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.
- Dumas Malone: Jefferson the President: First Term, 1801-1805
- Joseph J. Ellis: American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson
- Jon Meacham: Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
- Charles Slack: Liberty's First Crisis: Adams, Jefferson, and the Misfits Who Saved Free Speech
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.
"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."