Thomas Jefferson quotation against feudalism

Thomas Jefferson to Roger Weightman, on the planned celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence

thomas-jefferson-wide

Monticello June 24. 26

Respected Sir

The kind invitation I receive from you on the part of the citizens of the city of Washington, to be present with them at their celebration of the 50th. anniversary of American independance; as one of the surviving signers of an instrument pregnant with our own, and the fate of the world, is most flattering to myself, and heightened by the honorable accompaniment proposed for the comfort of such a journey. it adds sensibly to the sufferings of sickness, to be deprived by it of a personal participation in the rejoicings of that day. but acquiescence is a duty, under circumstances not placed among those we are permitted to controul. I should, indeed, with peculiar delight, have met and exchanged there congratulations personally with the small band, the remnant of that host of worthies, who joined with us on that day, in the bold and doubtful election we were to make for our country, between submission or the sword; and to have enjoyed with them the consolatory fact, that our fellow citizens, after half a century of experience and prosperity, continue to approve the choice we made. may it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings & security of self-government. that form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. all eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. the general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view. the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of god. these are grounds of hope for others. for ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them. [Emphasis added.]

I will ask permission here to express the pleasure with which I should have met my ancient neighbors of the City of Washington and of it’s vicinities, with whom I passed so many years of a pleasing social intercourse; an intercourse which so much relieved the anxieties of the public cares, and left impressions so deeply engraved in my affections, as never to be forgotten. with my regret that ill health forbids me the gratification of an acceptance, be pleased to receive for yourself, and those for whom you write, the assurance of my highest respect and friendly attachments.

Th. Jefferson

[Source: Library of Congress.]

Scottish Enlightenment and Franklin and Jefferson

I came across this short piece on some connections between Adam Smith, David Hume, and the American founders.

hutchesonHume writing to Benjamin Franklin in 1762: “I am sure America has sent us many good things; gold, silver, sugar, tobacco, indigo, etc., but you are the first philosopher, and indeed the first great man of letters for whom we are beholden to her.”

Thomas Jefferson on Adam Smith’s work: “In political economy, I think Smith’s ‘Wealth of Nations’ the best book extant.”

Does anyone know of a systematic treatment of the intellectual connections between the Scottish Enlightenment and the American founders? There is this book by Robert Galvin. Other recommendations?

[Update: David Shellenberger sent me this link on Thomas Jefferson’s copy of Smith’s Wealth of Nations.]

Joseph Priestley’s significance

I did not know this about Priestley’s significance to two of the great American founding fathers:

priestley-j“In the 165 letters that passed between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the name Benjamin Franklin is mentioned five times, George Washington three times, Alexander Hamilton twice — and Joseph Priestley, a foreign immigrant, is cited no fewer than 52 times.”

Priestley was a founder of the science of chemistry, discovering himself several gases — most notably oxygen. After encouragement from Benjamin Franklin, Priestley worked with electricity and discovered that charcoal conducts electricity.

His radically pro-freedom views in religion and politics led to his History of the Corruptions of Christianity (1782) being officially burned and an angry mob destroying his house and lab in 1791.priestley-electricity
Priestley soon moved from England to the United States, where he lived for the rest of life pursuing his scientific, religious, and political studies.

Here is Priestley himself on the relative importance of politics and science:

“The greatest success in [politics] seldom extends farther than one particular country, and one particular age; whereas successful pursuit of science makes a man the benefactor of all mankind, and every age” (from Observations and Experiments on Different Kinds of Air.)

John Adams, the mini series

[Reposted for this 4th of July.]

ja-100x130John Adams the mini-series came out last year, but I just began watching it yesterday. The first two episodes are excellent. What a great way to spend part of July 4.

Paul Giamatti’s performance hooked me: I have a renewed appreciation for John Adams’s brilliance, determination, and integrity. I also have an enlarged appreciation for Abigail Adams’s energy, devotion, and no-nonsense intelligence; Laura Linney plays Abigail in the series.

old-house-100x150Coincidentally, I was in Boston late last month and took a day trip to Braintree and Quincy, Massachusetts, where I enjoyed seeing Adams’s birthplace and the Old House, with its great garden and grounds.garden-100x150

Back to the mini-series: Stephen Dillane’s cerebral and understated performance as Thomas Jefferson was hypnotic—I found myself staring trying to figure out what he was thinking.

Not coincidentally, there have been two intriguing Jefferson items in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, the first a journalist’s quirkily touching visit to Monticello and the second on Jefferson the musician. Well worth reading.

Also not too coincidentally, I recently interviewed two Adams and Jefferson scholars. Professors Brad Thompson and David Mayer visited Rockford College and the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship this spring, and videos of my interviews with Thompson on Adams and Mayer on Jefferson can be viewed at the Center’s site.

CEE video interviews

burpee-nightIn my capacity as Executive Director of CEE, I have been fortunate to interview several of our expert guest speakers. We began the video interview series at the beginning of the 2008-2009 academic year, and so far we have published interviews with six of our speakers:

Entrepreneur Anil Singh-Molares on entrepreneurship, the liberal arts, and the global marketplace.

Dr. Terry Noel on the virtuous entrepreneur.

Dr. Emily Chamlee-Wright on New Orleans’ non-profit sector’s response to Hurricane Katrina.

Dr. Steven Horwitz on Wal-Mart’s response to Hurricane Katrina.

Dr. C. Bradley Thompson on founding father John Adams.

Dr. David N. Mayer on Thomas Jefferson.

Dr. C. Bradley Thompson on his forthcoming book on Leo Strauss and the neo-conservatives.

Dr. David Mayer on Freedom’s Constitution, his forthcoming book on U.S. Constitutional interpretation.

Forthcoming: Attorney Timothy Sandefur on market entrepreneurs, political entrepreneurs, and the American legal and political landscape.

The videos are also available at the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship’s site. Credit also goes to CEE’s Christopher Vaughan, who shoots and edits the interviews. Nice work, Chris.

Late to the show, but excellent timing

ja-100x130John Adams the mini-series came out last year, but I just began watching it yesterday. The first two episodes are excellent. What a great way to spend part of July 4.

Paul Giamatti’s performance hooked me: I have a renewed appreciation for John Adams’s brilliance, determination, and integrity. I also have an enlarged appreciation for Abigail Adams’s energy, devotion, and no-nonsense intelligence; Laura Linney plays Abigail in the series.

old-house-100x150Coincidentally, I was in Boston late last month and took a day trip to Braintree and Quincy, Massachusetts, where I enjoyed seeing Adams’s birthplace and the Old House, with its great garden and grounds.garden-100x150

Back to the mini-series: Stephen Dillane’s cerebral and understated performance as Thomas Jefferson was hypnotic—I found myself staring trying to figure out what he was thinking.

Not coincidentally, there have been two intriguing Jefferson items in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, the first a journalist’s quirkily touching visit to Monticello and the second on Jefferson the musician. Well worth reading.

Also not too coincidentally, I recently interviewed two Adams and Jefferson scholars. Professors Brad Thompson and David Mayer visited Rockford College and the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship this spring, and videos of my interviews with Thompson on Adams and Mayer on Jefferson can be viewed at the Center’s site.

Interview: David N. Mayer on Thomas Jefferson

Dr. David Mayer on his lecture, “Thomas Jefferson and the Holy Cause of Freedom,” about Jefferson’s writings on the nature and importance of liberty.

Part I

Part II

More interviews with CEE’s guest speakers are available here.

Worth Reading for May 2006

5/31 Two recent takes on contemporary intellectual culture: In the Chronicle, Michael Kimmel reviews several trendy novels in the “lad lit” genre, describing that genre as “a sort of anti-bildungsroman, in which a sardonic, clever, unapologetic slacker refuses to grow up, get a meaningful job, commit to relationships, or find any meaning in life.” And Julian Baggini argues that, philosophically, the “comic cartoon [is] the form best suited to illuminate our age”: “To speak truthfully and insightfully today you must have a sense of the absurdity of human life and endeavour. Past attempts to construct grand and noble theories about human history and destiny have collapsed.” (Both via Arts & Letters Daily.)

5/30 Is Darwinian conservatism an oxymoron? James Seaton reviews Larry Arnhart’s recent book. And here is a review of leftist Todd Gitlin’s new book on how postmodernism gutted the Left. Exactly. (Though it had already suffered a brain-stroke, as I have argued, by the time it turned to desperate pomo measures.)

5/27 Has Ragnar shrugged? And here is an inspiring profile of Ken Iverson, a twentieth-century business hero.

5/26 Sally Satel on organ donation and the kindness of strangers. (Thanks to Roy for the link.) Here is the latest in human longevity research. And 91-year-old Cliff Garl will be forever young.

5/25 Fascinating: What physicists think happened the first few microseconds after the Big Bang. And how much progress have we made toward strong artificial intelligence? Jeff Hawkins summarizes. (Thanks to Jim H-N. for the link.)

5/24 Harry Binswanger makes a strong moral and practical case for open immigration. (Via Not PC.) And Russell Roberts identifies some further cultural and political components of a full solution to the issues that immigration raises.

5/23 Michael Barone has more good world-economic news. (Via Rich Karlgaard.)

5/22 New record-high life-expectancy statistics in the U.S. (Thanks to Virginia for the link.) And the Bureau of Labor Statistics has average hourly and weekly earnings for American workers.

5/19 Here are five fascinating numbers. And worth browsing is this History of Mathematics Archive.

5/18 Why the rich need a tax break. For more data see also this government report.

5/17 Improving the fruits of the Enlightenment: Gadgets then and now. And here comes the Six-Billion-Dollar Man. And here is a website devoted to one of the mathematical and political giants of the Enlightenment: the Marquis de Condorcet.

5/16 Do not miss the excellent underwater photographs from the sunken city of Alexandria. (Via Arts & Letters Daily.) And here is a series of
lovely images of planet Earth.

5/15 The always-worth-reading George Reisman enlightens us about price gouging. Professor Bainbridge has an intriguing hypothesis about union leaders’ arguments about CEO pay. And Roy Poses reports on out-of control conflicts of interest in the University of California system.

5/13 Should we privatize peace efforts in, e.g., Darfur? Rebecca Ulam Weiner weighs the issues of efficiency, cost, and accountability. Shelby Steele wonders why, since World War II, the West fights its wars so delicately. And Andrew Klavan believes that to get the job done we should draft Hollywood.

5/12 Neil Parille’s new web blog has an admirable goal: “Its aim is to discuss Objectivism free from the name calling and hoopla too often associated with the discussion of Rand and Objectivism on the web.” The Objective Reference Center has a good selection of texts by Ayn Rand available online. And this just in: Kathy Sierra has advice Objectivists could profitably adapt to philosophy.

5/11 The home decoration dictators are coming to your neighborhood. (Via Philosophy 101.) And now that the health police have put Big Tobacco on the defensive, it’s time to take on Big Ice Cream.

5/10 Philosopher Lester Hunt explains why he is against multi-culturalism. And here is an immigrant-group success story—twice.

5/9 Humberto Fontova rips into the historically-uninformed critics of The Lost City: Andy Garcia’s movie about Cuba. (Thanks to Brent for the link.) Which also raises an interesting question: How much is Fidel Castro worth? And “Protagoras” asks another: Why do some find it so hard to learn from history?

5/8 Grant McCracken asks: How do we measure how creative a culture is? And Jeff Cornwall has advice to entrepreneurs about failure on the highway to success.

5/6 Is the evolution of the eye irreducibly complex? In this four-minute video, Swedish scientist Dan-Eric Nilsson demonstrates one possible straightforward evolutionary path. And some actual—as opposed to mythical—intelligent design: This is one Clever design for a car.

5/5 A new tutorial by artist Michael Newberry: Rhythm in painting.

5/4 Superstar teacher John Taylor Gatto is working on an ambitious documentary project about American education: “The Fourth Purpose”. (Thanks to Jim for the link.)

5/3 A website devoted to the great Romantic novelist Victor Hugo. Interesting and new to me was this account of Carl August Hagburg’s visits with Hugo in 1836.

5/2 A new book on one of the architects of the Reign of Terror: Maximilien Robespierre. And for something more uplifting, Ken Gregg has a post on a vigorous and fascinating Pole who embraced Enlightenment ideals: Tadeusz Kosciuszko was recruited by Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane, became a great friend of Thomas Jefferson and a hero of the Revolutionary war.

5/1 Logic and economics: Don Boudreaux has a good example illustrating why ad hominem is an invalid argument tactic. And he has a further post illustrating why tu quoque is a perfectly understandable reaction.