One of the authors we had at our festival was Annette Gordon-Reed, and she spoke on her new biography (written with Peter Onuf) of Thomas Jefferson. The book is quite good and I think in some way confirms some of what Corey Robin has written about Jefferson, if not conservatism and libertarianism more generally.
At any rate, with last week being the anniversary of several important Civil War events (e.g. Fort Sumter, Lincoln’s assassination), one could be forgiven for forgetting that last Wednesday, April 13, was Thomas Jefferson’s birthday. Lincoln had great affection for Jefferson (perhaps a bit too much), as this quote shows. Still, in honor of Jefferson’s birthday last week:
The democracy of to-day hold the liberty of one man to be absolutely nothing, when in conflict with another man’s right of property. Republicans, on the contrary, are for both the man and the dollar; but in cases of conflict, the man before the dollar. . . .
This is a world of compensations; and he who would be no slave, must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.
All honor to Jefferson—to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so to embalm it there, that to-day, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyrany and oppression. Your obedient Servant A. LINCOLN—