The following is a rush transcript.
DS: 00:00 Good day and welcome to What Would Jefferson Do?, our weekly opportunity to discuss current American events with President Thomas Jefferson, who is seated across from me now. Good day to you, Mr Jefferson.
CSJ as TJ: 00:14 Good day to you, citizen.
DS: 00:16 Mr. Jefferson, I have a question here from Mr James Chin. He wants to know if, when you were in France, were you influenced by what he calls the Illuminati, and are there Illuminati in our government or among world leaders pushing for a new world order. Can you make sense of that sir?
CSJ as TJ: 00:36 To a degree. So I was interested in the work of the Illuminati and I also knew of the work of the Freemasons and others. They all had the same purposes in mind: to live in a rational world, to believe in the perfectibility of mankind, to secularize our state churches to the extent possible and to promote a scientific, secular and enlightened view of the world. And they were a somewhat secretive organization, the Illuminati, and many people found them to be objectionable because of that. And because they weren't certain of the agenda of these organizations. I was always very strict with myself and did not join any exclusive organizations whatsoever. I'm frequently asked if I was a Mason or a Freemason, and the answer is no,
DS: 01:29 But who were these people, the Illuminati?
CSJ as TJ: 01:32 They were well educated reformers. They were sometimes parts of government, sometimes parts of universities or what you would call foundations.
DS: 01:42 Was it a secretive society or was it publicly known?
CSJ as TJ: 01:46 Somewhere in between — so membership was a secret, but it was somewhat of an open secret. They had nothing to hide. It was just one of those fraternities that exist in the world where there is a rule of silence. There is a secret ritual of some sort, although let me tell you from what little I know of it, it's harmless ritual, and they existed to promote an enlightenment view of the world. They had no secret agenda to displace Popes or to put certain despots on the crown or remove them or anything else. These were people that belong to what I would call the republic of letters — like-minded reformists, philosophes, scientists, men of letters, people that believed in natural history. Men who liked to correspond with each other about the history of ideas and the capacity of ideas to change the world. I don't see any harm in any of these sorts of organizations, but I'm not fond of their secret rituals. And so I never joined the masonic movement, even though Meriwether Lewis, my protege, was a Freemason — in fact, helped to start the first Masonic lodge west of the Mississippi River after his return from his tour. And George Washington, of course, the greatest of all Americans, was himself a Freemason.
DS: 03:05 Well, I suspect Mr Chin's letter might have something to do with current thought of secret societies that are trying to influence our government.
CSJ as TJ: 03:15 There's always a conspiracy view that there somehow are people behind the curtain who are moving the levers of the world economy or the levers of our nation states. It's never true.
DS: 03:30 Well, isn't it to a certain extent? I mean the, the men in government, even during your time were the ones who called the shots.
CSJ as TJ: 03:37 There are two types of government. Even in a limited little republic like ours, there's the permanent bureaucracy or the semi-permanent bureaucracy, people who maintain their positions as tax collectors or the Department of State or the Department of the Treasury, irrespective of who happens to be the current president of the United States, and then there's the group of people that are utterly dependent upon whoever happens to be president. So when I came to the presidency in 1801, I decided not to remove everybody from the previous two administrations — that seemed too radical, but I used the attrition to bring down the number of people from previous administrations and I discouraged some people from carrying on if they were diehard federalists. And so I didn't have a wholesale shuffling of the bureaucracy, but I made some adjustments. My friend said, what's the point of being elected president if you don't also put men of your own stamp into these key offices. So I tried to follow a middle course, but my point is about the Illuminati and Masonic movement. There were Christians who found them objectionable because of their deism and their free thinking ways, but there was not a conspiracy behind the scenes that was running the government of the United States or any other nations so far as I know.
DS: 04:55 Thank you very much, Mr Jefferson.
CSJ as TJ: 04:57 Sir, you are welcome.