Jeffersonian doctrine in this later day. The younger party owes its name to the passionate conviction and assertion of its founders that they were the rightful heirs of the Jeffersonian heritage, bartered away by the older for a mess of pottage. The most casual student of American history is aware that Jefferson's election as President marks a revolution in political thought and practice. And every child knows that he wrote the Declaration of Independence. How then can he be called unknown?

A study of Jefferson's writings, particularly of his letters and a contrast of what is to be found there with what has been written and said of him since his day, brings sure conviction that the real Jefferson is, at the close of the century after his death, but little . . .

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