Are we really Jeffersonians?

I have long thought that Jefferson was one of the greatest men in American history-I have always thought that he exemplified the ideals I believe in-having a political philosophy of Liberty a limited government as so many classical liberals did, Jefferson appealed to me as a kind of hero. Well, interestingly enough, Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute has sent an email to Daniel Hannan explaining my he thinks that the real Jeffersonian was…John Adams? Well, interestingly enough, it would restore some continuity to the classical liberal tradition in US History. I previously tended to think that it went something like this: The Jeffersonian Democratic Republicans were the proponents of Liberty, and they sort of passed the torch to the fire breathing Jacksonian Democrats-the Whigs, their opponents later spawned the Republican party which had a mixed record but when compared to a party which was increasingly about being proslavery, quickly became the “liberals”. After Grover Cleveland, the Democrat’s last gasp of classical liberalism, the became more or less the insane Socialists they are today-except a little more religious-with William Jennings Bryan at the helm. During the Progressive Era, classical Liberalism was absent from both parties-it was killed in the Republican party when that bastard Czolgosz, killed McKinley and made that wacko Roosevelt President. Once again going through a rough patch in the New Deal era, after the disaster of the Progressive Hoover, classical liberalism was on life support to be tended to by Eisenhower. Another firebrand Progressive Republican would nearly kill it again, while at the same time giving the party a huge boost long term-his name was none other than Richard Milhouse Nixon-but while that was going on the classical liberals started to revive outside of politics, with the emergence of William F Buckley and National Review (also Reason). Ultimately modern classical liberalism would emerge from their efforts and get back into the White House with Ronald Reagan-and we’ve been in another period of wane ever since (if history is any indication we may be in for a “long slumber”)…

BUT, I’m beggining to rethink the early part of that history. I will admit that I have always had a sort of schizophrenic view of Jefferson’s view of the French Revolution (on the one hand, I applaud the idea of promoting liberty abroad, on the other, I mean seriously, how could he not see it for what it was?). I was troubled to learn of his admiration for Rousseau, whose philosophy I have always found to be disgustingly illiberal. I am not a wonk as Adams apparently was, so I’m not so into all the Montesquieu stuff etc. apart from the fact that I like how the Founders put his ideas into practice. I tend to be more abstract, so unlike either of them I look way back to Locke for my influence. I tended to think of Jefferson as a Lockean classical liberal, but-maybe I was wrong? Dunno. What I do know is that all these men were complex figuresthe all exchange ideas with one another, and they were all fundamentally more classically liberal than almost any politician today. I don’t think I agree with Myron that FDR and Jefferson were so alike-maybe that chain smoking Corporatist fancied it that way, but then again he fancied himself a kind of God, too.

What I’m taking away from this personally is that the liberal in practice was Adams, in theory, Jefferson. And I like theory better anyway. đŸ˜‰

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