The Declaration of Independence, which Thomas Jefferson wrote when he was just 33, remains one of the world’s greatest documents on human rights and freedom, the foundational stone upon which we still stand. The sad irony is, if Jefferson were alive today, by the time he was “vetted,” he wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance at writing it.
He was handsome and whip smart — a genius, really — and that indisputable fact rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.
A product of a well-to-do family, he breezed through one of the country’s top East Coast universities, which probably qualified him as both an elitist and a pointy-headed intellectual.
He never served in the military.
It bothered some that he seemed almost ambivalent about matters of faith. The idea of religion seemed to intrigue him more than inspire him. In fact, he once noted that it couldn’t matter less to him if his neighbor worshipped one god or 20 gods.
He was known to be friendly with Muslims, even going so far as hosting dinners on Islamic holidays, and he counted the Koran among his collection of books.
His personal life was one for the books. His critics were gobsmacked by what they saw as his immoral, laissez-faire approach to living. His spendthrift ways in the constant pursuit of luxury frequently plunged him into debt.
Born with a curiosity about the world beyond his four walls, he was an out-of-the closet Francophile and didn’t care who knew it.
He horrified his social circle by embarking on a sexual relationship with his dead wife’s half-sister, which produced a gaggle of kids.
But his saving grace, the thing that set him apart from his peers, was his way with words. His glorious gift catapulted him to the center of power and went a long way toward forgiving a multitude of sins.
Older colleagues with much deeper and broader political experience were wise enough to recognize his ability and encouraged him to use it for the greater good.
How dare he?
As he grew in his own experience and decided to pursue national politics, his political enemies sputtered with apoplectic outrage that a “whoremonger/atheist/reprobate” even would deign to think he was worthy of public office.
They pointed to the ease with which he often compromised on some of the toughest social issues of the day.
They predicted that his election would trigger a divine judgment of biblical proportions in the form of murder, rape, public drunkenness and overall anarchy, to the point where blood would run in the streets.
Yet had it not been for this brilliant and complicated man, Thomas Jefferson, we might not have a nation worth squabbling over.
The Declaration of Independence, which Jefferson wrote when he was just 33, remains one of the world’s greatest documents on human rights and freedom, the foundational stone upon which we still stand.
The sad irony is, if Jefferson were alive today, by the time he was “vetted,” he wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance at writing it.
Contact Charita Goshay at firstname.lastname@example.org.