WEREN'T JEFFERSON'S IDEAS ALL DERIVED FROM LOCKE AND OTHERS?
> Sorry, for sounding so abrasive, but I am rather sceptical of Jefferson, > since many of his ideas were based on others such as Locke, and I as a > non-american (I'm Canadian) became so fed up that the American public have > elevated him to saint like status (As if he was perfect). It was wrong of > me, to simply say he raped his slave, without investigating it further. No problem. As you noticed, I was a little strident in my response as well. I hope you will give Jefferson a second chance. I have studied his writings intensely for many years, and I must confess that I continue to be blown away. Yes, many of his ideas were derived from Locke and Sydney and others, even Aristotle. But they had to be. In something like government, one ncessarily builds on the past, and the constraints of practical politics forbids the development of a new government that is entirely unique. Nevertheless, I still believe that Jefferson brought to the more "primitive" theories of Locke a refinement and a development that enabled Jefferson to shape an integrated philosophy of self-government that places Jefferson's thought on a different level from anything before or since. I know that you probably feel that is the very kind of adulation you despise. But I base my appraisal on a very critical study of his writings. My purpose in developing my main website, Thomas Jefferson on Politics & Government, was to make those ideas more accessible, and to put them in a more organized form. Were you to read all the material presented there -- a formidable task, because it is the length of a 400 page book -- I think you could not help but see, as I have seen in putting it together, that Jefferson really did have a surpassing vision, and that he expressed it brilliantly. Even though Americans have (rightly, in my view) held Jefferson in very high esteem, I don't really think that very many of them have really understood the full scope of his ideas on government. Moreover, American government has never really implemented anything approaching the full scope of Jefferson's concepts in practice. The truth is, with Locke (as described in his 2nd Treatise) you have the makings of representative government, but Locke's government could still be a monarchy, it ends up being an aristocratically controlled government, and the structural details needed to make it truly a "government of the people" were not developed so that the better aspects of that concept could be emphasized, and the more deleterious aspects be prevented. I suspect that "the people" of Locke's time were not ready to become the ground for popular government. Locke's ideas greatly influenced parliamentary government, but as you know, while the parliamentary system has worked fairly well in those nations influenced by English traditions (Gt. Britain, Canada, India), it was under the parliamentary system that arose Hitler, Stalin, and most of the dictators of the world today. Even Iraq has a parliamentary government. I suspect it is only the English traditions that have saved their nations from a similar fate, rather than the parliamentary system itself. Anyway, I feel convinced that Jefferson has much to offer for people living today, and I hope you might consider giving him a chance to prove it.
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