Clay Jenkinson has returned from his annual Lewis and Clark trip in Montana and Idaho, and he gives us a report on the 2019 tour. Clay also offers a list of eight items Lewis and Clark would have certainly wished for on their journey, could they have had them.
This week, Clay takes a deeper look at Jefferson and religion. Jefferson considered the teachings of Jesus as having "the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man," but he felt that the pure teachings of Jesus were inaccurately appropriated by some of the early followers of Jesus which led to a Bible that had both "diamonds" of wisdom and the "dung" of ancient political agendas.
On August 20th, 1814, Thomas Jefferson received a letter from Miles King expressing King’s concerns for Jefferson’s eternal soul. King wrote, “And now permit me to ask dear Sir, are you not an old man well stricken in years, and laden with the highest honors that a grateful country can bestow? But what will these avail you in a dying hour?” We speak with President Jefferson this week about that letter and Jefferson’s reply to it.
We discuss the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo moon landing and then are joined by two special guests. Jeff Huss of the Huss & Dalton Guitar Company in Staunton, Virginia talks about a very special project: the Jefferson Edition 00-SP Custom guitar which is crafted in part with wood from Monticello. Later in the program, Monticello’s head gardener Pat Brodowski tells us about the trees the wood came from and why they had to be cut down.
"Mayor Pete of South Bend is saying that he would welcome certain erasures of Jefferson from our public discourse." — Clay S. Jenkinson
Clay has returned from his recent travels and his search for America, and he updates us on that trip. We answer listener mail, including responses to the recent show, #1344 Baked In.
"He's never happier than when he can recommend a course of reading to somebody else."
— Clay S. Jenkinson
President Jefferson tells us what books he might recommend to juvenile readers, and it turns out to be a fairly limited list. He does, however, recommend Don Quixote, Gulliver’s Travels and Robinson Crusoe.
"He was drest, or rather undrest, with an old brown coat, red waistcoat, old corduroy small clothes, much soiled-woolen hose-and slippers without heels."
— William Plumer, 1802
This week we talk about Thomas Jefferson’s talent for political theater, and the ways he used this talent to reinforce the public perception of his firm beliefs in republicanism and guard against what he saw as a threat of monarchy in the young nation.
"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend."
— Thomas Jefferson, 1800
This week, we ask President Jefferson about his famous dinner parties and their extensive menus. It was important to Jefferson to not appear too regal, and the dinner parties were kept somewhat casual. In 1802, a Federalist senator from New Hampshire was meeting Jefferson at a dinner when “a tall high boned man” entered the room wearing “an old brown coat, red waistcoat, old corduroy small clothes, much soiled—woolen hose—& slippers without heels.” He added, “I thought this man was a servant; but was surprised by the announcement it was the President.”
"Those forty books made a difference in his life, because he grew up in a house where there were books and book culture."
— Clay S. Jenkinson
This week on The Thomas Jefferson Hour, we answer listener questions including a query from a listener in Ireland asking about Jefferson’s thoughts on the Irish rebellion and constitution, Jefferson’s involvement in providing alcohol to troops, suggestions for a Jefferson library for children, and Jefferson’s advice for Americans traveling in Europe.
"But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
— Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia
We discuss Jefferson’s only published book, Notes on the State of Virginia. Jefferson completed his first draft of the book in 1781 and first published it anonymously in Paris in 1785. It is widely considered the most important American book published before 1800.
“Behold me at length on the vaunted scene of Europe! […] I find the general fate of humanity here, most deplorable. The truth of Voltaire's observation, offers itself perpetually, that every man here must be either the hammer or the anvil.”
— Thomas Jefferson, 1785
We speak with President Jefferson about his time spent in France.
"You feel the wonderment of nature at its finest … it's a deep, deep, deep cultural memory of the miracle of the seed."
— Clay S. Jenkinson
We answer listener mail about John Wesley Powell, David Thompson, Daniel Flores, Jefferson’s theft of upland rice while he was in Italy, and suggestions for educating young people.
"He and Jefferson talked about everything."
— Stephen Fried
Benjamin Rush was a physician, politician, social reformer, humanitarian, educator, and a signer of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Rush was a leader of the American Enlightenment and an enthusiastic supporter of the American Revolution. Born the son of a Philadelphia blacksmith, Rush touched virtually every page in the story of the nation’s founding. It was Rush who was responsible for the late-in-life reconciliation between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. This week we speak with the author Stephen Fried about his new book, Rush: Revolution, Madness, and Benjamin Rush, the Visionary Doctor Who Became a Founding Father.
"I don't think, from my point of view, you can think that the Constitution is sacred."
— Clay S. Jenkinson
We discuss Akhil Reed Amar's The Constitution Today, a selection for the Book Club, which contains essays written by Amar over the past two decades. Amar gives us a road map for thinking constitutionally about today’s America.
“Having been among the early converts, in this part of the globe, to [the smallpox vaccine's] efficiency, I took an early part in recommending it to my countrymen.”
— Thomas Jefferson, 1806
Jefferson talks about his own smallpox inoculation, as well as John Adams’ experience. Jefferson admired Dr. Edward Jenner, the physician and scientist who was a pioneer of smallpox vaccination. Smallpox killed millions of people during Jefferson’s time, and continued to do so until the 20th century. The World Health Assembly declared smallpox eradicated in 1980.