July 28, 2003
Reading the Soul of Thomas Jefferson

Across two centuries, E.M. Halliday attempts a close reading of Thomas Jefferson's soul. This kind of thing usually goes very badly. Halliday's reading, however, is remarkably persuasive... E.M. Halliday (2001), Understanding Thomas Jefferson (New York: HarperCollins: 0060197935). p. 97: Although the DNA evidence has made it unnecessary to speculate about whether Sally and her master had a long-term love affair, it is entertaining to think about how and why it started when it apparently did--in Paris in 1787 or '88. Certainly the situation there was more congenial to it than it ever would be later in Virginia. For most of the two years of Sally's sojourn there, Patsy and Polly were away five days and nights a week at their convent school, and their half-aunt--Sally--was the only American servant in the household other than her brother James, and the only female who spoke English. Of course, Sally was just on the verge of fifteen.... [But] Jefferson's closest French friend, Lafayette... [had] taken a bride when she was fourteen; and in America... James Madison had ardently pursued a fifteen-year-old, with his friend Jefferson cheering him on.... [T]here is little documentary evidence suggestive of romantic or erotic events beneath the roof of...

Posted by DeLong at 08:13 PM

Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom: Preamble

p. 227: AN ACT FOR ESTABLISHING RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, passed in the assembly of Virginia in the beginning of the year 1786. Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments of burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do; that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers civil, as well as ecclesiastical who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have affirmed dominion over the faith of others......

Posted by DeLong at 08:08 PM

Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Mastering the art of French cooking, or Thomas Jefferson as slavemaster. From E.M. Halliday (2001), Understanding Thomas Jefferson (New York: HarperCollins: 0060197935): p. 146: Lucia Stanton has woven the narrative of her monograph on slavery at Monticello around... Joe and Edy Fossett... Joe, whose mother was... Sally Hemings's half siter, was... in 1807, the plantation's head blacksmith.... [H]e had fallen inove with Edy.... When Jefferson went to White House [in 1801]... he took Edy with him for training in French cuisine.... [I]t would seem that she and Joe had gotten together now an dthen... by 1807 she had two small children, and there is no knoweldge of any other father. There was, however, a rumor of close attention to her by some other man... conveyed to Joe... in the summer of 1806.... Joe Fossett disappeared from Monticello--much to Jefferson's dismay, since Joe had "never in his life received a blow from any one," and was looked upon ass a model slave.... Joe was apprehended [at the White House] and sent back to Monticello, but not before the young couple had patched things up.... If this were a fairy tale, their ultimately goodhearted mater would have sent them back together,...

Posted by DeLong at 08:05 PM

September 03, 2002
More From Civilization: Democracy Is Way Too Hard!

"Dad?" "Yes?" "Democracy is way too hard!" "Yeah! Democracy is way too hard!" It is the twelve-year-old and the nine-year-old, speaking in chorus from the back seat. "In democracy, when you move one military unit out of its home city two people become unhappy," says the nine-year-old. "And if you don't spend a complete and total fortune on entertainment and luxuries, your people riot," says twelve-year-old. "It's impossible to wage an aggressive campaign of conquest," says the nine-year-old. "They force you to make peace prematurely." "But aren't your people much more productive? Aren't people richer? isn't scientific progress faster? Isn't total production much, much higher?" I ask. "Yes. But what good is that if I want to conquer the world?" asks the nine-year-old. "Remember. Civilization is not just a war game. It's a peace game too. You can win by creating a great and peaceful civilization," I say. "Not if another civilization on earth happens to be led by Genghis Khan and possesses nuclear weapons," says the twelve-year-old. "You're looking at it from the wrong perspective," I say, changing the subject, hoping to distract my children from the moral question--unsuitable for Berkeley--of whether it is possible for a preemptive war...

Posted by DeLong at 06:15 PM

July 04, 2002
An Historical Document

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776. The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America: When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that...

Posted by DeLong at 08:00 PM