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  •  Back to the Founding Fathers.... (45+ / 0-)

    The necessity of "keep it simple" has been a staple:

    Laws are made for men of ordinary understanding and should, therefore, be construed by the ordinary rules of common sense. Their meaning is not to be sought for in metaphysical subtleties which may make anything mean everything or nothing at pleasure.
     ~ Thomas Jefferson
    I hope that we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.
     ~ Thomas Jefferson
    If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so.
     ~ Thomas Jefferson
    Thomas Jefferson was a man of uncommon common sense in certain areas....

    I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

    by NonnyO on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 01:42:15 PM PST

    •  Jefferson was a hypocrite and a lunatic (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FG, a2nite

      What right did he have to condemn aristocrats when he was one who till his dying day insisted on living as one--at others' expense? What right did he have to celebrate freedom when he denied it to his own slaves, who toiled so he could live well? What right did he have to talk about destroying unjust laws when he lived every day of his life by them? What right did he have to condemn debt when he was in debt his entire life?

      I find so much to dislike about the man. We on the left do ourselves a huge disservice by uncritically celebrating him when we should know better. He was the original Bircher, Teabagger and Dixiecrat, an unreconstructed racist who promoted nullification, a strict constructionist and states rightist who didn't mind violating the constitution when he saw fit, and a complete economic luddite who'd make Ron Paul proud. He is a lazy leftist's hero.

      "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

      by kovie on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 05:47:36 PM PST

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      •  a little over the top, old boy. (9+ / 0-)

        Did you have some specific disagreement with NonnyO's three quotes?  Because they seemed en pointe and unexceptionable to me, no matter how many kittens Jefferson may have stomped in real life. NonnyO did not say he was a spotless Christian hero, let alone her hero. She mentioned "uncommon common sense in certain areas".  The veiled accusation of lazy leftism was uncalled for.

        Scripture says "resist not evil", but evil unresisted will prevail.

        by Boreal Ecologist on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 07:05:18 PM PST

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        •  We refer to Jefferson way too often (3+ / 0-)
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          Boreal Ecologist, jdsnebraska, a2nite

          He can be used by anyone for anything, thus the lazy reference. We on the left can be just as guilty as those on the right of canonizing those onto whom we wish to project our idealism, deserved or not. Jefferson is our Reagan, a man who said some nice things that he either didn't really mean or understand, and didn't understand people or how things really work here in the real world. And not a little crazy too. Didn't mean to pile on Nonny, but it's Jefferson I have a beef with, not her. So much that is wrong with our history can be laid at his feet, and those of men like him. Like Reagan. Well-spoken madmen.

          "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

          by kovie on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 09:01:48 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Thank you, Boreal Ecologist.... (9+ / 0-)

          You grasped my point exactly.  My caveat, "... in certain areas," does, indeed, refer to the stains on Jefferson's reputation, primarily having to do with slavery.

          However, as a genealogist for 50 years, I've also learned not to judge our forebears by modern standards.  Ancestors were living by the mores and ethics of their day - not ours.

          While I deplore (from the vantage point of modern thinking) certain areas of Jefferson's life, for his day and age, he was still a product of the Enlightenment, and was - for his day and age - an advanced thinker and philosopher based on his educational background up to that point in history.  Slavery had been an institution for thousands upon thousands of years by that point (and continued after his death), so Jefferson was abiding by the lifestyle of his peers.  On the plus side, Jefferson took religion out of government, so that's to his credit, too.  [Idiot Dumbya put it back in with the executive order that created the 'office of faith-based initiatives' to be run via the executive branch, yet another reason the bumbling fart deserves all the negative opinions regarding his violations of the Constitution and the laws of this land.]  As a perpetual student well-read about the historical eras where Christianity not only approved torture but participated in it, I know full well how badly a government-mandated religion can foster hatred and wars.

          History made personal:  Some of my male ancestors in New England in both my maternal and paternal lines fought in the Revolutionary War.  I just found microfilm copies for one of those men recently of his six years+ in the war, battles he was in, and his discharge papers were signed at Newburgh by 'G. Washington' - I compared the handwriting on the image with known signatures and it's valid.

          In my maternal line one was a Loyalist who was proscribed and banished, along with a long list of other Loyalists, from MA in 1778 (I was the one who found out where he ended up in Canada right after I got my first PC and got copies of his will and the two group deeds in which he's named, which was knowledge the genealogist who wrote the book on the family didn't know by 1935 when he published his book).

          On my paternal line most were Quakers so didn't fight, but the ones who apparently fell away from the Society of Friends are among the names in military lists of regiments.

          A century before that, one of my Quaker ancestors owned slaves on his sugar cane plantation in Barbados where he went to (or was sent) after he was jailed for three months and proscribed and banished from Ireland for wearing his hat in the assizes when he was a witness in a court case, and the youngest son, brother of my ancestor, owned slaves (as noted on an early local census list in Flushing, NY).

          By the time of the Civil War, another descendant in that familial line (cousin lineage) was a famous general and yet another became famous for a gun he invented that efficiently killed more people (both are in Wikipedia entries, both are descendants of those same Quakers).  Yet another descendant in a different lineage that ties into that one makes the infamous Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman my cousin since we have common ancesotors.

          Me?  I detest war as a waste of lives and money.  Slavery is an appalling practice and when I first read the will of that early paternal line ancestor in Barbados and his second son (I'm a product of the eldest son), I was horrified beyond words!  My jaw literally dropped when I read that in the genealogy book.

          Still....  Without those ancestors, I wouldn't exist, so I accept their life decisions because I wasn't there, didn't live their lives, and absent written diaries or other evidence, can only speculate their reasons for being on either side of the Revolutionary War two hundred years+/- after the fact, and the earlier ancestors/relatives who owned slaves yet another century before that.  I'm still horrified by the slavery..., but I wasn't there, so I can't judge them for living by the standards of their day.

          As far as Jefferson is concerned, I admire his futuristic thinking for his day and age, his educational background (who among us today can speak five languages fluently?)..., and at the same time I deplore the fact he owned slaves.  Ditto the other Founding Fathers who owned slaves, G. Washington among them.

          History is what it is and history cannot be altered, so we must accept it for what it was..., just as the fact that torture has been carried out in our names (a fact that makes me ashamed to be an American and still horrifies me beyond words) and We The People have been unable to stop it or bring to trial those who ordered the torture be done along with the persons who did the actual torture, and have, so far, been unable to get the unconstitutional and illegal legislation passed in the last 13 years overturned and our rights restored, or the illegal and unconstitutional wars ended....

          Future generations will judge us harshly for our current illegal, unconstitutional, unjustified, unethical, immoral, and dishonorable actions, particularly torture, breaking treaties, taking away our rights, and illegal wars, as well as the mendacious rhetoric that led to this sorry state of affairs and the fascism that is in the process of being implemented because of the interference of corporations in our government, all with the blessings of our Congress Critters, SCOTUS, and President who are doing nothing to stop it.  Indeed, they had/have a cadre of lawyers using pretzel logic to justify torture, and Congress continues to extend illegal and unconstitutional laws that were supposed to expire a long time ago.

          By comparison: Is accepting torture as normal better or worse than slavery?  We have no room to judge the past if we do not make sure the present isn't on a moral course to being more humane.

          I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

          by NonnyO on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 12:36:49 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Interesting history and, as importantly, (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            JesseCW, NonnyO, KayCeSF, Robynhood too

            very well said about judging people.  My ancestry is French Hugenot and my earliest known male relative fought in the Revolutionary War.  I doubt he, or any others of my past family ever owned slaves because, best I can tell, they were poor as church mice themselves.

            The comments above about Jefferson are, for me, symbolic of a seismic shift in the community I've enjoyed here for a long while.  It's becoming nearly impossible to say, suggest, discuss anything.  

            The longer I live, the clearer I perceive how unmatchable a compliment one pays when he says of a man "he has the courage to utter his convictions." Mark Twain

            by Persiflage on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 04:03:50 AM PST

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            •  Thank you, Persiflage - (1+ / 0-)
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              KayCeSF

              I completely agree with your last paragraph.  An innocent generalized comment often draws ire from someone who takes personal offense when nothing was even meant personally, just a general comment out there in cyberspace.

              Some of my ancestors, particularly the ones who arrived in the 19th century, were also poor.  I have documented ancestors to seven different countries of origin.

              My New England ancestry goes back to the Mayflower and the next 20-25 years or so.  Some of my early New England ancestors were well-known in their day (several are in Wikileaks entries).  One ancestor signed the Mayflower Compact, and the uncle of my ancestor was the first president of "Plimouth Colony" and signed the Mayflower Compact.  Two of my ancestors signed the Portsmouth Compact, the first and fourth presidents of RI in the 1600s were my ancestors; the title was later changed to governor and the brother of one of my ancestresses was also in the line of RI governors.  The man who made the dies for the Pine Tree shilling (grandfather of the guy who made the dies) was my ancestor.  The list goes on and on and on.

              After I got my first PC in the fall of '01, I made huge strides in finding more and more data, and that means also acquiring copies of original documents, and in the case of all three Scandinavian countries, two of those have their documents online for free, thanks to the taxpayers in those countries.  US documents are sometimes able to be had if one can find an index listing at least online, but it costs a small fortune in most cases.  With the advent of that idiotic Patriot Act, most county courthouses have one jump through hoops to prove one's identity and relationship to get the documents pertaining to one's ancestors.  In a few other cases, copies of documents are online.  [Correct:  I don't copy other people's work (way too many are copies of incorrect data in the first place).  I do my own research from copies of original documents when I can access them.  "Genealogy without documents is mythology."]

              If I had known this information in grade school and high school, American history would not have been such a boring subject.

              The result of doing genealogy research for half a century is that I've been forced to learn about circumstances in the areas where my ancestors lived and what was going on nationally and/or locally during those time periods.  When it's personal because one's own ancestors were there and events affected their lives, history is a lot more interesting.  :-)

              I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

              by NonnyO on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 05:58:27 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  Nonny (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NonnyO, burlydee

            Sorry if I've offended, but I have to disagree with your take on Jefferson. I understand and agree with the need to judge someone by the prevailing standards of their time, but I believe that even on this count Jefferson fails.

            For one thing, as a self-avowed devotee of the enlightenment and one of the more well-educated and sophisticated men of his age, surely Jefferson knew that slavery was not just wrong, but evil, if not according to the prevailing standards of his day, then surely according to the emerging counter-standard that held that slavery was wrong, and certainly according to the standards of the enlightenment, whose tenets he knew extremely well. So merely on this count, I give Jefferson no quarter, as he has no legitimate out here. There is no way in the world that he didn't know better. In fact he himself called slavery an evil that had to be ended. Just not on HIS watch.

            As opposed to Washington, a far more conservative and traditional and less educated and sophisticated man who nevertheless came to believe in his later years that slavery was an absolute evil that had to end, and backed it up by actually freeing his slaves (albeit upon his and his wife's death, which to some extent he was legally limited to doing). So, fail #2 for Jefferson on this count.

            Finally, he was unbelievably racist, even for his time. You absolutely have to read his Notes on Virginia, in which he said some truly horrible things about black people, totally out of line with his "thoughtful and enlightened" public image. E.g. they were intellectually inferior to whites (but loved to dance and enjoy the little things, being basically children, mentally), could never be integrated into society, and if freed should be forcibly sent back to Africa (Liberia was basically Jefferson's idea). So, fail #3 on this count.

            And don't get me started on what he did to Hamilton and Washington while working with the former and under the latter. Pure treachery that would make Karl Rove blush (or beam with pride), along with the sort of anti-big guvmint paranoia we today associate with teabaggers and folks like Ron Paul. And I repeat, he was an utter fool when it came to economic and financial matters, which as president figured prominently, leading to a massive and avoidable recession (plus that whole disastrous War of 1812 thing).

            Yes, he absolutely did say, write and do some truly great things, especially the Declaration, his views on separation of church and state and on not blindly trusting government, and founding UVA. But on matters having to do with race, slavery, finance, economics, war, foreign policy, trade, commerce, industry, governance, etc., he was on the whole a huge failure. And he violated his own strict constructionism at least twice, in the Louisiana Purchase and war against the Barbary pirates (from which we get "the shores of Tripoli").

            And, of course, Sally Hemmings.

            "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

            by kovie on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 07:34:38 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Apology accepted.... (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              kovie, burlydee, KayCeSF

              I respect your right to your own opinion of Jefferson.  We will have to agree to disagree on his influence on this nation.  I'm perfectly fine with that.

              Google search turned up the text of Notes on Virginia.  I can't remember if I've read it or not.  I might have, but it was several years ago if it's the same piece I'm thinking of.  It doesn't hurt to re-read books.

              Like a great many people, Jefferson had some great flaws and some great virtues.  I have paused to wonder sometimes if Jefferson put his ideal world into the Constitution [the Revolutionary War was, after all, fought over an ideal, plus the earlier disagreement regarding 'taxation without representation'] even as - in real life - he balanced the good and bad of his day and age, and made compromises when he should have stood firm..., a problem our current spineless politicians seem to have had for the past thirteen years regarding torture, unconstitutional & illegal laws & wars, corporations' profiting from government and writing legislation our Congress Critters have passed, banking institutions that needed to be bailed out..., and the like.

              I think - before the century is out - our modern spineless politicians will be just as harshly judged as you judge Jefferson, or perhaps more so, given how "enlightened" modern people are supposed to be ~ but are not.

              To see the current torturers, liars, warmongers, and their enablers brought to justice would be the only reason to want to live longer than my lifespan, whatever that turns out to be.  (I plan to live to age 100 in spite of health issues, and as of my birthday in less than a month, that's only 33 years from now.)

              I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

              by NonnyO on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 09:10:04 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Read the Notes, they're quite disturbing (1+ / 0-)
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                NonnyO

                Jefferson obviously did and wrote many great things, but he was not a fan of compromise, and in many ways was the opposite of enlightened. Instead of dialectic, he was more didactic and pedantic, refusing to allow for even the the potential legitimacy of countering viewpoints.

                He was a closed-minded ideologue, which is why I see so much of him in folks like Ron Paul, seemingly well-intentioned lunatics who get it right in certain instances but on the whole are quite misguided IMO. And it wasn't even his specific opinions on this or that that most bothers me, as his adamantine refusal to question them and apply the same critical faculties he applied on his opponents on himself. All criticism begins with self-criticism.

                Note that I excuse none of the founders, all of whom I find some fault with (except, perhaps, Franklin, who it's hard to dislike on any count).

                But Jefferson, man, what a disappointment.

                "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

                by kovie on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 09:30:16 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

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