Chatfield--Thomas Jefferson

Chatfield--Thomas Jefferson - Daniel Zauderer Thomas...

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Daniel Zauderer Thomas Jefferson: The Quintessential American Idealist Thomas Jefferson, in every aspect of his life, was utterly idealistic and moralistic. As such, his far-fetched dreams were not easily applied to an imperfect society, a complicated reality. The result was an emergence of unsolvable contradictions. The real world in which Jefferson lived was not black and white; evil and good were not easily identified. Yet these famous dreams and the desire to implant them in the fiber of America drove a persistent visionary down the path of political life, a life which produced both remarkable failures and remarkable successes. Although the reason for Jefferson’s principles remains unclear, their enumeration is found early in his political career. A Summary View of the Rights of British America , a set of instructions for the Virginia delegation to the Continental Congress published in 1774, contains powerful criticisms of England and George III. “[T]he British parliament has no right to exercise authority over us,” writes Jefferson. The view had been held and implied by many critics of England, but Jefferson was the first to explicitly state it. In simplifying the issue, complications and contradictions dissolved; such was the appeal of the Summary View . The simplification eliminated views that hinted towards the allowance of Parliamentary actions other from taxation, such as regulation of trade and other questionable legislative acts. Salient in Summary View is Jefferson’s negative attitude toward the British Monarchy. In order to free America from British tyranny, Jefferson knew the necessity of targeting both the parliament and the King. He accuses the king of outright illegal crimes against the colonies, such as permitting the dissolution of colonial assemblies and
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the prohibition of the migration of settlers beyond the Appalachian Mountains, all of which resulted in oppression and “slavery” of the colonists. But the cruelty and tyranny inherent in the King’s actions did not result from the Stamp Act, as many of Jefferson’s peers argued. According to Jefferson, the tyranny did not even begin with US colonization. Rather, it began in 1066 with the Norman Conquest and the pretense that all lands belong to the king. That pretense resulted in the unhealthy formation of feudalism, a cruel principle which encouraged inequality and the exercise of arbitrary power. The doctrine of “expatriation,” also evident in Summary View , stems from Jefferson’s dislike for all that is British. Expatriation argues that America houses all values which preceded the Norman Conquest. England never had an adequate claim over the colonies, Jefferson argues; instead, the earliest migrants to America came unassisted by the British thrown. Therefore, American independence already exists (it only needs to be asserted) and the values of a Saxon past should be glorified in the United States. The values dominant in
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This essay was uploaded on 04/21/2008 for the course PHIL 337 taught by Professor Ryan during the Spring '08 term at Trinity College, Hartford.

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Chatfield--Thomas Jefferson - Daniel Zauderer Thomas...

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