Jefferson was arguably the single most prominent American liberal during the era of the Revolution and the early republic.
The of democracy where human reason is celebrated has been over an undertow of other arguments that some persons are not fully human, and thus do not merit full access to the life of the mind.
Political Economy of the Jeffersonian Era
Geography: most often it was thought to be separated into three region: New England, the middle Atlantic states and the southern states.
New England became the center of fishing, shipping and mercantile
Middle Atlantic states: characterized by rich farmland, navigable rivers and excellent ports.
Southern states: rich agricultural areas known first for tobacco, rice and indigo
The port served areas had better and cheaper transportation and more rapid communication.
The frontier was constantly moving west
The nature of transportation and communication in Jefferson’s era ensured that speed, distance and time were experienced in ways drastically different than they are today.
Early American Government
The community regulated and reinforced many of the activities of the family
Marriage was sanctioned by the community and was conceived as a contract designed to specify mutual responsibilities an rewards.
Jefferson lived under three kinds of government
Separate colonies under the authority of the British crown.
Confederation of States: from Revolution until 1789. Most power was reserved to the states’ governments.
In 1789 the present Constitution, was adopted.
All three kinds of government were based on the assumption of the historical “rights of English-men” to have representation in their government.
Yet some groups, such as women, African Americans and Native Americans were consistently excluded from political influence.
Each of the governmental arrangements assumed that male citizens’ civil liberties could be infringed only for serious reasons of state.
Education was important for the White men and that the colonial and governments each had ultimate authority in this area. Under each of these governments during Jefferson’s time, this educational authority was most often delegated to the parents and local communities.
The Revolution symbolized a break from the old world and old regime.
Ideology of the Jeffersonian Era
Jefferson’s time were roughly divided into two worldviews, liberal and conservative.
Jefferson and his allies were classical liberals
Conservatives were named because they wished to hold on to, or conserve, an older and established set of ideas and values inherited from European traditions.
The Breakdown of Feudalism
Feudalism was an economic, military, political and religious system that developed in Europe during the centuries after the collapse of the Roman Empire.
The feudal system slowly disintegrated until its collapse in the 16th and 17th centuries.
People tended to congregate in trading centers, which became cities.
The people who lived in the cities and made a handsome living from trade became known as the bourgeoisie, from the original bourg, which was the fortress around which the cities developed.
China paved the way for the invention of firearms and rendered the feudal warrior.
Major contributors to the development of liberalism were Milton and Locke in England; Voltaire, Montesquieu, Condorcer and Rousseau in France; and Franklin, Jefferson and Madison in the United States.
Fundamental Dimensions of Classical Liberalism: A Schematic Representation t
The Classical Roots of Liberal Ideology
“Classical” serves to associate this liberalism with the classical Athenian ideals on which liberal Enlightenment thought was based.
Six ideas that were central or fundamental to classical liberalism are: faith in reason, natural law, republican virtue, progress, nationalism and freedom. Not only these ideas themselves but the relations among them are central to an understanding of the classical liberal worldview.
Classical liberals embraced the right of individuals to control their economic destinies through capitalism.
Rejected a state religion, denying the “Divine right of Kings”.
Faith in Reason
Classical liberals championed human reason as the best and most desirable guide in this world.
Humankind was capable of monumental intellectual feats, and the development and exercise of reason was the key to the future.
Galileo, Copernicus and Isaac Newton represented what reason could accomplish.
Classical liberals placed little faith in the ability of women to reason as men could, and this prejudice was reflected in the exclusion of women from political life and even from formal education above elementary level
The universe is a machine.
Sir Isaac Newton, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy in 1687, signaled a revolution in the way the Western world viewed nature.
Newtonian physics, science began to replace theology as the reliable guide to action—and the authority of reason increasingly challenged the authority of the church and monarchy.
For the good life and the good society: virtue was an important part of liberals’ view of human nature.
Classical liberals had great faith in the perfectibility of the individual, which was to be accomplished through virtue as well as reason.
Virtue consisted largely in fulfilling one’s duties to God were understood as piety.
Secularization of the Augustinian and Protestant concepts of linear history; instead of a better life after death.
Through human reason & virtue, it was believed that both the human individual and society could continually progress toward perfectibility.
The commitment to a nation-state.
Americans increasingly saw themselves less as “Americans subjects to the King,” and more as a people with a national mission.
“Negative Freedom”, that is, freedom from restraint or interference.
Four types of freedom were considered the basic rights of White males: intellectual, political, civil and economic.
Jefferson as Classical Liberal
Jefferson viewed the world and developed his ideas on education.
Basic Tenets of Classical Liberalism
Jefferson and Intellectual Freedom
Jefferson asserted the now famous justification for intellectual freedom and the determination of truth through the free competition of ideas: that “truth is great and will prevail if left to herself; that she is proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from conflict unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate; errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.”
Jefferson and his contemporary liberals believed that “truth” could be discovered by man through the free exercise of intellect and reason.
Jefferson, Democracy and Education
The Declaration of Independence can serve to summarize Jefferson’s thought: “That to secure these rights life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Moral sense is innate in all humans.
Democracy was the most moral of governments for Jefferson not only because it protected “inalienable rights” but also because it provided for the moral development of individuals. The idea that democracy is to be valued not because freedom is an end in itself but because freedom through democratic participation allows people to develop their moral and rational capacities to the greatest extent possible.
Government by a “Natural Aristocracy”
The natural aristocracy that Jefferson believed should govern was based on “virtue and talent,” while the artificial aristocracy was based on birth and wealth.
Because humans had been created for society, it naturally followed that God would also provide for “virtue and wisdom” to manage society.
“that form of government is best, which provides the most effectively for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the office of government….”to leave the citizens the free election and separation of the aristoi from the pseudo-aristoi, of the wheat from the chaff.”
Jefferson’s Plan for Popular Education
Education was not only crucial in Jefferson’s political theory, it was also an important means for the pursuit of happiness, for he understood happiness to include the pursuit of knowledge.
There were four interrelated parts or tiers in Jefferson’s proposed educational structure: elementary school, grammar schools, university and lifelong learning.
The elementary school was to be the foundation of the entire educational structure.
Elementary School Districts
Jefferson proposed to divide the state into small districts, or “wards”, of five to six square miles.
These districts would serve a dual purpose: first, they would become the local unit of government. Second, each of the districts would establish elementary school where “all free children, male and female,” would be entitled to attend without cost for three years, or longer at their private expense.
Basic reading, writing and common arithmetic was taught.
Common arithmetic would enable them to do the calculations to purchase goods, sell their surplus production, figure their taxes and in general understand the relatively simple agrarian economy.
Writing would empower them to communicate with those at a distance
Reading was necessary to comprehend distant communications, newspapers, government announcements and laws and, most important, would enable graduates to continue their education throughout life through the medium of books.
Objectives for Elementary and University Education in Summary of the 1818 Rockfish Gap Report
Approximately 20 were established throughout the state at various locations so that no scholar would be required to travel more than one day’s journey from home to school. Grammar schools were seen as “preparatory to the entrance of students into the university.”
It was clear that Jefferson intended that local leaders would come from among those educated at the grammar-school. Its graduates would provide leadership in business, transportation, surveying, the militia and local government.
Teachers from the elementary schools would be drawn from those who finished the grammar school curriculum, especially from among the scholarship boys not chosen for university attendance.
The original plan for the university called for 10 professorships covering: ancient language—Latin, Greek and Hebrew; modern language—French, Spanish, Italian, German and Anglo-Saxon; pure mathematics; physico-mathematics; natural philosophy—chemistry and minerology; botany and zoology; medicine and anatomy’ government; law; and ideology—grammar, ethics, rhetoric, belles letters, and fine arts. Also, private tuition in religion, gymnastics, military, manual arts, dancing, music and drawing.
The university would provide the legislatures, governors and jurists who would provide governmental leadership.
Jefferson’s republic was to be based on what he called the natural aristocracy. He proposed an educational state. A meritocracy: is a social system in which positions of greatest influence and prestige are filled by those who “merit” them by demonstrated talent.
Self-instruction—a commitment to lifelong self-education was grounded in the conviction that the development of reason, the expansion of intellect and inquiry into the mysteries of the universe were indeed fundamental to human happiness.
Educational Method and “Faculty Psychology”
The mind is made up of distinct ‘faculties’, like muscles these faculties had to be exercised for development. Jefferson conceived the mind as an empty vessel to be ‘filled’ with useful facts.
Faculty psychology held that developed faculties, with minds appropriately exercised and filled, could ‘transfer’, this training and understanding to any situation in life—that is, the student would be able to generalize from school experience to life experience.
Jefferson’s Views on Slavery, Native Americans and Women Slavery
Jefferson justified his slave-holding partly on economic grounds—he could not afford to free his slaves until he paid off hi debts.
Jefferson believed that African Americans did not have the natural intellectual endowment necessary for self-governance.
Jefferson believed that intermarriage between White people and Native Americans was acceptable because Native Americans in his view were equal to Whites in natural endowment, although their culture was vastly inferior.
Whites wanted from African Americans was their labor, while what Whites wanted from Native Americans was their land.
Jefferson believed that it was province of Whites to instruct the Native Americans in acquiring the necessities of European culture while abandoning their own.
Jefferson believed that “All men are created equal or made pronouncements regarding the rights and reason of man, his terms were always gender-specific.
Females were provided schooling only in the elementary school.
The education would enable them, when they become mothers, to educate their own daughters, and even to direct the course of sons, should their fathers be lost, or incapable, or inattentive.
Jefferson uncritically accepted the placement of women into the private or domestic sphere of the household and perceived no need to educate women for public participation in a democratic society in which citizenship was a male privilege.
Professional Vocabulary Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge Bourgeoisie grammar schools happiness Capitalism intellectual freedom nationalism Civic freedom natural aristocracy/meritocracy Classical liberal natural law patriarchy Conservative democratic localism political freedom “divine right” of the nobility progress Elementary schools republicanism religious revelation Faculty psychology feudalism faith in human reason Virtue social meliorism freedom and “negative’ freedom Rockfish Gap Report