I’m one of the people that has fairly often argued that the American Revolution and all that followed is based (in some measure) on John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government. Robert Curry of The Claremont Institute in an American Thinker article titled Why ‘Unalienable’? disagrees with me, saying.
Locke’s Two Treatises of Government appeared in 1690. The articles by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay that became The Federalist began appearing in American newspapers in 1787. Quite a lot had happened during that intervening century. The greatest development of all during that time was the onset of the American Enlightenment, that explosion of human genius that gave America and the world the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and The Federalist. The Founders carried out a revolution in thinking about the meaning and possibilities of human life unlike anything the world had ever known before — and by 1776, they were only getting started. Thomas Jefferson later…
There is excellent Jefferson scholarship… available to interested readers. Current scholars seem bound by political correctness to debase the Jeffersonian legacy with tales of slave concubines and youthful indiscretions. Look to the work of the established Jefferson scholars to find the elusive inroads to one of America’s greatest, but most enigmatic minds.
How strange it is to hear evangelicals… claim Thomas Jefferson as one of their own, when in his day, he was accused of being an infidel by the Christian clergy. Jefferson left little doubt about his religious beliefs in his voluminous personal papers. It is his place in our history and especially our founding that drives advocates of all stripes to want Jefferson’s opinion on their side. We must remember, Jefferson was not an atheist, far from it; he believed in personal religious freedom and public restraint. Jefferson did advocate the separation of church and state,
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between church and State.” Jan. 1, 1802
It was the public attacks on his beliefs… that prompted Jefferson to write Virginia’s Statute of Religious Freedom in 1786. It is a simple proposition, letting your neighbor worship as they wish, even if that means not worshiping at all. Jefferson said it best,
“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” Notes on the State of Virginia 1782
Jefferson was fascinated by theology…and could talk about it for hours on end. A deeply personal project was the Jefferson Bible. He analyzed the New Testament and removed what he considered to be “so much untruth, charlatanism and imposture” along with any mention of miracles or the supernatural (always the scientist.) Jefferson was interested in the moral philosophy of Jesus. The Enlightenment taught Jefferson to seek the rational path to moral clarity.
You don’t have to look very hard to learn… about Jefferson’s religious beliefs. They are found in his personal papers and private correspondence. This is the essence of Jeffersonian religion–keep it to yourself.
“Our particular principles of religion are a subject of accountability to God alone. I inquire after no man’s, and trouble none with mine.”
Revisionists perpetuating the allegation that Thomas Jefferson… fathered all of Sally Hemings’ children now believe history is on their side. The pressures of political correctness have relegated reasonable discourse on the issue to the fringe. A scholar who questions the findings of writers like Annette Gordon-Reed, must be prepared to be labeled a racist. The discipline of history demands that consensus never be granted immunity, regardless of social convention or political correctness. A fair evaluation of the evidence provides reasonable doubt in the revisionists’ narrative. Thus far, they show little interest in fielding these questions:
Where was Sally ? Jefferson was at Monticello nine months before the birth of her children (so was the rest of his extended family) but there is almost no evidence showing she was there. Sally was Patsy’s handmaiden and reasonable historical inference would place them together- including the periods when Patsy did not live at Monticello.
Can we really trust the “conception windows?” There is no way of proving that Sally Hemings carried her children full term. Birth records from the 19th century make it difficult to see six full term pregnancies for one woman. What about the more than 20 windows when Hemings did not conceive?
Is the oral history truly reliable? Madison Hemings was the only child to claim Jefferson was his father. His descendants will not submit to DNA testing. Eston Hemings descendants have the male Jefferson gene, but have never claimed to be descendants. Confused yet?
Can we stop talking about secret passages? It is well documented that revisionists have misquoted or ignored critical evidence proving no servants could have entered Jefferson’s bedroom without being seen.
Are we ready to acknowledge the inconsistencies in the DNA testing? There were 25 Jefferson’s who possessed that Y-chromosome within 100 miles of Monticello. Randolph Jefferson, Thomas’ brother and his five sons, need further scrutiny.
Why did Sally stop having children in 1808? Jefferson took up full-time residence at Monticello in 1809, shouldn’t there be more children? Jefferson was 64 years old when he allegedly fathered Eston Hemings in 1808.
Can we throw Callender’s reputation back on the ash heap of history, where it belongs? There is no proof he ever visited Charlottesville, the DNA test proved there was no ‘Tom’ Jefferson conceived in France, and no one can identify a shred of credibility in his reporting.
Thomas Jefferson was the author of religious freedom in America… as the First Amendment borrows its language from his Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. Like all men of the Enlightenment, Jefferson believed it was built upon the individual. The individual was born free to worship, or not, in anyway he saw fit.
“…nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.”
Jefferson clearly draws the line between the public citizen and his private religious beliefs… the freedom to worship remained a private decision- not to be propagated in the public sphere. Jefferson acknowledged the dangers of a state-sponsored religion, but he also realized that religious zealotry could threaten civil liberties.
He cautioned his friend, James Madison:
“The declaration that religious faith shall be unpunished does not give immunity to criminal acts dictated by religious error.”