The Elusive Thomas Jefferson

Essays on the Man Behind the Myths

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About the Book

 Thomas Jefferson’s writings on morality have largely been ignored. His thoughts on the subject, never developed in any formal work, are said to be unsystematic—a judgment reinforced by his shift from Stoicism (intentions are critical) to Utilitarianism (consequences are critical) later in life.
Yet his writings and the moral works he recommended reveal much about his moral sense and views on good living. Jefferson valued personal moral improvement, had great respect for moral exemplars and drew inspiration from moralists, sermonizers, novelists, poets, historians and such role models as Professor William Small and his friend George Wythe.

About the Author(s)

M. Andrew Holowchak is a philosopher and historian who teaches at the University of the Incarnate Word. He has published more than 30 books, eight of which are on Thomas Jefferson, on whom he is one of the world’s foremost authorities. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Brian W. Dotts is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice, College of Education, University of Georgia in Athens. He has published papers on the history of American education.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by M. Andrew Holowchak and Brian W. Dotts
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 252
Bibliographic Info: 7 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2017
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6925-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3003-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Introduction 1

An “Honest Heart” Versus a “Knowing Head”: The Myth of

the Preeminency of Rationality in Jefferson’s Notions of Man and Society (M. Andrew Holowchak) 5

The Apostle of Whig History: Thomas Jefferson’s Reliance on the Ancient Saxon Constitution (Brian W. Dotts) 24

Toward a Jurismythos of Thomas Jefferson: The Supreme Court’s Use and Abuse of America’s Most Controversial Founder (Benjamin Justice) 46

The Myth of Jefferson’s Polysemous Conception of Liberty (Garrett Ward Sheldon) 69

“The spirit of the master is abating”: The Myth of Jefferson’s Racism (M. Andrew Holowchak) 81

The Myth of Jefferson’s Deism (William M. Wilson) 118

James Bryant Conant: Twentieth Century Jeffersonian (Wayne J. Urban) 130

The Moral Foundation of Government: Jefferson, Dewey and Citizenship Education (James J. Carpenter) 147

Have Gun(s), Will Travel: Thomas Jefferson, Gun Ownership and Military Affairs (Arthur Scherr) 163

Myths and Realities of Thomas Jefferson’s Architecture (Richard Guy Wilson) 191

Thomas Jefferson as Collective Memory (Jennifer Hauver James, Bruce VanSledright and Christopher Farr) 205

Bibliography 225

About the Contributors 239

Index 243

Book Reviews & Awards

“This book is an exceedingly comprehensive presentation of Thomas Jefferson’s political ideals within the context of the philosophical, moral, religious, economic and even literary thought of his time…. I expect that it will eventually become a kind of ‘classic,’ not just in Jeffersonian Scholarship, but as a distinctive interpretation of American, and Western civilization.”—Garrett Ward Sheldon, University of Virginia.