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The Constitutional Thought of Thomas Jefferson (Constitutionalism and Democracy) Paperback – September 8, 1995
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From the Back Cover
About the Author
David N. Mayer is Professor of Law and History at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. He has published numerous articles in law and history journals.
Top Customer Reviews
One of the reviewers on the back cover copy says that "Mayer allows Jefferson to speak for himself. This alone would recommend the work." Indeed. This is one of the strengths of the book with its extensive referencing to the words of one of our founding fathers. It also does the same justice to the philosophers and statesmen who influenced Jefferson throughout his life.
One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the scholarly analysis of what it meant (to Jefferson) to be a Whig. I was also compelled by the discussion of the whig concept of a government is more republican (small r) if it is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence.
Mayer is not reluctant to point to many of Jefferson's overly optimistic or downright naive assumptions on the practical implications of running a government.
One area I wished Mayer spent more time exploring was Jefferson's thoughts on bicameralism and separation of powers; and more specifically on the original contention that the Senate served as a break on run away emotions protecting minority interests (to avoid tyranny of the majority that Madison was so fearful of, but not Jefferson).
All told, this book is of value for those who admire Jefferson, who are critical of his standing, and for those who quote his examples without really knowing what they are doing.
Also recommended: Alexander Hamilton and the Constitution by Clinton Rossiter.
Jefferson was familiar with Medieval English History and the implied "contract" between rulers and those who were ruled. Jefferson. Jefferson was aware of the abuses of the English Parliament during the reign of Henry VIII (1509-1547). Jefferson knew of the political conflicts between the English monarchs and the parliamentarians which led to the English Revolution and the execution of Charles I in 1649. As Mayer noted, Thomas Jefferson & co. sought to develop a political philosophy that would balance civil liberties and political authority which was difficult.
Jefferson's concern about civil liberties should be required reading at a time now when fear mongering is threatening peoples' right to conscience and the freedom to express uncomfortable/inconvenient truth. Mayer cited numerous Jefferson's work about the rights of conscience and freedom expression. Jefferson was concerned about the pomposity of Washington and Adams' administrations. Jefferson feared that such pomposity would divert attention from rights toward unnecessary ritual. Mayer quoted from one of Jefferson's letters complaining of such political ritual which, to the embarrassment of Jefferson, became public knowledge.
As noted above, Jefferson feared the unrestrained use of power. He commented that the US Government should be restrained by "the chains of the Constitution.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book fits my desire for an overview of Jefferson's constitutional thought. I'm already familiar with his positions in the context of his disagreements with hamilton and... Read morePublished on April 9, 2014 by Andrew C. Blanar
I found it one of the most insightful books I've read on Thomas Jefferson to date. Well worth it IMO...Published on July 6, 2013 by Stephen Ames