#1238 Presidential Decorum

I never like to be rude, but sometimes one has to set the precedent for a society that will shock the world.
— Thomas Jefferson, as portrayed by Clay S. Jenkinson

This week, we discuss diplomacy and presidential decorum. When the British Ambassador Anthony Merry came to the White House, Jefferson went out of his way to be rude: to make it clear that the Revolution was won by us, not them.

In 1792, Jefferson wrote to George Washington: "No government ought to be without censors: and where the press is free, no one ever will. If virtuous, it need not fear the fair operation of attack and defence. Nature has given to man no other means of sifting out the truth either in religion, law, or politics."

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Further Reading

  • Founders Online: From Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 8 December 1784, "While Mr. Henry lives another bad constitution would be formed, and saddled for ever on us. What we have to do I think is devoutly to pray for his death, in the mean time to keep alive the idea that the present is but an ordinance and to prepare the minds of the young men."
  • The Atlantic: "Pell-Mell" by Tom Wolfe, November 2007. "Jefferson obviously loved the prospect of dumbfounding the great Brit [Anthony Merry] and leaving him speechless, furious, seething, so burned up that smoke would start coming out of his ears."


The Death of Decorum in the White House

The Jefferson Watch

"This phenomenon is simply mystifying. Trump’s behavior gets denounced every day, almost every hour of every day now, but I’m much more interested in trying to understand it, or more particularly trying to understand why there is about a third of the population that defends such loutish and unpresidential behavior or even fist pumps it. If your preacher talked this way, would you defend it? If a high school English teacher talked this way would you defend it? If Obama had talked this way would you have defended it? If your best friend talked this way would you defend it?"

Read this week's Jefferson Watch essay, "The Death of Decorum in the White House."

What Would Jefferson Do?

If the people are informed, they will govern themselves.
— Thomas Jefferson, as portrayed by Clay S. Jenkinson

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