#1221 The First 100 Days

Clay S. Jenkinson discusses Thomas Jefferson’s election as President in 1801, his first 100 days in office, and notes the sometimes-uncanny parallels with our time.

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Further Reading

Show Notes

Clay, on the purpose of the Thomas Jefferson Hour:

I think about this all the time: What's the purpose of the Jefferson Hour? Some of it is historical; it's a fascinating era of American history. Jefferson is America's da Vinci so he deserves all the attention that we can give him. But the more important purpose of this program is clarification. I found [that] by reading [about] Jefferson's first hundred days, it really helped me understand what's going on now. It put it into a wonderful, and somewhat comforting, historical perspective. It made me realize that the slightly freaked-out anxiety of the American people is not new; this happens with some frequency when we shift from one party to another, and when the new person is as significant a break from the last one (as Trump is to Obama), it makes everybody nervous — even those who are rooting for that person. That, I think, is the point of the Jefferson Hour: that the more things change the more they stay the same.

As quoted by David in this week's episode, here's a passage of Alexander Hamilton's letter to Theodore Sedgwick from 10 May 1800:

If we must have an enemy at the head of the Government, let it be one whom we can oppose & for whom we are not responsible, who will not involve our party in the disgrace of his foolish and bad measures. Under Adams as under Jefferson the government will sink. The party in the hands of whose chief it shall sink will sink with it and the advantage will all be on the side of his adversaries.

From the Library of Congress: "This famous watercolor view by William Birch shows the only section of the Capitol that had been completed when the government moved to Washington in 1800. Workmen are still cutting stones in the left foreground, and the city can be seen in the distance on the right."

From the Library of Congress: "In this critical cartoon, Thomas Jefferson as the cock or rooster, courts a hen, portrayed as Sally Hemings. Contemporary political opponents of Jefferson sought to destroy his presidency and his new political party with charges of Jefferson's promiscuous behavior and his ownership of slaves. The cock was also a symbol of revolutionary France, which Jefferson was known to admire and which, his critics believed, Jefferson unduly favored."

The Magnificent Capitol, Washington, D.C..png

The First 100 Days

The Jefferson Watch

From Clay:

"There is no evidence that Mr. Trump realizes that he presides over the most important nation on earth, that his every utterance has a national and global significance, that a President is expected to embody and exhibit decorum, clarity, and professionalism."

Read this week's Jefferson Watch essay, "The First 100 Days."

“Hard to imagine Adams as a debauched man!”
— Clay

"This was the greatest single thing about John Adams," Clay declares. "We should do a program about this." You can read the full blog post or listen to this week's 1776 Club episode.

What Would Jefferson Do?

The President’s purpose is primarily administrative.
— Thomas Jefferson, as portrayed by Clay S. Jenkinson

Tune in to your local public radio or join the 1776 Club to hear this episode of What Would Thomas Jefferson Do?

Listen to this week's episode.

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