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Thomas Jefferson: Politics And Power

This program is rebroadcast from November 13, 2012.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham on lessons from the politics of Thomas Jefferson. What we can learn now.

Thomas Jefferson, by Rembrandt Peale (1805)

Thomas Jefferson, by Rembrandt Peale (1805)

Thomas Jefferson wrote the radical document at the heart of the American experiment.  The Declaration of Independence.  “All men are created equal.”  And he kept slaves.  He argued mightily against a too-powerful central government, and he led the federal government as the nation’s third president. He was a planter, a scientist, an historian, an Enlightenment-smitten philosopher, and – says biographer Jon Meacham – a surpassing politician.  With a flexibility that our politicians today could use. This hour, On Point:  Thomas Jefferson, the philosopher politician.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guest

Jon Meacham, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author, his new book is “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power.”

From Tom’s Reading List

The Washington Post “In ‘Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power,’ Meacham, despite his subtitle, accomplishes something more impressive than dissecting Jefferson’s political skills by explaining his greatness, a different task from chronicling a life, though he does that too — and handsomely. Even though I know quite a lot about Jefferson, I was repeatedly surprised by the fresh information Meacham brings to his work. Surely there is not a significant detail out there, in any pertinent archive, that he has missed.”

The Wall Street Journal “For Election Day, we asked some leading historians and bestselling biographers what the Founding Fathers would have thought about this year’s presidential campaign between President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney.”

Note: Our Sample Copyright Exemption Has Expired Since This Program First Aired in 2012

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  • Yar

    I wrote this two years ago when this show first aired.
    http://onpoint.wbur.org/2012/11/13/thomas-jefferson-politics-and-power

    In the Deceleration of Independence Jefferson wrote:In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.

    I was given a wonder gift this morning as ten geese flew directly overhead just before sunrise, they were bathed in the morning light and I could even hear the rush of air from the downbeat of their wings. It is the gift to a farmer, up before the sun and outside to see the gifts of nature. It is the education of the world by God. We have lost much of this as our leaders come from business instead of men of the soil.

    The eye of an architect, the measure of an engineer, the ear of a musician, and the personality of a writer, all from a farmer. Yes, Jefferson’s wealth gave him time to pursue the arts and develop his skills. His contribution is legendary and made possible through the sweat of slaves. Yet, I believe his roots in farming gave his appreciation for the soil and sun as the source of energy.

    • John Strauss

      Congratulations on the wonderful Jefferson program with John Meacham! I had other things to do, but was really captured by this. Wonderful, wonderful, imagine actually teaching stuff on the radio! And the comments too, you have some very impressive listeners. More please!

      • Fredlinskip

        I suspect you may find the comments of the listeners even more stimulating if you visit the archived original broadcast.

  • Satwa

    Please do not talk about the Founders again without mentioning that they were very afraid that Britain was going to ban slavery before 1773, and emancipation movement was strong in England. A couple of court cases had been decided in Scotland and England, and strongly suggested slavery was illegal. Even if Britain would not have banned slavery, the Founders VERY MUCH thought it was going to happen. They could not abide that, because they knew they could not survive without their slaves.
    Jefferson called the thousands of slaves that escaped to Canada and eventually to London and Sierra Leone, “Those fugitives from these States.”
    – Tom in Vermont.

    • Yar

      The same is true today. We believe we cannot survive without slavery. This is why we won’t pass immigration reform, living wage legislation or many other laws that prevent oppression.
      Our lives today are still made possible by slaves. Look in a Foxconn factory, or follow a tomato picker in Florida. Slavery is alive today. Ask the 12 million undocumented workers in America about how they are enslaved by not having papers.

      • Rick Evans

        Foxconn employees are neither owned nor unpaid. Your comparison is absurd.

        Even stupider is your comparison of Africans who were kidnapped and shipped to a continent to perform unpaid labor to illegal immigrants who sneak into the country, become paid labor, are free to leave but often stay and buy houses.

        • Fredlinskip

          Perhaps there are SOME analogies there.
          Illegal immigrants, if a common perception is correct, often come and “do the jobs that Americans are unwilling to do”.
          Many slaves, once freed, also eventually were able to buy some property.
          And hiding in the shadows until the first time they are caught for the most minor of infractions to be deported, is not necessarily “freedom”.
          I sure wish House of Reps would get off their butts and pass some sort of legislation towards addressing this issue, until waiting after next elections, at which time they will find another excuse to ignore the problem other than attempt to build higher walls.

          • Rick Evans

            Why double down on stupidity? What part of illegal immigrants CHOSE to come, are paid and are free to leave here don’t you understand?

          • Fredlinskip

            I don’t assume to speak for Yar , but I’m sure he realized that these immigrants were not actual slaves.
            He used the term to emphasize the case that these people do not have an easy go of it.
            It’s probably not the absolute best choice of words.
            He is trying to express some empathy for the downtrodden- and personally I don’t think that emphasis is entirely misplaced.
            Could it possibly be that your disdain for
            I I’s clouds your vision a bit?

          • Rick Evans

            “Could it possibly be that your disdain for
            I I’s clouds your vision a bit?”

            There’s nothing clouded about my vision Maybe it’s Yar’s and your willful ignorance about the difference between being owned and treated like property and being taken advantage because of illegal status. Maybe your vision is clouded by a revisionist view of America’s history of enslavement.

          • Fredlinskip

            Well maybe your right .
            Maybe Yar DID really mean that I I’s were actually slaves in actual chains.
            It’s hard to not stick up for a guy who starts off the day’s conversation with a comment highlighting his and Jefferson’s profound respect for the beauty of nature.
            Happy 4th!

          • William Hedrick

            You mean the same people that were first Scotch/Irish, then German, then Irish, then Italian, then Chinese, then Polish, then Latin American? Madison said that immigration was one of the factors that made America great.

        • William Hedrick

          You realize that corporations that build factories and manufacturing plants in China are hiring workers in a communist country where workers have no rights and can be either fired or killed for failure to comply, right? It’s a common practice to chain doors to ensure workers meet quotas.

      • nj_v2

        Modern, large-scale capitalism cannot survive without what is the contemporary equivalent of slavery.

        Institutionalized wage slavery with poverty-level minimum wage; union busting; tax policy that favors the rich and fictional, corporate entities; corporate subversion of the political process; public subsidies for private profits…

        The result of decades of right-wing regressive policy.

        • pete18

          “Modern, large-scale capitalism cannot survive without what is the contemporary equivalent of slavery.”

          Hyperbole much?

          • William Hedrick

            Actually not. I would also suggest that 19th Century Colonialism has been replaced by 20th and 21st Century corporate and virtual colonialism.

          • pete18

            Paying cheap or even
            “exploitative” wages is not slavery. You diminish the horrors of real slavery with that overwrought comparison, as well as willfully ignoring the effect that
            21st century capitalism has had on improving the standard of living
            of poor people all over the world.

            There’s plenty to criticize and debate about the working conditions for employees and their compensation, particularly in the case of western companies setting up shop in
            underdeveloped countries, but you undermine the validity of those critiques with such hysterical
            and baseless broad brush
            analogies.

          • William Hedrick

            No, it’s not simply based on the wage, although you can draw a corollary between exploitive wages and providing substandard food and lodging in lieu thereof. The larger factor is the work environment including 12+hour days with no days off, abusive management (which include canings in Indonesia, a form of corporal punishment which is nothing more or less than a variant of whipping), and state-mandated employment- you work where you’re told, when you’re told, and for whom. These things combined create a form of slavery every bit as revolutionary as the development of chattel slavery. That we empower others to do it with however many degrees of separation we can achieve through the cowardly protection of incorporation and facilitating and adding to the corruption of foreign governments doesn’t dismiss the fact that it’s simply another form of human bondage, albeit slightly more politically correct. In America we fight for minimum wage and collective bargaining because we know that capitalism is inherently corrupt. It’s an an incredibly efficient and powerful engine to drive an economy, but just like a high-performance sports car it must have brakes and a steering wheel, or else it’s chunk of metal hurling down the road toward a catastrophic end. Corporations become transnational and go to countries where they can operate without brakes and steering, exploiting resources in a manner no different than the 19th Century Europeans. Transnational corporations aren’t concerned with lower tax rates- they pay more to lobby against taxes as they’d pay if they just did their duty. They seek environments, much like US Fruit did in Central America, where they can operate with autonomy.

        • tbphkm33

          I agree – the United States is today composed of slavery in the form of indentured servitude to the financial economy. A wast majority of The People making under $150,000 are trapped in its cycle.

      • Satwa

        @Yar_From_Somerset_Ky:disqus Yes, I totally agree. And many Chinese work as slaves to us making devices, appliances, clothes, foodstuffs. In the UK, Thanks for adding that to my comment.

    • Fredlinskip

      That’s bizarre, but we’re all entitled to our opinion.
      Brits were all about the slave trade. It was lucrative business. They sure wouldn’t have ended it any time soon in America as the slaves were producing the goods they needed which made the colonies something of value to them.

      • Satwa

        Fredlinskip
        Thousands of slaves were released or let go in England in 1773. Fact.

        Jefferson and the others started the fight against the British BECAUSE of the abolishionist movements and activities going on in England. That will be the historical record of this battle in the Colonies, which was just a battle in a much much bigger and more important war. The war against the strictly mono-reliigous states in Europe, and against the French expansionist dictator Napoleon. Once that war was over, which was literally PERSONALLY started by George Washington in 1756, and continued for most of the time until 1815, the British could get back to what they started in 1771, and inserted a clause into the treaty with France after Napoleon was defeated in 1815, that said, that all parties should try to legislate slavery out of existence as soon as possible. Which they did. The British were in a war of survival against the Catholic regimes since Henry VIII and Elizabeth I broke from Rome, but the period from 1756 to 1815, were battles fro survival of freedom of religion and against the tyranny of dictatorship by Britain. All the American War of Independence did was slow down the abolitionist trend that had firmly taken route in England in 1772.

        Read Professor Horne’s book “The American Counter-Revolution” which he shows, with meticulous research and references that the American War of Independence was first and foremost a revolution AGAINST the abolitionist revolution that was taking place in Europe.

  • Satwa

    Jefferson called the 10,000 slaves who escaped to Canada and eventually to London and Sierra Leone: “Those fugitives from these States.”
    – Tom in Vermont.

    • Godzilla the Intellectual

      Technically, based on the insane laws of the day, they WERE fugitives!

      What is your point, that no statesman or “founding father” deserves any “credit” because of slavery?

      That the only one to be revered is Lincoln?

      • Satwa

        @Godzilla the Intellectual
        Yes, none of the American Founders should have respect, maybe Hamilton. The Founders did not start the war because of the reasons Americans have been brain-washed with for 300 years. The Colonists went to war to keep their slaves. Plain and simple. A couple of court cases had been decided in Scotland and England, before 1773, and made the case that slavery was illegal. Even if Britain would not have banned slavery, the Founders VERY MUCH thought it was going to happen. A whole program on Jefferson should have mentioned his comment about the “Black Loyalists”, and that hJefferson sided fully with the other slave-owners out of fear of losing his fortunes.

        The Founders did not create freedom at all. After the American War of Independence, only land-owners could vote, which was a worse form of democracy than 16th century England. America had to go to war and kill 600,000 of its people before freedom was attained (for men only ) and full rights were only given in the 1960s ! ! !

        So yes, Lincoln is a true American hero (played by an Irishman in the movie :-) ) So is Martin-Luther-King. Washington and Jefferson were land-grabbing frauds.

        Read “The American Counter-Revolution” by Professor Gerard Horne of Houston Uni

        • Fredlinskip

          Jefferson talked the talk but often didn’t walk the walk, as they say. There would have been no constitution in ’87 if ending slavery was part of equation.
          It was difficult enough to come to agreement as it was.
          I suspect we MIGHT have had to settle for AT LEAST 2 countries, which in retrospect MAY have not been the worst of scenarios.
          ALL of the Founders deserve great respect for their contributions to pushing great ideals forward. They were downright Revoutionary in that respect. Change doesn’t happen overnight.

          Progress occurs slowly- Often too slowly. We often look back and think- why did we think like that?- “WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?” Future residents of America will INEVITABLY say the same about us. Hopefully we will have left them a healthy country and planet to view us from, but that is FAR from a certainty

          The status quo “powers that be” are always resistant to change- you might even venture to call them

          “CONSERVATIVE”.

          • Satwa

            No, the correct choice was to side with the British who were moving rapidly towards abolition in 1773, when 10,000 slaves were freed in England, and who were in a constant war against religious regimes which wanted to bring back Papal rule of Europe and of America. The Brits were in a world war with the strictly mono-religious states of France and Spain since Queen Elizabeth I first broke from Rome, sinking the Spanish fleet, Britain later defending the American colonies with blood and treasure from the French and Spanish (strict Catholic regimes), and defeating them, and sinking their navies, in the American War of Independence, which was the only important military victory of that decade, and making the Americans sign a truce to not cause any more trouble, but when America attacked British Canada in 1812, the Brits came back in and burned down the White House – all while taking on the expansionist dictator Napoleon in Europe, and defeating him, inserting a clause into that treaty with France and others, that all parties should try to abolish slavery as soon as possible. Which they did. The Americans behaved themselves after that. At least until they killed 600,000 of their own people over slavery in civil war, decades after slavery had been outlawed in most of Europe. If anything, all the American War of Independence did, was slow down the abolitionist movement and set it back 50 years. Sorry, that’s the version that will go down in history, not the propaganda that has been taught to Americans for centuries.

            Read The American Counter-Revolution by Professor Gerard Horne of Houston Uni

          • Fredlinskip

            Appreciate you taking the time to defend your position and the facts presented.
            However, when you say we should have “sided with the Brits, I assume you’re saying that we should have ended the practice of slavery with our constitution.” Yes I think that would have been “the correct choice”. Yes, I wish it happened. It is a scar on our heritage.
            However slavery was too entrenched into the fabric of our society, and the Southern states would never have agreed.
            Yeah the Brits kicked butt all over the place, and often, took “somewhat” the moral high ground, although many of the subjects of far flung colonies, might disagree.
            Yeah, they burned down the White House, which I believe was the act that finally propelled the U.S. to create a “standing Army”
            Yes the constitution did slow down the abolitionist movement.
            As far as FF’s deserving respect- I, as well as vast majority of historians, believe they certainly have earned that.
            Appreciate your book recommendation- will make note. I’m kind of swamped with reading material at present.
            Thanks

        • Godzilla the Intellectual

          I understand, and respect, your point of view…

    • William Hedrick

      You cannot look back three hundred years and judge by todays morality and standards. Whether right or wrong, these ideals were broadly held by 99% of the population. Changing morals and mindsets take generations.

      • Satwa

        William Hedrick The Colonists went to war to keep their slaves, but 300 years of brain-washing in America has made American brains almost incapable of considering that fact. A couple of court cases had been decided in Scotland and England, before 1773, and strongly suggested slavery was illegal. Even if Britain would not have banned slavery, the Founders VERY MUCH thought it was going to happen. A whole program on Jefferson should have mentioned his comment, and that he sided with the other slave-owners out of fear of losing his fortunes.

        • William Hedrick

          That’s a profound simplification and patently false. The British gained asiento, or the cartel that controlled the shipment of slaves and didn’t abolish slavery until 1833. The abolition movement is not really seen until the 1820′s in America with the Second Great Awakening. The main reason for abolition in the North was that they didn’t need the labor force as merchants, but the overwhelming majority of British as well as colonists didn’t have a problem with slavery. There were certainly abolitionists, but no credible historian would agree with your statement. I mean hell, the Bible condones slavery. That was good enough for most 18th century folks.

          • Satwa

            Read the post again, you merely scanned it, without any valuable understanding. There was a very visible emancipation movement from at least 1770 onwards in England. At least 2 famous court cases (1771 & 1772) were loudly trumpeted by a virile abolitionist movement in England (Jefferson et al., were well aware of of all of this ) and close to 10,000 slaves were freed in England by 1773. Some were, just thrown out onto the street, because their ‘owners’ couldn’t or refused to pay them, so it was not pretty, but since the whole consciousness of ‘respectable’ England had now decided that slavery was illegal in English and Scottish law, at the very least, unfashionable, even if it was technically still allowed. You would be hard pressed to find a slave in Britain after 1773. 20,000 slaves escaped to Canada during American War of Independence, some to fight for the British, some to London, then to Sierra Leone. The ideas professed by American high school learning.

            If anything, the American War of Independence slowed down the march towards emancipation across British Empire, that was its greatest effect.

            Read “The American Counter-Revolution” by the scholar, Professor Gerard Horne of Houston University.

            .

          • William Hedrick

            Why would there be slaves in England? They worked primarily cotton, tobacco and sugar- none of which grow in England. I didn’t say there wasn’t an abolitionist movement, I said it wasn’t a pressing concern or a reason for the war. There has been moral opposition to slavery since the Greeks.

          • Satwa

            Again, there was a very strong abolitionist movement, both in Britain, AND among the American revolutionaries. It was very strong.
            Of COURSE there were slaves in England. And they were being freed by the thousands BEFORE the American War of Independence. Try to grasp that fact.

            And that the founders saw this, and RIGHTLY or WRONGLY, concluded that Britain was going to outlaw slavery in all its lands. So they went to war to stop that.

            That’s then end of the story of the war, and that’s the version that shall last in the historical record. Sorry.

            Read “The American Counter-Revolution” by the scholar, Professor Gerard Horne of Houston University.

          • Fredlinskip

            The “story” that the American Revolution was about America breaking with he Brits because the Brits were going to end slavery in America is a figment of yours (and apparently) Professor Horne’s imagination.
            You are going to need more than one historian to support you, if you are going to attempt to COMPLETELY rewrite history.

          • Satwa

            @William Hendrick
            Thousands of slaves were released or let go in England in 1773. Fact.
            Jefferson and the others started the fight against the British BECAUSE of the abolishionist movements and activities going on in England. That will be the historical record of this battle in the Colonies, which was just a battle in a much much bigger and more important war. The war against the strictly mono-reliigous states in Europe, and against the French expansionist dictator Napoleon. Once that war was over, which was literally PERSONALLY started by George Washington in 1756, and continued for most of the time until 1815, the British could get back to what they started in 1771, and inserted a clause into the treaty with France after Napoleon was defeated in 1815, that said, that all parties should try to legislate slavery out of existence as soon as possible. Which they did. The British were in a war of survival against the Catholic regimes since Henry VIII and Elizabeth I broke from Rome, but the period from 1756 to 1815, were battles for survival of freedom of religion and against the tyranny of dictatorship by Napoleon. All the American War of Independence did was slow down the abolitionist trend that had firmly taken route in England in 1772.
            Read Professor Horne’s book “The American Counter-Revolution” which he shows, with meticulous research and references that the American War of Independence was first and foremost a revolution AGAINST the abolitionist revolution that was taking place in Europe.

          • William Hedrick

            No sale. Neither I nor the overwhelming majority of American historians agree with your thesis. One of the reasons is that by 1750, Americans had imported enough slaves that there was adequate “domestic breeding programs”. Many of your basic facts are true, but you’re putting two and two together and coming up with twenty-two. Slavery had run it’s course in England but it was still practiced wholesale throughout the British Empire. The colonists certainly weren’t threatened by abolition- not to any great extent, least of all enough so to drive the war. That’s ludicrous.

          • Satwa

            Read the book, and the references to historians. Then you’ll know. Otherwise, enjoy your archaic American fantasy. Ignorance is bliss.

          • William Hedrick

            Actually, I don’t count on books, I go to the source. I’ve read the letters and writings of many of the Founding Fathers, Jefferson, Washington and Franklin specifically. Nowhere in my reading have I found any of those most intimately involved who have even discussed any concern about slavery. Certainly there is always a faction of any political movement that are batshit crazy conspiracy hounds (present company included), but the actual individuals actual words don’t bear your point out. Don’t tell me about “historians” who speculate what causes may have been underlying the stated reasons for revolution, especially if it challenges the overwhelming preponderance of academic historians- show me where any of the Founding Fathers discussed your theory in primary sources. If you can’t do that, your point isn’t credible. It’s pretty much that simple. Do you challenge the scientific evidence behind climate change and the evolution, as well?

      • rfra20

        Couldn’t agree more. The American economy of the era was founded on cheap slave labor (for better or worst) and you don’t just wish an entire economic system out of existence even if you don’t agree with it. How much of our current material well being the in US is based on slaves in Asia making things for us? Or you don’t want to think of it that way when you buy that $5 t-Shirt made by a worker earning peanuts locked in a factory that burns to the ground killing hundreds of other workers. Or when you use your smart phone assembled by someone who was caught by a suicide net at a Foxcon facility a few days earlier. A review of European history might be in order too. How many of the peasants (masses) of Europe lived in a feudal society where they were, for all practical purposes, owned by the nobleman living in the castle up the hill? This was the western world at that time, no surprise that slavery was used and exploited by many. The big surprise is that there were enlightened people like Jefferson who set the stage for the development of a more just society.

  • sjw81

    great book . how true what jefferson said: we need a revolution every now and them and true enough today- our olligarchy corrupt and dysfunction and out of touch fed govt is a travesty. god help up

    • William Hedrick

      No, in that Jefferson was wrong. He also wrote that before the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror and Robespierre. History has shown us that most revolutions are actually revolts that fail. America is the exception- even the French Revolution failed in it’s ultimate goal. Instead of having a king, they got an emperor. They simply swapped Louis the XVI for Napoleon- both drove the country to ruin.

  • lauklejs

    I think the distinction between Hamilton and Jefferson can be phrased: They both believed in natural classes; BUT Hamilton thought the federal government should be in the business of helping the upper class and that would help everyone. OTOH Jefferson thought the federal government could do about anything AS LONG AS it did not benefit any class in particular and since the upper classes have all the power that meant de facto it should not benefit the upper class more than a modicum. IOW Jefferson thought vis a vis the federal government (and all governments by extension) that trickle down economics is immoral and B..ls..t (not just BS).

    • William Hedrick

      It breaks down to the common good versus self-interest.

  • U.S.S.A.

    Noam Chomsky: Obama ‘Determined To Demolish The Foundations Of Our Civil Liberties’

    http://dailycaller.com/2014/06/04/chomsky-obama-determined-to-demolish-the-foundations-of-our-civil-liberties/

    • nj_v2

      That’s hilarious, a partisan, right-wing rag like the Daily Caller citing Chomsky. These clowns have no shame.

      • U.S.S.A.

        And Obama has no problem or remorse about violating the US Constitution, or the Bill of Rights.

        • William Hedrick

          Because he hasn’t. If the GOP thought there was a prayer they could make a charge stick, they’d already have him on impeachment charges.

          • U.S.S.A.

            When the GOP takes the Senate in November, then they ‘ll be able to start impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives.

            It only makes more sense for the GOP to wait until they are in control of both Houses of Congress. It increases the likelihood of impeaching Obama for his egregious Constitutional violations.

          • William Hedrick

            Yeah, sure. You guys are doing gangbusters now- I love watching the bloodbath between the Tea Party and the somewhat-reasonable-wing of the GOP. Ever see what happens to a political party when it splits? Look at the Whigs of 1856 or the GOP in 1912. Until the GOP fixes it’s civil war and finds a way to bring fresh blood into the party instead of chasing women away, I’m not too worried. You think you don’t like Obama- just wait until Hillary’s elected. HAAH!

          • William Hedrick
          • U.S.S.A.

            The only way Hillary (don’t ask me about Benghazi) is going to get elected, will be if all the illegal aliens the Obama regime is flooding the country with, are given amnesty.

            Hillary called Obama “incompetent and feckless”, in a boozy rant.

            http://nypost.com/2014/06/27/hillary-called-obama-a-joke-at-lunch-with-pals-book/

          • William Hedrick

            Sooo…. do you have any more of whatever it is you’re smoking for sale?

          • U.S.S.A.

            unfortunately you’re not interested in the truth, only White House talking points.

          • Fredlinskip

            OH PLEEEEAAZE tell us about Benghazi!!!

    • William Hedrick

      Noam Chomsky is the Rush Limbaugh of the left.

      • U.S.S.A.

        No, he’s just working to expose the inherit tyranny of the Obama regime.

  • Fredlinskip

    Jefferson thought we should all remain farmers,
    drink a lot of wine, attend Unitarian church, and accumulate lots of debt.

    We’ve got the debt part right.

    • tbphkm33

      I do believe the wine consumption is up also.

  • tbphkm33

    If you have not visited Monticello, put it on your list. I would venture to argue that Monticello is more “powerful” or invigorating than visiting Washington, D.C. Jefferson designed the house and grounds himself. Visiting, you really do feel like you are connecting with him.

    • pete18

      Finally, something that we can agree on!

    • Noli me calcare

      I agree; and then drive thirty minutes to visit Madison’s Montpelier. To be in the library where Mr. Madison drafted what became the U.S. Constitution, arguably the most significant document in human history, is a connection that most Americans should experience.

  • Fredlinskip

    “During a dinner at Monticello, Jeff Randolph recounted a scene in which a Thomas Jefferson lookalike was a servant tending to the table where Thomas Jefferson was seated. Randolph recalled the reaction of one guest: “In one instance, a gentleman dining with Mr. Jefferson, looked so startled as he raised his eyes from the latter to the servant behind him, that his discovery of the resemblance was perfectly obvious to all.”

    Amazing that it took historians centuries and DNA evidence to admit the connection.
    Another example that the history we all were taught, in some cases if not fairly often- is a bit suspect.

  • U.S.S.A.

    Thank God the US Constitution allows for impeachment, because Barack Obama has violated the US Constitution and Bill of Rights more than any other President, and for that, Obama deserves to be impeached.

    • Fredlinskip

      If it wasn’t for 35 or 36 other presidents, I’d have to agree- he’s one of the worst.

      • U.S.S.A.

        Consider this, Obama could very well be the first person in history to win a Nobel Peace Prize, and also be indicted as a war criminal.
        Wouldn’t that be ‘historic’.

        • Fredlinskip

          You sure the last letter of you moniker of wasn’t a typo and is supposed to be an “R’?
          Over here, we usually support our president on the 4th.
          Especially one who may have help steered us away from a Depression, saved our Auto industry, and extracted our troops from an unnecessary War.

          • U.S.S.A.

            Not a typo. The US is looking more and more like the old Soviet Union.

            ” Obama Steered us away from a Depression”

            LOL! What do you think US is in now?

          • Fredlinskip

            Believe me – everyone will know it when we hit a Depression- And we ain’t there yet.
            It is VERY unlikely that predatory Businessman Romney would have bailed the auto industry as Obama/Dems did- there goes a WHOLE LOT OF JOBS.

            HEY DID YOU HEAR THE NEWS!!
            Obama and Kerry were able to negotiate the removal of WMD’s (real, not imaginary ones) from the Syrian conflict WITHOUT THE LOSS OF A SINGLE AMERICAN!!
            Imagine that!!

        • William Hedrick

          Actually, four Presidents have won Nobel Peace Prizes including Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter. Care to revise your point? If you don’t know what you’re talking about, don’t.

          • U.S.S.A.

            Were any of them later indicted as war criminals?

            It will be quite ‘historic’ if Obama is indicted for his war crimes, as many believe he will be.

          • William Hedrick

            No, but we’re not talking about George W. Bush, either. Tell me what nation or entity has INDICTED Obama for anything? FoxNEWS and Limbaugh don’t count.

          • U.S.S.A.

            Obama is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people in Afghanistan. Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. It’s only a matter of time before he will be held responsible for his crimes in a court of law.

            More than 2,400 dead as Obama’s drone campaign marks five years

            http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2014/01/23/more-than-2400-dead-as-obamas-drone-campaign-marks-five-years/

    • Godzilla the Intellectual

      Every president has been accused of being a lame duck, and every president has had at least one special interest group attempting impeachment proceedings.

      Funny how there is always someone who isn’t happy with the president’s “performance”.

    • William Hedrick

      Please tell me specifically what acts you feel were unconstitutional, as well as the exact element of the Constitution that speaks to his crime. Otherwise, I’ll have to assume you’re not qualified to even discuss the Constitution, much less challenge a man with a JD in Constitutional Law.

      • U.S.S.A.

        Tell me where in the Bill of Rights the authority is given to the President to arbitrarily assassinate American citizens?

        President Obama has ordered the assassinations of four American citizens, one of whom was a 16 year old boy. If killing American citizens isn’t an egregious violation of the Eighth Amendment, then I don’t know what is.

        • U.S.S.A.

          Obama Admin. Admits for First Time It Killed Four U.S. Citizens in Drone Strikes Outside War Zones

          http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2013/5/22/obama_admin_admits_for_first_time_it_killed_four_us_citizens_in_drone_strikes_outside_war_zones

          • William Hedrick

            So? You think he’s the first or last? We’re at WAR, buddy.

          • U.S.S.A.

            Obama wasn’t the first, but he needs to be held accountable for his actions, along with Bush, Cheney, Rice, Wolfowitz, and Rumsfeld.

        • William Hedrick

          Well, golly gee. Maybe we should exhume Eisenhower, because he’s the King of the Assassination. Now, the Constitution DOES charge the President with protecting the Constitution, and the primary objective of the Constitution is THE COMMON DEFENSE- so you do the math. If you want to read about assassinations and illegal activities, read about the Guatemala, Iran, Indonesia, the Congo guys like John Foster and Allen Dulles under the Eisenhower Administration, 1952-58. You could also read about Ollie North and Iran-Contra. But you don’t want to learn, do you? You’re much more comfortable parroting Glenn Beck and Hannity. As for killing an American citizen- I bet you’d have been fine with someone putting a bullet in Bergdahl’s brain rather than bringing him home, wouldn’t you? Why would his Constitutional rights negotiable but a traitor who is actively living and working as a jihaddist extremist in Pakistan not invoke your outrage?

          • U.S.S.A.

            So you approve of Obama violating the Eighth and assassinating American citizens?

            Your approval is duly noted, but it’s still Unconstitutional, as well as being an impeachable offense.

  • Godzilla the Intellectual

    Why are the Democrats & Republicans the only parties allowed to participate in the primaries???

    Each state needs to be ONE district, with number of seats allocated by the total number of votes each party receives, the top 10 parties with the most votes. Proportional representation.

  • SpecialForcesVet

    Excellent interview; really appreciated Meacham’s insights re both of these complex men. Thanks Tom!

    De oppresso liber.

  • Fredlinskip

    Looking back on the Founding Father’s in retrospect, most of them seemed to spend enormous time & energy in their youth securing the proper wife who had the proper (VERY large) dowry to support their ambitions. Had they not been successful in these endeavors than it’s likely we might be talking about a whole different group of FF’s.
    (let this be a lesson to you kids- it’s all right to fall in love- but go for the cash).

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