Thomas Jefferson As A Tactful Tactician –
The Big Picture –
By Glynn Wilson –
MONTICELLO, Va. – In the introduction to one of the versions of The Writings of Thomas Jefferson available online at Project Gutenberg, former West Virginia Governor George W. Atkinson describes Jefferson as the quintessential tactful political tactician and statesman.
“Thomas Jefferson was a great man, a great diplomatist, a great tactician and an illustrious citizen and patriot,” Atkinson wrote. “His name and his deeds will be cherished and admired as long as the English language is read or spoken, and as long as human lips lisp the name of liberty.”
He writes of Jefferson as a “true statesman,” engaged always in the “masterful art.”
“Poetry, music, painting, sculpture and architecture please, thrill and inspire, but the great statesman and diplomatist and leader in thought and action convinces, controls and compels the admiration of all classes and creeds,” Atkinson says. “Logical thought, power of appeal and tactfulness never fail to command attention and respect.”
Many really able and brilliant men “lack balance and the faculty of calculation,” he says. “They are too often swayed by emotions, and their intellectual powers, which otherwise might exert a controlling influence, are thus weakened, and often result in failure.”
Too bad the modern Republican Party seems to have forgotten this. Coming up with a political strategy to win elections by fooling a simple majority of the voting masses is not quite the same thing, experts agree.
While the Republicans managed to win a few elections to take over control of the U.S. Senate this week — and the mainstream media keeps focusing on President Obama’s low approval rating of 44 percent as the cause — in fact public approval of Congress has never been lower at 13 percent.
There is no tact or statesmanship apparent in Washington city anymore, except in the routine pleasantries of the U.S. Senate, where mostly men are called gentlemen by their colleagues and referred to as “my good friend” for decorum on the Senate floor. But it is all a capitalist show now, and real democracy as Jefferson and his cohorts envisioned is suffering mightily.
Bob Hughes, a retired attorney, former house manager at Monticello and now one of the top tour guides there, ended our tour on Wednesday, November 5, with a discussion of Jefferson’s legacy.
As you can see from his gravestone, Jefferson wanted to be remembered not just for being the third president of the United States or other political offices he held. He wanted to be remembered as the author of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom as well as the founder of the University of Virginia.
“Political freedom, religious freedom and intellectual freedom,” Hughes concluded, “pretty much sum up Thomas Jefferson.”
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As for Jefferson, according to Atkinson, “Jefferson saw clearly the necessity of a general system of education, and was among the very first to move in the direction of its establishment. He was so earnest an advocate of the necessity for and the advantages of education, that he never relaxed his efforts, although vigorously opposed by many of his able associates, until he established the University of Virginia to be finally supported by the State, as an open forum for the education of the young men of the Commonwealth,” Atkinson writes. “In fact, he esteemed this victory so highly that he directed the words to be placed upon his tombstone at Monticello: ‘Founder of the University of Virginia.'”
“No act of his revealed more fully than this the tactician and the statesman, and no single act of his, although his entire career was strewn with great deeds, did so much to usher in a golden era of humanity and an universal monarchy of man … True greatness in a man is gauged by what he accomplished in life, and the impress he left upon his fellow-men. It does not consist of one act, or even of many, but rather their effect upon the times in which he lived, and how long they endure after the actor is gone from the throng of the living.”
In close relationship to that reign of democratic government which Jefferson so earnestly sought to establish, lies, in open view, the necessity for the education of the people, and to its accomplishment he dedicated, in early life, his talents and his energies. He saw then, and we, at this later period of our national growth and development, realize it all the more, that the strength and perpetuity of all free governments rest mainly upon the education of their subjects. Without it such governments fall easy victims to ignorant military captains and civil demagogues of low repute. Free government is better than monarchy in proportion to the intelligence of the governed. Where every citizen has by systematic training been rooted and grounded in the fruitful soil of knowledge, the principles and practices of self-restraint, and the generous ways of freedom, his loyalty to country cannot easily be shaken, nor can he easily be drawn into hostile schemes against the government that protects him.
© 2014, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.