Thomas Jefferson: Christian Leadership

Dinner Topics for Tuesday

The Real Thomas Jefferson, Part 1-3

The Real Thomas Jefferson, by Andrew M. Allison, Part 4-5

keyI hold the precepts of Jesus, as delivered by himself, to be the most pure, benevolent, and sublime which have ever been preached to man.

If the freedom of religion guaranteed to us by law in theory can ever rise in practice under the overbearing inquisition of public opinion, truth will prevail over fanaticism, and the genuine doctrines of Jesus, so long perverted by his pseudo-priests, will again be restored to their original purity. This reformation will advance with the other improvements of the human mind, but too late for me to witness it.

Notes and Quotes on the life of Thomas Jefferson, Part 4 His Presidency

This is a large book, very easy and enjoyable reading, but also packed with valuable information. I will share with you some notes and quotes, a little at a time. But don’t miss reading the entire book with your family. It belongs in every American’s home library.~C.A. Davidson

Thomas_Jefferson_by_Rembrandt_Peale,_1800Jefferson’s Presidency

“Though we differ on many points, he displayed an impartiality and a freedom from prejudice that. . .were unusual. There was a mildness and amenity in his voice and manner that at once softened any of the asperities of party spirit that I felt. . .No man can be personally acquainted with Mr. Jefferson and remain his personal enemy.”  (Justice William Paterson of the Supreme Court, one of Jefferson’s most inveterate political opponents p.219)

The tone of Jefferson’s presidency was low key. Believing that American political leaders were aping European royalty too much, he led with a simple style. He never used public funds for his social gatherings.

“A Noiseless Course”

“If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them, they must become happy.” (p.225)

Slander

James Callender, one of the victims of the Sedition Act who was pardoned by President Jefferson, became embittered when he didn’t receive a government post he wanted. He made up a series of scandalous stories, the ugliest of which accused Jefferson of an illicit relationship with Sally Hemings, a young mulatto slave at Monticello.

Federalists, jealous of Jefferson’s popularity, took up these false accusations, creating a relentless torrent of slander. Jefferson made no public response to these unscrupulous attacks. “I should have fancied myself half guilty,” he said, “had I condescended to put pen to paper in refutation to their falsehoods, or drawn to them respect by any notice from myself.” (p230)

In the face of it all, Jefferson defended the right of his countrymen to free press. He remained silent all during the calumny and instructed his cabinet to do the same.

Under the guise of “modern scholarship”, some recent scholars have “brought forth a rash of sensational and poorly researched publications designed to discredit America’s Founding Fathers.  Many of the ‘facts’ [Callender] dished up are known to be false.” (pp231-232)

Douglass Adair, one of the most highly respected historians of our era, concluded after examining all of the evidence on this matter which has now come to light: “Today, it is possible to prove that Jefferson was innocent of Callender’s charges.”

One of the recently discovered documents to which Adair referred was a letter written by the nineteenth-century biographer Henry Randall, recounting a conversation at Monticello between himself and Jefferson’s oldest grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph. In this conversation Randolph confirmed what others close to the family had already disclosed: that Sally Hemings was actually the mistress of Jefferson’s nephew, Peter Carr, and that “their connection . .  . was perfectly notorious at Monticello.” He also pointed out that “there was not the shadow of suspicion that Mr. Jefferson in this or any other instance had commerce with female slaves.” (from essays by Douglass Adair, cited by Allison on p.233)

It is virtually inconceivable that this fastidious gentleman whose devotion to his dead wife’s memory and to the happiness of his daughters and grandchildren bordered on the excessive could have carried on through a period of years a vulgar liaison which his own family could not have failed dot detect. It would be as absurd as to charge this consistently temperate man with being, through a long period, a secret drunkard. (Professor Dumas Malone, author of Pulitzer-Prize-winning six-volume biography of Jefferson p.234)

Jefferson wrote privately that he “feared no injury which any man could do me;. . .I never had done a single act or been concerned in any transaction which I feared to have fully laid open, or which could do me any hurt if truly stated.” (p234)

First Term

1801-1805—Jefferson sent American naval ships to the Mediterranean area, where they were victorious over the Barbary pirates, freeing up trade.

1802—Napoleon was threatening to establish a French empire in the Louisiana territory. Jefferson sent Robert Livingston to solve the situation diplomatically.

1803—The Louisiana Purchase. Almost one million acres were purchased for 15 million dollars, nearly doubling the physical size of the United States.

1804—Jefferson commissioned Lewis and Clark to explore the Louisiana Territory and reach the west coast

These brilliant public achievements were overshadowed by the personal tragedy of the death of his 26-year-old daughter Mary. He deeply mourned her death, but submitted to the will of God. (He was not an atheist!)  (pp. 240-245)

Second Term

Jefferson was reelected by a large margin.

Native Americans

Jefferson was an enthusiastic student of Indian tribes and sought to provide them with instruction in agricultural and domestic arts. He had good relations with Native Americans. (pp250-253)

Aaron Burr

As Vice President in the first term, Aaron Burr often used his tie-breaking votes to favor Federalists. He was replaced as Vice President by George Clinton.

Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. There were warrants for arrest in New Jersey and New York. He lived out the last few months of his term in disgrace and exile. Burr later became involved in a plot to divide the Union. He was arrested and tried for treason.  (pp255-257)

John Marshall

Chief Justice John Marshall acquitted Burr of treason on technicalities. Federalist judges sought to consolidate all power in hands of the federal government.

Judicial Review (pp259-260)

John Marshall established the concept of “Judicial Review”, enabling the federal courts to void Congressional laws by declaring them unconstitutional.

President Jefferson warned that Judicial Review endangered the separation-of-powers principle.

The opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action, but for the legislative and executive also in their spheres, would make the judiciary a despotic branch.

Jefferson was urged by his friends to run for a third term, but he declined. He recommended an amendment to the Constitution limiting the President to two terms.

Teach your family why Religious Freedom Matters

Dinner Talk Topics

1. If our young adults are to restore the culture of liberty, why is it vital we seek truthful history from reliable sources? Watch out for Wikipedia versions of history. Its articles on Jefferson give credence to the slanderous Sally Hemings story. The Real Thomas Jefferson was recommended by Glenn Beck. You can find many sources of historical truth and helpful analysis at his web site.

2. Do you think  today’s “Judicial Review” threatens our liberty? Why?

The Real Thomas Jefferson: The True Story of America’s Philosopher of Freedom

Part 5

Andrew M. Allison

Dear Reader,

This is the final segment of my notes and quotes from this American Classic. The Real Thomas Jefferson, by Andrew M. Allison, is a character education experience that your children must not miss. Truly, Thomas Jefferson was an exemplary epic hero. Not only is this book easy and interesting reading—it is memorable. Bless your children by reading it together with them. You, and they, will be glad you did. And they will never forget it. ~C.A. Davidson

 

Notes and Quotes on the life of Thomas Jefferson, Part 4: Retirement and Closing Years

Character Education, Thomas-Jefferson-style

Awards for foot races were as follows: three pieces of dried fruit—figs, prunes, or dates—to the victor, two to the second, and one to the lagger who came in last. One of his granddaughters described his method of character education.

He talked with us freely, affectionately, and never lost an opportunity of giving a pleasure or a good lesson. He reproved without wounding us, and commended without making us vain. He took pains to correct our errors and false ideas, checked the bold, encouraged the timid, and tried to teach us to reason soundly and feel rightly. Our smaller follies he treated with good-humored raillery, our graver ones with kind and serious admonition. He was watchful over our manners, and called our attention to every violation of propriety. (Ellen Coolidge, p278-279)

In 1820 he received 1,267 letters. He wrote more letters by his own hand than any other public man that ever lived. An invention  by John Hawkins of Philadelphia called the polygraph preserved 19,000 letters by duplicating them. After 1804 he produced a file copy of almost every letter he wrote. He made several improvements on the polygraph. (p 283)

Dr. Benjamin Rush, a good friend of Jefferson, wrote to both Jefferson and John Adams, urging both men to heal a rift caused by political differences. Both of the former Presidents indicated that they wanted to put aside past disagreements and renew their friendship. Adams said, “I always loved Jefferson, and still love him.” (pp284-285)  The two renewed their friendship and wrote letters for fourteen years.

Monroe Doctrine

monroe-doctrine1823—Jefferson’s successor,  James Monroe, consulted him about European influence in Latin America, which was widely feared. Said Jefferson, “Our first and fundamental maxim should be never to entangle ourselves in the broils of Europe. Our second, never to suffer Europe to intermeddle with cis-Atlantic affairs. From this emerged the Monroe Doctrine. (p287)

Missouri Question

Jefferson very reluctantly accepted Missouri’s entering the union as a slave state, because they threatened to secede.

“I can say, with conscious truth, that there is a not a man on earth who would sacrifice more than I would to relieve us from this heavy reproach [i.e., slavery]in any practicable way.” He maintained hope to his dying day of emancipating the slaves. (p 289)

Visitors to Monticello

Jefferson was so loved that he had thousands of visitors continually for eight months of the year, from all over the world. Although Jefferson welcomed the visitors cheerfully and graciously, they often proved a burden to him and to his daughter Martha, who served as hostess. She would often have to prepare for as many as fifty overnight guests.

People even invaded the halls of his home just to get a look at him. One woman actually punched through a window with her parasol just to get a better view of him.

People would gaze at him point-blank as at a creature in the zoo. “They wanted to tell their children, and have it told to their grandchildren, that they had seen Thomas Jefferson.” (pp290-291)

The accommodation of these visitors, the social events in Washington that he paid from his own pocket, neglect of his plantations during his forty years of public service; his enormous generosity to his grandchildren, to local beggars, and to various charitable organizations, all mounted the great indebtedness he struggled with. One biographer wrote, “His contributions to religious, educational, and charitable objects through his life would have made his old age opulent!” (p 305)

University of Virginia

Jefferson spent the closing years of his life establishing a state university. “He believed that these two great purposes—‘the freedom and happiness of man’—should serve as the polestars of all educational programs throughout the Republic. (p 296)  The university opened in 1825, one year before his death.

I am a Real Christian

Another project of Jefferson was to compile in several languages all the New Testament passages which he understood to be the actual utterances of Jesus Christ. He titled this little book, “the Philosophy of Jesus.”

A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen. It is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus—very different from the Platonists, who call me infidel and themselves Christians and preachers of the gospel, while they draw all their characteristic dogmas from what its Author never said nor saw.(p 299)

Jefferson was reticent on the subject of religion. This caused his political enemies to label him as an atheist. During his presidency, he wrote to Benjamin Rush:

My views of [the Christian religion] are the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, and very different from that anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished anyone to be—sincerely attached to his doctrines in preference to all others.

I hold the precepts of Jesus, as delivered by himself, to be the most pure, benevolent, and sublime which have ever been preached to man. (pp 300-301)

Many Americans in the early nineteenth century shared the hope of a re-establishment of the Christian religion in its “original purity” in the United States.

Anticipation of the Restoration of Pure and Original Christianity

If the freedom of religion guaranteed to us by law in theory can ever rise in practice under the overbearing inquisition of public opinion, truth will prevail over fanaticism, and the genuine doctrines of Jesus, so long perverted by his pseudo-priests, will again be restored to their original purity. This reformation will advance with the other improvements of the human mind, but too late for me to witness it.

Closing scenes of a noble life

Jefferson and his old friend John Adams passed away within hours of each other on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence—that immortal document which he wrote.

He had desired a private interment, but crowds of neighbors and friends waited at the grave to bid farewell and a last tribute of respect and affection.  The “nation’s newspapers and lecture halls overflowed for months with eulogies to honor America’s champion of liberty.  His countrymen of that day seemed to sense, as we do now, that the world is not likely ever to produce another Thomas Jefferson.”

One American declared eloquently, “The grief that such a man is dead may be well assuaged by the proud consolation that such a man has lived.”  (pp 316-318)

Dinner Talk Topics

1. What comment by Jefferson indicated that he looked forward to a restoration of Christianity in its pure form?

2. Discuss the wisdom of the Monroe Doctrine

3. Together with Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, Jefferson was appointed to draw up a proposal for the Great Seal of the United States. Although Congress later adopted a simpler design, Jefferson took this occasion to emphasize the historical influence of two earlier civilizations on the liberties of his countrymen. One side of his proposed seal depicted the Anglo-Saxon leader Hengist and Horsa, while the other side portrayed the ancient Israelites being led through the wilderness by God’s pillar of fire. (Allison, The Real Thomas Jefferson, pp. 73-74)

List principles and actions by Jefferson which exemplified, supported, and perpetuated the Judeo-Christian culture of liberty.

 

Quotes by Thomas Jefferson

Historical Note about Jefferson’s contributions to the Great Seal of the United States

Together with Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, Jefferson was appointed to draw up a proposal for the Great Seal of the United States. Although Congress later adopted a simpler design, Jefferson took this occasion to emphasize the historical influence of two earlier civilizations on the liberties of his countrymen. One side of his proposed seal depicted the Anglo-Saxon leader Hengist and Horsa, while the other side portrayed the ancient Israelites being led through the wilderness by God’s pillar of fire. (Allison, The Real Thomas Jefferson, pp. 73-74)

Quotations

“If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them, they must become happy.”

We can surely boast of having set the world a beautiful example of a government reformed by reason alone, without bloodshed. . . but the world is too far oppressed to profit by the example.

In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution. (Allison, p. 200)

“I am for freedom of religion, and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another; for freedom of the press, and against all violations of the constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents. “

“As to the calumny of atheism, I am so broken to calumnies of every kind. . .that I entirely disregard it … It has been so impossible to contradict all their lies that I have determined to contradict none, for while I should be engaged with one they would publish twenty new ones. [My] thirty years of public  life have enabled most of those who read newspapers to judge of one for themselves.”

My views of [the Christian religion] are the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, and very different from that anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished anyone to be—sincerely attached to his doctrines in preference to all others.

I hold the precepts of Jesus, as delivered by himself, to be the most pure, benevolent, and sublime which have ever been preached to man.

If the freedom of religion guaranteed to us by law in theory can ever rise in practice under the overbearing inquisition of public opinion, truth will prevail over fanaticism, and the genuine doctrines of Jesus, so long perverted by his pseudo-priests, will again be restored to their original purity. This reformation will advance with the other improvements of the human mind, but too late for me to witness it.

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