“Thomas Jefferson as guilty as Richard Nixon”

I just read an article on the internet about candidate Richard Nixon secretly telling the South Vietnamese government not to deal with any truce proposals from President Lyndon Johnson in 1968 — because Nixon anticipated winning the election.

This tactic was a violation of the Logan Act of 1799.  The Logan Act prohibits any American citizen from interfering with government negotiations with another nation.

The original misdeed was done by Thomas Jefferson!  During the presidency of John Adams (the second President of the United States, 1797-1801), Jefferson — who was the Vice President — met secretly with French government officials to tell them NOT to negotiate with Adams’ ambassadors.  Jefferson told them — just blither and delay.

Jefferson anticipated that he himself would be the next President and would give the French a much more favorable treaty than Adams was proposing (over the French seizing American ships in international waters).

Jefferson liked to portray himself as a philosopher and inventor who just wanted to dwell at Monticello and read and study and experiment…and not be bothered with politics.  In reality, he was thickly involved in undermining George Washington and then John Adams and especially trying to un-do the work of Alexander Hamilton in setting up a government that could bring in revenue and gain credit rather than simply wallowing in debt.  Hamilton set up a national bank.

Jefferson had a dreamy idea of America being only a nation of quiet farmers, tending their land in peace.  His unrealistic vision left little help for the nation’s growing cities — Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore.  An economy needs cities.  Jefferson did all that he could to undermine banking as an aid to the economy and the government.

And yet one of the most magnificent memorials in Washington, D.C., is the Jefferson Memorial.

It just shows that a person can excel in one area of life — like Jefferson’s authorship of the Declaration of Independence — and yet be a hated pest by his peers, engaging in underhanded tactics in the earliest years of the republic — for which other Founders like Washington and Hamilton thought Jefferson to be unscrupulous.

It would be comical if somehow the ghosts of the Founders could return to Washington, D.C., and see who among them got statues.   Madison and Jefferson would be aghast to see the towering obelisk and learn that it’s named after Washington.  Washington and Hamilton would be aghast to see the statue of Jefferson and to learn that the capital of Wisconsin was named after Madison.

It’s encouraging, I suppose, that the Founders were as human as any of us.  Flawed as they were, they set up a republic, and it works.

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