Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Mugging Jefferson

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Mugging Jefferson

Article excerpt

The discrediting of the Enlightenment, the debunking of great white men, intellectual fortune hunting--all play a part, but these causes cannot explain why Thomas Jefferson has become the greatest target in the politicized history of recent times. I understand that the more greatly admired a figure is, the more likely he or she is to come under attack; but the American pastime of scandalmongering and idol crushing has not extended itself as viciously to Washington or Franklin or the Roosevelts, let alone to Lincoln. Why Jefferson?

By his best examples and his worst, he still eats at American consciences. Among the founders of this democracy, Washington was its father and Madison was its mind, but Jefferson was its conscience. That he could not five up to his own high principles, at Monticello as well as in the President's House, is not the same as saying that he betrayed those principles, or that the principles themselves embodied some hidden evil. …

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