McClanahan explores a number of interesting questions relating to Jefferson in this episode. Was Jefferson a conservative or a radical? What is American Conservatism? Does such a thing even exist or is it just some rehashed version of liberalism? What is Jefferson’s role in this debate?
No great American, not even Lincoln, has been put to so many contradictory uses by later generations of enemies and apologists, and therefore none has undergone so much distortion. In fact, most of what has been asserted about Jefferson in the last hundred years—and even more of what has been implied or assumed about him—is so lacking in context and proportion as to be essentially false. What we commonly see is not Jefferson. It is a strange amalgam or composite in which the misconceptions of each succeeding generation have been combined and recombined until the original is no longer discernible.
McClanahan based the podcast on an article he wrote.
If Jefferson bequeathed anything to America, it is not the proposition that “all men are created equal.” Equality under the law had been an accepted maxim long before Jefferson wrote that line in the Declaration of Independence. No, Jefferson’s gift to America is found in the last paragraph of the Declaration, the firm commitment to a…