- Publisher: Marmarth Press
- Available in: Hardcover
- ISBN: 1930806221
- Published: January 21, 2005
I wanted to write a short book on this subject for two reasons. First, I believe that Jefferson is still relevant. Second, I worry that the issues of slavery and Sally Hemings have so damaged Jefferson in our time that he is in danger of being dismissed for the true genius of his achievement and his vision of a republican America.
Several of my literary friends have said they regard this as my best book. It is certainly the most readable, if only because it is the shortest. For anyone who wishes to live as a Jeffersonian, this is the right starting place, I believe. Each short chapter is about a different Jeffersonian virtue. Each begins with an extended quotation from Jefferson, and then tries to project forward how that principle might work in our time.
I perform a number of historical characters, and I like each of them in different ways. But I am by temperament a thoroughgoing Jeffersonian. I believe the world is knowable. I believe that humankind is a rational animal. I believe in what Jefferson called “the indefinite perfectibility of man.” I believe that education is the Archimedean lever that can enlighten the world, bring each individual to a flourishing self-actualization, solve seemingly intractable problems like class, race, poverty, and superstition, and bring the best individuals (TJ’s natural aristocrats) into positions of modest authority. Moreover, I tend to see the world through books and texts, believe that clarity is the highest excellence in writing, and I believe we cannot understand our culture unless we ground ourselves in the history of western culture, including the Greek and Roman classical period. I believe that “those who labor the earth” should be especially reverenced by the people they feed, and that Jefferson’s agrarian vision will begin to flourish again when we liberate ourselves from the gross assault on the soil that is represented by Hamiltonian agribusiness.
I believe the world would be dramatically, perhaps infinitely better, more rooted, more enlightened, and happier if the American people pursued a Jeffersonian agenda. The two existing national parties are both Hamiltonian: I regard one as the greater Hamilton party and the other as the lesser Hamilton party, but I am certain that the Jeffersonian has no settled place in modern party politics.
To read a sample chapter of Becoming Jefferson’s People, click here.
“Jefferson loved books as books, and he regarded them as sensuous objects, and even works of art. He made sure that his beloved books were elegantly and sumptuously bound, shelved in aesthetic good taste, and classified intelligently. Unlike his disputatious friend John Adams, Jefferson did not deface his books with hectic scribbling. His marginalia were confined to careful correction of spelling and grammar in the volumes he accumulated. He loved fine paper, good ink, and handsome typography. When Jefferson said he could not live without books, he meant it. It is just so with Jeffersonians.”