A Review of The Long Affair: Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution, 1785-1800, by Conor Cruise O’Brien, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996, 367 pages.
What a marathon of Jefferson-bashing we have had in the last few years. This book by the “global statesman” O’Brien follows several other critical biographies, all of which have been highlighted in the fashionable reviews. More than usually offensive to Jefferson admirers was a collection (The View from Monticello) by University of Virginia professors trashing their founder (not surprising since they are all carpetbaggers anyway); a slashing attack in National Review; and, worst of all, Ken Burns’s latest television “documentary.”
None of this literature tells us anything about Jefferson. There is no scholarship—that is, research and discovery—involved. We have here, rather, a case study in intellectual sociology: that is, an exhibit by fashionable intellectuals determining what is and is not acceptable to their version of the American regime. What they tell us is that Jefferson is out now.
Friends, you must have either Jefferson or Hamilton. All the fundamental conflicts in our history were adumbrated during the first decade of the General Government in the contest symbolized by these two men. Hamilton lost in the short run, but triumphed in the long run. He would find much that is agreeable in the present American regime—a plutocratic kritarchy which we persist, by long habit of self-deception, in calling a democracy. But Thomas Jefferson would not be at all happy with what has happened to this country; he might even suggest that the time had come for a little revolution.
The host of petty intellectuals and pundits, elitists, and would-be elitists—tame scribblers of the American Empire—sense this, and so Jefferson must be dealt with appropriately. The Establishment is frightened by the rumblings they hear from the Great Beast (that is, we the American people). They are shocked to realize that Jefferson honestly did believe in the people; that he believed the soundest basis for government to be popular consent and a severely limited government.
More @ The Abbeville Institute