The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

It's July 4th, Independence Day. No better time to read up on Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, in a recent great package of stories from Time Magazine collectively called "The Radical Mind of Thomas Jefferson".

Time is using "radical" mostly in a positive sense, acknowledging Jefferson's massive contribution to the definition of liberty within the American political culture. Not everyone holds the Sage of Monticello in such high regard, though. With his unequivocating advocacy of liberty at any cost, Jefferson comes off as a dangerous ideologue who's position in the American pantheon should be marginalized, argued The Atlantic's Conor Cruise O'Brien back in 1996.

Invariably, whenever I read about Jefferson's legacy, and especially his influences from Enlightenment and French Revolutionary doctrine, I think of O'Brien's piece. It's good food for thought, as is Douglas L. Wilson's rebuttal to O'Brien.