Thomas Jefferson "Letter to John Adams"

· Both Jefferson and Adams died July 24, 1826, 50 years after the signing of the declaration. In the intervening years they were political adversaries but became personal friends.

· Jefferson was a liberal. Jeffersonian democracy was the idea of independent small farmers owning their own land and being able to fen for themselves. He believed in freedom and equality, the twin pillars of liberalism. The tenants of conservatism are generally in the form of a hierarchy; the rich rule over the poor. Conservative tends to think things need to stay the same unless there is some overpowering need to change them and that tradition is important to maintain stability. For Jefferson, freedom and equality was the key.

· He founded the Democratic party which was then called the Democrat/Republic. Adams would have been a Whig. Jefferson and Adams were often on the opposite sides of issues, but became friends.

· Jefferson is talking to Adams about leadership and aristoi, from which we get the word aristocracy. Jefferson asks where aristocracy comes from and what should be the basis for joining the aristocracy. He proposed it should not be by your birth but by how well you do stuff. If you are naturally the best, you should have a right to rise to the highest position instead of the son of a rich man. In the same way, the smartest person in the class should make the best grade instead of the son of the richest man in town. The opportunity to make your way should be based on your talents. There is an artificial aristocracy founded on wealth and birth without virtue or talent. Your birth has nothing to do with who you are. Before, bodily power allowed you to rise to the top, but gun power made everyone equal. In ancient warfare, the bow and arrow was considered a cowardly weapon because you could shoot someone without exposing yourself to the dangers. A sword was a hero's weapon. Now that we have gun power, there is no need for bodily strength. You rise to the top based on you talents and brains.

· He says it is not necessary to protect the wealthy because enough of them will find their way into legislature to protect themselves. The good government is concerned for the poor or those without economical advantages. He wants a just society that seeks to defend all the people, not just the rich. This is another mark of classic liberalism.

· He talks about church and state and his belief that these should be separate. He drafted a law in Virginia separating church and state. This is radical. In medieval minds, the king or system of government and the church work together to hold society together. If the king was Catholic, then it was thought that all his subjects needed to be Catholic or everything would break down. In America, the idea that people could believe what they wanted to and that had nothing to do with the nation running smoothly. The first amendment grants us this freedom.

· Jefferson mentions that he and Adams are both to old to change one another's opinion based on a long life of reflection. They just want to explain themselves to one another. They are on opposite sides but have a deep bond from fighting in war on the same side. People today don't have this bond to help them work together.