Americans go back and forth in their feelings about Thomas Jefferson. When Franklin Roosevelt spoke at the opening of the Jefferson Memorial, he spoke of the architect of our country and designer of her freedoms. Jefferson, Garry Wills tells us in his wonderful book, “Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence“, that he explained what it meant to be an American before we were even a country. Others find him to be the ultimate hypocrite and spendthrift.
When it was discovered that Jefferson almost certainly fathered children with his slave, Sally Hemings, it caused many to reconsider the man. Was he worth emulating and celebrating? Or was he the most base of hypocrites, a rapist who wrote beautiful thoughts while living a villainous life.
And then there is the issue of money. David McCullough spends many of his pages on his book about Adams describing Jefferson’s spending habits that not only put him into virtual bankruptcy, but would be disastrous to those he left behind.
When thinking about Jefferson we often think about Lincoln as well. Because it was Lincoln who told us that Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence required our Civil War, as it demanded the end of slavery.
Jefferson wrote out a set of principals that told us what it meant to be an American. For better or worse, he still does.
Call us if you would like to take part in the Bow Tie Tours Thomas Jefferson Tour this summer, in which we follow Jefferson to several of the most important places of his life, from Philadelphia to Williamsburg to Natural Bridge to Charlottesville. Whether you love or hate him, it is important that you know him.