JEFFERSON'S INFLUENCE ON AMERICAN DEMOCRACY
> I'm doing this term paper and can't seem to find anything I need. How have > the ideas and writings of Jefferson influenced American democracy? could > you give me some hints or point me to a site that can. There are several pages on democracy at the Jefferson FAQ. That may not be exactly what you have in mind, but the responses were inspired by Jefferson's views. One thing that IS there and that is important to keep in mind is the definition of "democracy" and what it means in Jeffersonian terms. I have several essays related to Jeffersonian Democracy, with special reference to its meaning in today's world. These are located at: Democracy in the Third Word Democracies and Their Discontents Democracies, Republics, and the People Adversaries of Democracy None of the above materials is directly on target for what you want, however. Your question is, "How have the ideas and writings of Jefferson influenced American democracy?" My focus in my own writings about Jefferson has always been, What are Jefferson's ideas on democracy, and how SHOULD they influence us today? Your inquiry relates more to history, mine to the situation today. You are more interested in the effect that Jefferson had, down through the years. For example, we know that Madison was the father of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Bill of Rights, but Jefferson had a great influence on Madison, even though he was in France at the time the Constitution was ratified. My quotes website (see sig. below) has quotes from Jefferson on the Bill of Rights, and many of those were written to Madison at the time the Constitution was being considered. Jefferson listed the main articles that should be included in a Bill of Rights in one of his letters to Madison. Jefferson's conduct of his office shaped American government and how it was conducted in certain ways. His use of naval forces to protect American shipping without a Congressional declaration of war, his Louisiana Purchase without specific authorization under the Constitution, are examples of ways in which the meaning of American government were expanded under Jefferson. But Jefferson continued to have a tremendous influence on all who followed him. If you read Schlesinger's "The Age of Jackson," you will see Jefferson and his influence mentioned on almost every other page. And think of the influence of Jefferson on Lincoln! Lincoln was always quoting Jefferson, and his "new birth of freedom" was a reaffirmation of Jefferson's ideas. Most of the above almost equates "American democracy" with "American government." If you take a more restrictive approach to your inquiry, and are focusing on Jefferson's IDEAS on democracy -- meaning his ideas about popular participation in government -- then your focus will be much narrower, and probably would not include Jefferson's actions as president. It would not include Lincoln's references to Jefferson, since those were mainly concerned with Jefferson's ideas about freedom and liberty. If you adopt this narrower focus, I would advise you to go through the relevant sections of the Thomas Jefferson on Politics & Government website (for example, sections 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9), get a good grasp of exactly what are Jefferson's ideas about democracy in this stricter sense, and then show the ways these ideas have influenced the structure of American government. Jefferson had many ideas on democracy that have NOT been implemented, such as his proposal for the "ward republics." Another thing you should keep in mind is that Jefferson's influence has been very subtle. I think Willard Sterne Randall ("Thomas Jefferson: A Life") had it right when he said that Thomas Jefferson INVENTED the United States of America. Intellectually and fundamentally, he did. But his influence has been largely overlooked, causing many historians to conclude that Jefferson's contribution has been overrated. Having studied Jefferson's ideas intensely, I am convinced that his contribution has been UNDERrated. Jefferson did not jump up and say, "Hey! That's my idea. I want credit for it." As a result, his ideas seemed to have seeped into the very fabric of American democracy almost undetected. But from the Declaration of Independence onward, it is almost as if he laid the theoretical foundation that defined the meaning of American democracy, which then followed, more or less, the course that he described. My Jefferson Quotes website is organized in such a way as to provide a complete outline of his ideas on American government. As such, it presents not just the ideas that were mainly implemented, but also those that go beyond just that and that describe an even higher level of democratic republicanism. Your subject for a term paper is a very interesting one. Personally, I like the narrower approach as described above because it is more pregnant with possibilities. The broader approach is too comprehensive, and could easily descend into something mundane.
> It doesn't take a Steven Hawking or > Albert Einstein to figure it out. Jeffersonian Democracy is really our only > hope. Not conservatism,socialism,or libertarianism. All these "isms" do not > fulfill the ideals of Jeffersonian Democracy. There is something timeless about Jeffersonian Democracy. That, to me, means it MUST prevail eventually because it is based on timeless values. Jeffersonian Democracy is founded on the rights of man, and as he wrote: "Nothing... is unchangeable but the inherent and unalienable rights of man." --Thomas Jefferson to John Cartwright, 1824. ME 16:48 Perhaps there will be refinements and better ways of realizing those right in a free society, but the basic ideas and concepts are foundational. Jefferson defined a free society and a proper republican government for such a society. It is inconceivable to me that it could ever be completely replaced by some new idea. Many have tried, of course, but they have all failed. Only Jefferson's ideas are left standing and shedding light to anyone who makes the effort to comprehend them.
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