Thomas Jefferson is one of the most important and prominent figures in the American history that’s why a lot of scientists and historians have investigated his political and private life for many years. Jefferson is not just a good politician, he is one of the founders of civil rights and main democratic principles in America. Jefferson is a mysterious person and that’s why his life attracts people’s attention and R. B. Bernstein is one of the few writers who is able to penetrate into Jefferson’s mystery in his book called “Thomas Jefferson”.
This or that author usually tries to emphasize one particular feature of Jefferson’s character because Thomas is many-sided individuality, while Bernstein makes an attempt to depict all the features and so to present the whole character and the author’s attempt is very successful.
The author does not try to judge Jefferson’s actions, he just depicts everything as honestly as possible and so the reader can analyze everything and form his own opinion. People who are already aquatinted with Jefferson’s life will agree that this book is a brief summary of the most important events of the politician’s life. And for those people who haven’t read anything about Jefferson yet this book is a great opportunity to get aquatinted with one of the most influential figures of the American political stage.
There is such an epitaph On Thomas Jefferson’s tombstone: “Author of the Declaration of Independence and of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.” These words are the key to the understanding of Jefferson’s individuality. Jefferson is born with democratic principles in his sole and his aim on the earth is to spread these principles among people. Jefferson is a strong individuality, who realized himself in different spheres: he’s a writer, a diplomat, a propagandist, a planter, an architect, an inventor and a party leader. How is it possible to combine so many roles in one person? That’s main Jefferson’s mystery.
Bernstein emphasizes that Jefferson’s most significant treasure is in his writings. Thomas Jefferson is one of the founders of the US Constitution, however at the same time he is one of the main contributors to state statutes and constitutions. Jefferson leaves after him correspondence with leading politicians and historians of his time. From this letters readers can see that Jefferson is for local democracy, the basement of which is well-based and free citizenry, while Hamilton, his main opponent, uphold the principles of strong federal government. Jefferson is one of the members of Virginia’s privileged planter class and so can spread his democratic principles among intellectuals of his society. Bernstein points out that Jefferson is moving in this direction. Of course, not all people accept Jefferson’s principles. Jefferson convinces that aristocracy can lead only to reign of the privileged class, which finally leads to the vast poverty of the society.
Jefferson also states that the country mustn’t have the urban population as its core, because it causes the appearance of a lot of classes and social inequality. London and Paris can be bright examples of such an inequality. Bernstein supposes that Jefferson’s stay in Europe influences such his position. Being far away from his native Virginia he understands that farmer-citizens are able to run their affairs and be absolutely independent there and that’s an example of well-organized society.
Jefferson creates his own theological principles, which are aimed to stop the inequality of the established churches. He urges people to trust local voters instead of the central power because only voters can understand and depict the real religious situation of the region. In spite of his democratic views Jefferson doesn’t see women and African Americans as the equal members of the political society. He states that after so many years of slavery African American will never forgive their white slave-owners and so will take revenge for their sufferings. Equal co-existence is just impossible in such historical situation. All in all Jefferson in no way is the proponent of slavery, on the contrary, he tries to limit it where it’s possible.
“Thomas Jefferson” by R.B. Bernstein is one of those unique books that leave lasting impression on the reader. The author depicts Jefferson from different sides, adding some important details, which have not been known earlier.
Jefferson is a leading figure in American enlightenment, his contribution on American history is significant. He is one of the founders of the American Constitution and he is really deserving of praise and respect.
Bibliography Bernstein, R.B. Thomas Jefferson. NY: Oxford University Press, 2003.
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