The Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society


The Character and Legacy of Thomas Jefferson and its Meaning for Americans Today

The Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society will host a panel of distinguished authors, researchers and nationally acclaimed scholars to explore the moral, spiritual and political character, ideals and essential truths of Thomas Jefferson. The seminar will provide participants with a deeper understanding and insight into the character and legacy of this extraordinary Virginian, Author of the Declaration of Independence, Author of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and third U.S. President.

The seminar will be held on Saturday, November 9, 2013, in Charlottesville, Virginia at the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, University of Virginia, 112 Clarke Court; from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Admission to this special event is free and open to the public. The Morning Session will be moderated by White M. Wallenborn, M.D., PastPresident of the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society and former Monticello Guide: 9:00 a.m. Dr. Donald W. Livingston: “Jefferson, Republicanism and the Problem of Size and Scale” The republican tradition for two thousand years taught that the liberty and virtue of republics could not exist unless the republic was small. It also taught that large territory and great populations inevitably lead to centralized monarchy. These two propositions posed a problem for Americans. How could such a vast territory with an expanding population ever be '"republicanized?" Jefferson presented the best solution to this problem. And America followed that pattern until the Civil War. Since then America has become the centralized "monarchy" Jefferson feared it would be. The way back to republican government is to rediscover Jefferson's solution and to ask how it can be appropriated today. Donald W. Livingston, Ph.D., is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Emory University and a Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh. He has written numerous articles and books on political philosophy, the most recent being Rethinking the American Union for the 21st Century. He founded the Hume Society, and co-founded the Adam Smith Society, the Eighteenth Century Scottish Studies Society, and the Ciceronian Society. He has published two books on the British philosopher David Hume and has been described as “the greatest Hume scholar of the twentieth century.” He is president of the Abbeville Institute, an association of scholars in higher education devoted to a critical study of what is true and valuable in the Southern tradition. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society. 10:00 a.m. Dr. William M. Wilson: “Jefferson the Theist” In recent decades, many misconceptions abound throughout academia and the literature with regard to the spiritual dimensions and beliefs of Thomas Jefferson. Dr. William Wilson of the Jefferson Scholars Foundation and distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia, will illuminate the life-long spiritual journey of Thomas Jefferson, providing not only a window into his soul, but also revealing the moral compass for all of his labors as the “Inventor of America” and author of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom. William M. Wilson, Ph.D., is a Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia, and currently serves as the Director of the Graduate Fellowship Program of the Jefferson Scholars Foundation. Dr. Wilson served the University as Dean of the Echols Scholars Program from 2005 to 2012, and is the recipient of one the University’s highest distinctions, the Algernon Sidney Sullivan Award for teaching and selfless service. Professor Wilson is the author of many articles pertaining to religion, literature, philosophical theology and three volumes of Lectura Dantes Virginiana, and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Abbeville Institute for the Study of Southern Culture and the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society. 11:00 a.m. Dr. Clyde N. Wilson: “Looking for Mr. Jefferson” Generation after generation, misinterpretations of Thomas Jefferson, both positive and negative, have been piled up by people wishing to use his name for their own agendas. When traced to their sources, such ideas reveal more about their perpetrators than they do about Jefferson. For the real Thomas Jefferson, Virginian and American statesman, to be seen many distortions must be exposed. Clyde N. Wilson, Ph.D., is Historian Emeritus of the University of South Carolina. He is a recipient of the Bostick Prize for Contributions to South Carolina Letters, and the first annual Randolph Society Lifetime Achievement Award. He is also the M.E. Bradford distinguished chair of the Abbeville Institute and founder of the Stephen D. Lee Institute. He is an adjunct faculty member of the Ludwig von Mises Institute; and a long-time contributing editor for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and Southern Partisan magazine. Professor Wilson is best known for his expertise on the life and writings of John C. Calhoun, and is the editor of Vols. 10-28 of the Calhoun papers. Professor Wilson is also the author of hundreds of articles and author or editor of over 30 books including, The Essential Calhoun; From Union to Empire: Essays in the Jeffersonian Tradition; Chronicles of the South; Defending Dixie: Essays in Southern History and Culture; and Forgotten Conservatives in American History. 12:00 Noon – Lunch The Afternoon Session will be moderated by Richard E. Dixon, President of the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society: 1:00 p.m. Cynthia H. Burton: “Myths and Scholarship” Serious flaws have been documented in the scholarship of certain Jefferson scholars. Evidence has been overlooked, ignored, and/or distorted. Enormous gaps have been filled with imagination. However, speculation is not evidence. Has poor scholarship by leading scholars perpetuated myths affecting the character and legacy of Jefferson? Cynthia Burton is interviewed by Patricia Early. New evidence is introduced, myths are debunked, and poor scholarship is revealed. Cynthia H. Burton is a professional researcher, veteran genealogist, and she is an authority on Jefferson's private life, his brother Randolph Jefferson, and the enslaved community at Monticello. She has more than 35 years of experience studying the historic neighborhood and its inhabitants, and she has worked closely with several authors writing about the Hemings controversy. She presented her paper, "Did Poor Scholarship Affect the Paternity Debate?" at the 2012 Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society forum at the University of Virginia. Mrs. Burton is also the author of Jefferson Vindicated: Fallacies, Omissions, and Contradictions in the Hemings Genealogical Search, with Foreword by James A. Bear, Jr., Emeritus Director and Curator at Monticello. Patricia R. Early is currently employed by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation as an Outreach History Educator. Her interest in Mr. Jefferson began when she worked as a Monticello Guide for seven years. While at Monticello, she conducted Plantation Community Tours for several seasons, worked as an Education Instructor, and cochaired a committee to develop a new tour for children. She has a special interest in the individual Monticello slaves and their lives on the plantation. She has also worked as a Montpelier historic interpreter. In past years Mrs. Early served on the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society Board of Directors, and currently serves on the Advisory Board. 2:00 p.m. William G. Hyland, Esq.: “Long Journey with Mr. Jefferson: The Life of Dumas Malone” The magisterial “collaboration” over half a lifetime between historian Dumas Malone and his subject, Thomas Jefferson, is the basis for William G. Hyland Jr.’s compelling biography, Long Journey with Mr. Jefferson: The Life of Dumas Malone. Malone, the courtly and genteel historian from Mississippi, spent thirty-eight years researching and writing the definitive biography of the man who “invented the United States of America.” Hyland provides a surprising portrait of the man many consider America’s greatest historian, recording in detail Malone’s struggle to finish his towering six-volume work on Jefferson through excruciating pain and then blindness at the age of eighty-three. Hyland includes Malone’s previously unpublished correspondence with such notables as John F. Kennedy, Harry S. Truman, George H. W. Bush, Felix Frankfurter, and Fawn Brodie. Readers are treated to an exclusive look at private family documents and Malone’s unfinished memoir, which reflects on history, social commentary, and his life’s accomplishments. Offering much more than most biographies, this book imparts extensive insights into Malone’s earlier years in Mississippi and Georgia, and how they shaped his character. Through interviews with his intimates, family members, rivals, and subordinates, Hyland generates a true portrait of the man behind the intellect and the myth. Thomas Fleming, author of The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers, notes of Long Journey with Mr. Jefferson, “Anyone interested in how good history is written will be mesmerized by this book. If some readers also want to find out whether recent assaults on Thomas Jefferson's reputation are based on fact or on factoids, they will find a veritable mother lode of information here.” William G. Hyland, Esq., Professor of Law, Stetson College of Law and attorney, is the author of In Defense of Thomas Jefferson: The Sally Hemings Sex Scandal (St. Martins) and the biography, Long Journey with Mr. Jefferson: The Life of Dumas Malone (Potomac Books). 3:00 p.m. Dr. Robert F. Turner: “Parsing the Paradox: Understanding Thomas Jefferson and Slavery.” Modern scholars struggle in vain to reconcile Jefferson's enlightened rhetoric that "all men are created equal" and his early efforts in opposition to slavery with his lifelong ownership of other human beings and refusal, even in his will, to grant freedom to more than a small number of his servants. Words like "sphinx," "hypocrite," and even "monster" have been employed in describing perceived contradictions between Jefferson's beliefs and behavior. This presentation will argue that Jefferson's behavior is less enigmatic than most modern scholars perceive. He was morally opposed to slavery throughout his life, and what set him apart from most of his Virginia contemporaries was his willingness to speak and act publicly against slavery. Throughout most of his life it was unlawful to free the slaves he had inherited from his father and father-in-law, and his assessment of the plight of freed Virginia slaves persuaded him that freeing slaves who had not been prepared for the hostile life that awaited them would do them no service. He promoted legislation to end the importation of new slaves and to permit their manumission, and denounced slavery in his draft of the Declaration of Independence and his Notes on the State of Virginia. Until his death in 1826 he remained a strong opponent of human bondage, and one of his greatest disappointments was the failure of the younger generation following the American Revolution to recognize and eliminate this evil system. But as he aged he realized that public opinion was not yet ready to support the necessary changes, and he concluded that lending his name to the abolitionist cause would not result in victory and indeed might actually set back the cause. He also recognized that such a public role might well prevent him from doing good in other areas in the struggle for human freedom and dignity, without in any way advancing the antislavery cause. In his private communications he continued to express his passionate, life-long opposition to slavery, but he reasoned that until the evil institution could be eliminated those entrusted with the care of slaves had a moral duty to provide for their welfare and demand no more in return than they would of a hired servant. As his personal debts grew, his ability to improve the plight of his own slaves diminished. He lived in an economy dependent upon slave labor, and as chattel property his slaves were subject to the claims of his creditors even had he concluded that freeing them would be in their best interest. He greatly feared that the long history of exploitation and cruelty towards slaves would make it impossible for whites and free blacks to live together in harmony, and several slave rebellions reinforced this fear. So, in the end, his options were limited and his goals conflicted. He believed that enlightened democracy would in time bring an end to slavery, and he never abandoned his firm belief that slavery was a horribly evil institution. For that, he deserves our admiration. Robert F. Turner, SJD, is a cofounder of the Center for National Security Law (1981) at the University of Virginia School of Law. Professor Turner holds both professional and academic doctorates from the University of Virginia School of Law, and is a former Charles H. Stockton Professor of International Law at the U.S. Naval War College and a Distinguished Lecturer at West Point. He has taught both in Virginia's Department of Government and Foreign Affairs and the Law School, and is the author or editor of more than a dozen books. A former president of the congressionally-established U.S. Institute of Peace, he has had a strong professional interest in Jefferson for more than four decades. Dr. Turner served as Chairman of the independent Jefferson-Hemings Scholars Commission, and he is the editor of The Jefferson-Hemings Controversy: Report of the Scholars Commission. The Report documents the results of a year-long, independent panel inquiry by thirteen distinguished academics from across the nation. Working without compensation at the request of the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society, the scholars were unanimous in their conclusion that "the allegation is by no means proven," and with but a single mild dissent their views "ranged from serious skepticism about the charge to a conviction that it is almost certainly untrue." Each argument in the debate is examined in careful detail in the comprehensive 412-page volume, with more than 1,400 footnotes documenting their analysis. Many of the commonly accepted premises behind the story were found to be false, according to the panel of scholars. 4:00 p.m. - Panel Discussion and Farewell