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Thomas Jefferson, Revolutionary period, and history

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SkepticalMetal Posted: Mon, Sep 17 2012 4:18 PM

[split from Ron Paul's Legacy here]

 

My brain hurts when I think about Thomas Jefferson. One minute I think the guy is great because of some great quotes and literature, and then I find out he owned slaves and broke a bunch of treaties with Indians (violating their natural property rights, essentially). I'm not sure what to think of the man, but overall he seemed to be a tad on the hypocritical side...I guess he couldn't have been as bad as Hamilton.

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"My brain hurts when I think about Thomas Jefferson. One minute I think the guy is great because of some great quotes and literature, and then I find out he owned slaves and broke a bunch of treaties with Indians (violating their natural property rights, essentially). I'm not sure what to think of the man, but overall he seemed to be a tad on the hypocritical side...I guess he couldn't have been as bad as Hamilton"

I think that just like there is a Cult of Lincoln, there is a Cult of Jefferson. The past, especially the revolutionary period, is so ridiculously overromanticized. Even here at the LvMi. People might not like to hear that but I feel it is true and feel the need to be honest about it. I think discussion needs to be started on it. 

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Well, in regards to a dualism concerning Jefferson, and as Molyneux himself says:

"Do not judge men of the past by the standards of today".

Are doctors of the 13th century hypocrites for prescribing leeches because they more or less 'knew' it would cure the ailment---despite it not curing the ailment?

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"Well, in regards to a dualism concerning Jefferson, and as Molyneux himself says:


"Do not judge men of the past by the standards of today".

Are doctors of the 13th century hypocrites for prescribing leeches because they more or less 'knew' it would cure the ailment---despite it not curing the ailment?"

Right that is what historians call "presentism" but during Jefferson's time there were individuals advocating freedom for slaves, equality for women and better treatment for the Indians. So it is not as if these are present day ideas that were not in the lexicon in the late 18th and early 19th century. 

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Yes, you are right, Spain had long since abandoned slavery by 1776 amongst others.

I wouldn't deny Jefferson is a sort of hypocrite, however I also wouldn't give a mile-high club prerequisite about people who claim he is a saint.

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Then you are sensible and see that every individual has some good and some bad. 

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Would it have been considered political suicide by the populists to be an abolitionist in 1776?


 

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Yeah. Nobody is perfect (although saying that about a guy who owned slaves is a little small-seeming). I mean, Gandhi slept with little girls. In a way, what the Founders did in their personal lives perfectly reflected the content of the Declaration of Independence in saying that no man is a saint, and no man should be worshipped. You can admire people, but EVERYONE is a human being, who does good and bad throughout their lives.

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"Would it have been considered political suicide by the populists to be an abolitionist in 1776?"

Well it does not have to necesscarily be 1776. The Northwest Ordance of 1787 did prohibit slavery. The slave trade into the US stopped in 1808. So not really suicide to be anti-slavery. However, there is a difference between being anti-slavery and being an abolitionist. Being an abolitionist meant seeking some kind of equality between blacks and whites. You could be against slavery and not be an abolitionist. In fact that was why the "Free Soil Party" was formed. They wanted to stop slavery because it was taking away jobs and land from whites. 

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Andrew Cain - are there any revisionist accounts of the American Revolution that you recommend?

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Aristippus:
Andrew Cain - are there any revisionist accounts of the American Revolution that you recommend?

I'm wondering if he thinks Rothbard was a "cultist" who "romantacized" that period.  His work would likely be one of the most recommended from folks of an Austro-libertarian persuasion, which one would have to assume means it would be considered quite "revisionist" from a mainstream perspective.  Although I'm not sure what Cain would consider revisionist.

I'm also curious about Woods and Gutzman.  Are they "cultists" too, Cain?

 

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@JJ

I'm wondering if he thinks Rothbard was a "cultist" who "romantacized" that period.  His work would likely be one of the most recommended from folks of an Austro-libertarian persuasion, which one would have to assume means it would be considered quite "revisionist" from a mainstream perspective.  Although I'm not sure what Cain would consider revisionist.

I'm also curious about Woods and Gutzman.  Are they "cultists" too, Cain?

In his first post, the one that is wildly off topic, he brought up the very subject that got the other thread started.  He calls Jefferson a "disgusting hypocrite who created the idea of the Empire of Liberty" while going on about "verstehen" as if he practices it at all when speaking like that.  He's, again I think, provocateuring me.  But, i think, even Rothbard gave Jefferson his due credit without knocking him for owning slaves during a period where it was en vogue.  The vast minority were abolitionists and Jefferson never said anything about starting aggressive wars as the empire of liberty.  This reminds me of a bad history book I read called Global Cold War by some Norwegian academic.  He tried to relate Reaganism to Jefferson "Empire of Liberty" it was miserably cited as well.  The Soviet treatment was much more...careful about political rhetoric.

I also the that he thinks that he is revisionist.  Even though I found his views to be very mainstream in the other thread.  He cites political rhetoric for politicians motivation (community college history major style).

Just my thoughts.

Does anyone have Ron Paul's cell phone number?

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Well I mainly ask since Albert Jay Nock, for example in Our Enemy The State, presents the motives for the revolution in a very different way to the mainstream (and primarily concerned with control of land):

"It is an odd fact that among the most eminent names of the period, almost the only ones unconnected with land-grabbing or land-jobbing, are those of the two great antagonists, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton."

He refers to the following secondary works (in addition to many primary ones):

Sakolski, The Great American Land Bubble

Beard, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States

Nock, Jefferson

I admit I haven't read any of them, nor have I read Conceived in Liberty (probably the only major work of Rothbard's I havent't gotten around to).  I'll try to check them out.  Surely, however,  someone else has written on this in the past century.

EDIT: According to the Wikipedia article on Beard's work, since the 1960's the mainstream historians have considered his interpretation baseless.  This would perhaps suggest that he was onto something.  It also refers to another work: Edling, Max M. A Revolution in Favor of Government: Origins of the U.S. Constitution and the Making of the American State. (2003),

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For the people talking about the Jefferson stuff, I created a new thread for that. It's up.

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The only one you mentioned I've read is Nock's Jefferson.  It is highly complimentary.  Slavery is only mentioned in cursory ways and it focuses on his love of scientific inquiry (almost more than politics).  Apparently Jefferson attempted to map the gulf winds across the U.S. and bought plants when in France to send back to certain parts of the U.S. in hopes that the recipients would plant them and they would seed the whole nation.  His efforts were ignored; only the almond tree was actually done.  Nock says in there that 55 of 65 of the Founders were, what we would consider today, bankers (he doesn't refer to them all as bankers some were land speculators, etc.).

I feel like real historians attempt to get to know the people they study rather than pigeonhole them for moral flaws in attempts to make themselves feel enlightened, ahem.

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"Andrew Cain - are there any revisionist accounts of the American Revolution that you recommend?"

Revisionist by what account? 

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"I'm wondering if he thinks Rothbard was a "cultist" who "romantacized" that period.  His work would likely be one of the most recommended from folks of an Austro-libertarian persuasion, which one would have to assume means it would be considered quite "revisionist" from a mainstream perspective.  Although I'm not sure what Cain would consider revisionist.

I'm also curious about Woods and Gutzman.  Are they "cultists" too, Cain?"

No I do not think Rothbard was "cultist" about Jefferson. In fact I remember listening to a lecture by Rothbard in which he criticized Jefferson for coping out on his beliefs when he was in the office. He said something like Jefferson was nice but a Jeffersonian was better. If I can recall the exact lecture I will be sure to pass it along. I would not call Woods cultist either, merely more Whiggish in the sense that historians use it today. I personally think Woods overromanticizes revolutionary history to a degree but I think that is just because of my personal taste. I do not fall into the love-affair that many have with the "founding fathers" They were inciters of mobs and mob justice and when those mobs grew their own beliefs, they would violently oppress them. A revolution to get them into power and an army to keep them there. 

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"Well I mainly ask since Albert Jay Nock, for example in Our Enemy The State, presents the motives for the revolution in a very different way to the mainstream (and primarily concerned with control of land):

"It is an odd fact that among the most eminent names of the period, almost the only ones unconnected with land-grabbing or land-jobbing, are those of the two great antagonists, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton."

That is due to Charles Beard. He really rocked the foundations.  I actually have Max Edling's A Revolution in Favor of Government but I have not read it yet. 

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"In his first post, the one that is wildly off topic, he brought up the very subject that got the other thread started.  He calls Jefferson a "disgusting hypocrite who created the idea of the Empire of Liberty" while going on about "verstehen" as if he practices it at all when speaking like that.  He's, again I think, provocateuring me.  But, i think, even Rothbard gave Jefferson his due credit without knocking him for owning slaves during a period where it was en vogue.  The vast minority were abolitionists and Jefferson never said anything about starting aggressive wars as the empire of liberty.  This reminds me of a bad history book I read called Global Cold War by some Norwegian academic.  He tried to relate Reaganism to Jefferson "Empire of Liberty" it was miserably cited as well.  The Soviet treatment was much more...careful about political rhetoric."

Well I see your ego has not deflated. Yes, I am secretly taunting you. Verstehen is the act of placing yourself within the mindset of the time. Not engaging in presentism. Not applying modern day values in a time which they do not believe. Rothbard actually makes a good example in trying to describe this, it would be like being mad at Aristotle for not knowing Mises' theories on money. However, there were feminist, abolitionists and whatever you would consider the equvilent of such people for Native Americans. They were values around the time of Jefferson. Jefferson did not believe in them. Well, like I said before, he did not roll over Indian tribes like Jackson but as he stated in his own words, and you confirmed, he was not against using violence against them. Anyways, if we continue that then we should just take it back to that topic post.

Where was I? Oh yes, I'm provoking you..with every post I make to...other people... about my views on Jefferson. You have caught me sir!

 

 

 

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By the way, did anyone know that an American subject paid less taxes under British rule then under the U.S. government? 

What really peeved Americans was the fact that they were paying for British troops to protect them along the demarcation line, a line that they continually violated in their quest for new land. When I first heard that, it was somewhat jaw-dropping but really why should we be surprised? 

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I'm provoking you

I noticed that you suggested that the mods ban me in that other thread.....

And I edited what you quoted there as I didn't notice the time stamp.

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"I noticed that you suggested that the mods ban me in that other thread.....

And I edited what you quoted there as I didn't notice the time stamp."

Yes. And they did. Justice served. We can move on now. 

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Mob justice from intolerant people who doesn't love that kind?  As long as it's not a permaban, who cares?  I was home all weekend anyway...

"ban" used to mean permanant.

"Suspension" used to mean temporary.

But, when you trade your small for a medium and a medium for a large...there is no small anymore.

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You've read the rules. By participating in the forum, you are agreeing to abide by them. If you have a complaint then talk to a moderator since I am no longer one. Honestly, they are nice people. A lot nicer then I would have been back when I was one but we grow older and wiser. 

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Wheylous replied on Tue, Sep 18 2012 8:25 AM

Bastards. In my government class essentially our first essay was to criticize Charles Beard's interpretation of history. Being drunk on Madison's masterpiece, I blithely criticized Beard and idolized the founders. I thought that Beard was arguing against free markets, for some reason. Instead, he might have been arguing against corporatism. Any good books by Beard I should read? I want to give him a second chance. Was the Constitution created in corporatism.?

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Whoa, what the hell? WHO PUT THIS THREAD HERE!?

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"Bastards. In my government class essentially our first essay was to criticize Charles Beard's interpretation of history. Being drunk on Madison's masterpiece, I blithely criticized Beard and idolized the founders. I thought that Beard was arguing against free markets, for some reason. Instead, he might have been arguing against corporatism. Any good books by Beard I should read? I want to give him a second chance. Was the Constitution created in corporatism.?"

Eh you might not have been getting too off a vibe. Beard was a progressive so he did not care much for free-markets. 

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If anyone cares to continue this discussion, I have read Max Elbing's A Revolution in Favor of Government. I have found the work to be very insightful and would recommend it to anyone interested in understanding the psychology of early American political figures. It certainly dispels this myth that the constitutional government we have today was meant to be powerless, small and bend to the will of the states. In fact, the constitution was created to provoke the opposite effect: It was meant to create a strong, centralize, European-style of government that was meant to answer questions of a fiscal and military nature. How much and what type of taxes/imports/duties and the establishment and defining of a standing army. 

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Out of curiosity have you read Collective Action under the Articles of Confederation? I stumbled upon it by accident some months ago but haven't got around to reading it. 

http://www.amazon.com/Collective-Action-under-Articles-Confederation/dp/0521782090

 

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No I have not but it seems interesting. 

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Shame. I haven't read it myself but I read the original paper (""Marginal Cost Sharing and the Articles of Confederatio") that lead to the book and the responses it received. I brought it up since it tackles the question if the Confederacy really failed and shows that contrary to popular opinion the Confederacy did manage to collect taxes and manage national affairs. It just happens to be that there are few real national affairs that meritted its existence. 

And if there wasn't really merit for the Confederacy's existence, why'd it get replaced by an even more centralized national government?

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"And if there wasn't really merit for the Confederacy's existence, why'd it get replaced by an even more centralized national government?"

I think this is because there are certain political figures that wanted a more European style of government because they saw the articles as being too democratic and open to the populace. I do not think people realize that the developing United States was very close to being a direct democracy. 

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The Constitution is a lot more democratically centralist than the Articles of Confederation was.

The Articles of Confederation was somewhat Statist, but it was not a failure at all.

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You have to be more detailed in what you mean, I do not think it is possible to be "democratically centralist." It seems to me to be kind of like saying concentrated limitlessness.  And the Articles of Confederation were a failure to certain people. It all depends on how you look at it. 

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How was the Constitution sold so well though? I know some of the anti-federalists like George Mason and Patrick Henry shifted their opinions after the French Revolution scared them. The best I can make out of it the Articles were overthrown without the general population doing a thing to stop it. 

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That's an interesting question and one that the Edling book actually answers. To be a statesmen in this period, one was expected not to have personal interest in the matters of government. Gordon Wood calles it "disinterestedness" and actually has a well written article on it though if you have one of his works about the revolutionary period, it is included in it to a large degree. So you have statesmen openly declaring before the Constitutional Congress that they will not enter debates with set opinions but instead leave themselves open to be influence by their peers. These were the individuals representing their respective states and the passing of the Constitution was hotly contested. Due to the fact that it was so long ago and we have had it for so long, it seems like it passed without hinderence but it was very much contested. 

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@Michaelangelo:

Through threats of force and extreme fraud.

http://americanvision.org/6155/the-truth-about-the-federalist-papers/

Let me know what you think.

@ andrew Cain:

The Confederation could not have turned the country into a direct democracy because individuals could not vote on national issues.

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"The Confederation could not have turned the country into a direct democracy because individuals could not vote on national issues."

I didn't say it was a direct democracy, I was just commenting on how close some state constitutions came to being direct democracies which would translate into the Articles in varying degrees. The philosophy of republicanism during the revolution further accentuated this fact. 

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