2 thoughts on “Thomas Jefferson and Duty

  1. Unlike Burke, who apparently wasn’t the greatest proponent of the French Revolution (nor of democracy), Jefferson was influenced by Voltaire and Montesquieu. It’s fascinating how, in those days, without the technology we have now, educated people were aware of the great contemporary thinkers. And yet, books had to be printed, shipped across the Atlantic, then taken (by coach) to their actual destination.

    It’s also fascinating that statesmen actually had an ideology and were interested in philosophy. These days, it seems all about short term benefit and partisan politics. In universities, the Republic, Leviathan et all may still be part of the curriculum, but one wonders if that really leads to proper thinking.

    Jefferson is obviously an American national treasure, but what did he mean with “duty”? Is it professional and familial or also ethical? The essence of ethics is precisely the will to do more than just one’s duty, in a narrow sense.

    Some claim that Jefferson lived beyond his means, and was always in debt. And, as was customary at the time, not all of his workers were free citizens. But he was known to be more humane and moderate, and that’s remarkable.
    In the end, he was right, “mankind will give you credit were you fail”.

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    1. Yes, I was surprised to learn of Jefferson’s numerous attempts to end slavery, an institution that supported his very existence. Luckily for us, he wrote “All Men Are Created Equal…” a phrase that certainly went beyond all his contemporaries’ understanding, and perhaps his, and staked a claim for future generations. – BGT

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