May 1, 2000
Jefferson's Genes or Genius?
With more "new" alleged "revelations" of the possibility that Thomas Jefferson was the father of one, or even several children, by his slave Sally Hemings, I feel compelled to ask what I believe to be an infinitely more important question: where are Jeffersons philosophical and spiritual heirs? Who has robbed America of Jeffersons Genius? Who will pay us our restitution?
What level of scientific inquiry has been brought to bear on the possibility that not only the Hemings descendants, but also most of the rest of us, are being gradually disinherited of Thomas Jeffersons genius, which being infinitely more important and substantial than his earthly seed, has been cast aside or will be cast aside once again in yet another episode of retroactive tabloid journalism.
How many of the pretended or actual descendants, depending on your point of view, are versed in Jeffersons political philosophies? How many of us American citizens by birth and heritage can recite any of his words accurately? How many of us can expound upon the profound principles of human liberty under God that he so eloquently enshrined in the Declaration of Independence? How many of Sally Hemings or any other slave or freemans descendants could pretend to be the rightful heirs of all that was and is Jefferson? And finally, how many Americans are breathing air that is as free as Thomas Jefferson had intended it to be by now?
There are so many today in American society who would rather take offense as an excuse to ignore the rest of what not only Jefferson, but the rest of the founding generation and those who had gone before had accomplished and preserved. Many so-called scholars today hold those folks to a higher-than-human standard in one or two areas while ignoring the core teachings of their writings. While they were risking their necks to secure the grandest outbreak of human liberty in the history of the planet since Moses crossed the Red Sea, and being attacked from every side, they are supposed to have been capable of erasing slavery and all human suffering of every description at the same time, and, I suppose, with one hand tied behind their backs.
The Abolition was already accomplished in most of the northern States by the time Jefferson had put his quill to the Declaration. In fact, a portion of the Declaration condemning the King for the slave trade was removed in committee because it was realized that it would be hypocritical to denounce the King for doing something that was still being encouraged in a couple of the southern States only.
Yes, there were still controversies over slavery to come in the future, but what many fail to realize today is that the degree of Individual Liberty made possible through that Revolution was never known in the world either before or since [excepting of course the Theocracy under God and Moses in ancient Israel and throughout much of the period of the Judges that followed].
In fact, most of this generation of Americans has not so much as a clue of the brand of liberty Jefferson could articulate and other patriots like Patrick Henry might daily partake of in the Virginia that existed immediately following the Framing of the Constitution. Some are so profoundly ignorant that they would rather punish Jefferson by trying to besmirch his memory. Some would rather take monetary restitution than the riches that are the true genius of Jefferson.
Today, we are in a generation consumed by the notion that everyone is "entitled" to his "fair share" and that the government is the Great Provider and Referee that must not only create all wealth and access to benefits, but must allow each group whose time has come to have its day of retribution for past wrongs done by other dead people to other dead people. When these folks are done, I suppose, that in their mind there will be no Judgment left for God.
Bad things have been happening to people, animals, and even micro-organisms, for as long as anyone can tell. It is most ironic that we live in a generation that knows so little about the fundamentals of liberty that it would discount a Jefferson, or a Franklin, or any other human being based on the fact, or alleged fact, that the person may have been fallible or even to some measure hypocritical.
If we had held Mr. Clinton to the standard that some would impose on Jefferson, do you suppose the Senate might have had the courage to convict and remove him? Perhaps not this Senate!
What does all this say for our fellow countrymen who are still listening to Clinton as if he were a reincarnation of Jefferson?
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Jeffersons penning the words above was the equivalent of signing his own death warrant in a time when the first few experiments of true civil liberty were being tried. King George would no doubt have loved to have had a very large sample of Jeffersons DNA - perhaps enough for an autopsy.
I have yet to hear one critic of Jeffersons alleged personal life who was well versed in his writings. So I will simply dare my own generation to go back and read some substantial amount of what Thomas Jefferson wrote. Read of his other accomplishments. Then I think we will share more informed assessments of Jefferson as well as ourselves. Certainly we will have gained a greater understanding of many principles of self government that he not only expounded, but remarked that they were the common opinions of his generation.
If we compare our writings to the writings of the people of Jeffersons generation, we may find ours to be the far more hypocritical age. Obviously Jefferson and his contemporaries were willing to risk more than the average American today. There can be no reasonable doubt that all of the signers knew they were practically placing their necks in the Kings noose.
It cannot be disputed that they demonstrated a higher and more transcendent perspective than we generally see today.
I am reminded of a quote from John Adams who didnt always get along with Jefferson yet respected him tremendously. In a letter to his wife Abigail he writes:
"You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph in that day's transaction, even although we should rue it, which I trust in God we shall not."
Did you notice anything transcendent about the perspective of the quote above?
Who knows how much dirt well have to dig up in order to be able to confidently ignore all of the work of the entire founding generation?
Want to know more about Jefferson?
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