Jefferson Is Now Underrated

Sean Wilentz, writing in the NYT (Dec. 27, 2003):

Recently, Thomas Jefferson has been viciously maligned in ways normally reserved only for modern American presidents and liberals. Jefferson-bashing historians criticize Thomas Jefferson for having a secret affair with a slave, slight his authorship of the Declaration of Independence, compare him badly with John Adams (who mistrusted democracy and signed the Alien and Sedition Acts) and call Jefferson the forerunner of Pol Pot. A prominent new book disparages him as a callous pro-slavery politician, and celebrates, as the anti-Jefferson, one Timothy Pickering — a raving antidemocratic plotter with a dubious record on slavery.

Eventually, critics will catch up with these writers' distortions and basic factual errors. Historians will retrieve Abraham Lincoln's judgment that"the principles of Jefferson are the definitions and axioms of free society."

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