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Jefferson on Hope and Fear

I’ve been reading a biography on Thomas Jefferson. Of course I have – our home sits under the shadow of Monticello, and silhouette images of Jefferson (with cohorts Madison and Monroe flanking) scatter our city. Before we moved, more than one person talked about the “ghost of Jefferson” that pervaded the ethos of Charlottesville. Jefferson founded UVA, and the architectural grace of the place speaks “Jefferson” ever bit as much as the university’s philosophical roots.

There’s a lot that could be said about Jefferson, much to admire as well as much to regret. I respect his commitment to freedom, but I wince at how that freedom stopped abruptly short for slaves and women. I resonate with his passion for classical learning, but I can not share his trust in the ultimate power of reason. I love his desire to build “an academical village,” but I notice how his idealogical commitments at times kept him from seeing truth in places he didn’t want to look.

I’ve run across pieces of wisdom I want to ponder. I will share one. In 1816, Jefferson wrote one of his many letter to John Adams. I steer my bark with Hope in the head, leaving Fear astern. I like that. Alot. I think our world needs these words; I know I need these words.

4 thoughts on “Jefferson on Hope and Fear

  1. Hey Winn – after you finish with Jefferson’s biography, you should try to find time to tackle John Adams. The juxtaposition would be great – 2 friends, but also fierce political opponents. Anyway, I read the Adams biography and now want to watch the HBO miniseries. I think I will try to tackle the Thomas Jefferson biography before our visit next summer!

  2. I like the sound of that – “visit next summer.”

    Yes, the relationship between the two was one of the interesting parts of his story, though this biography didn’t delve too deeply into it. This biographer, though, made an interesting judgment that Abigail Adams was one of the only women who Jefferson was comfortable talking politics with.

  3. The HBO miniseries is excellent!

  4. My copy of Holy Curiosity just shipped!

    p.s. been a while since your last post . . . though I’m not one to talk.

words have a way of making friends. drop a few here.