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their abuse, like their merit, was superlative. But to-day their merit alone remains, acknowledged by all. No one contests Benjamin Franklin's position as our first great statesman, philosopher, and scientist-the man who raised common sense to the level of genius, and made the name America known and respected in the world. Few to-day, even though they may detest his politics, would deny to Alexander Hamilton the title of the master genius of American finance or refuse to acknowledge the unique contribution of the Federalist to political theory. But Thomas Jefferson is still a subject for acrimonious criticism and chivalrous defense. The campaign controversies of the year 1800 have not yet died down to silence. The perpetuation or the refutation of slanders, objurgations, innuendoes occupies even the latest of Jefferson's biographers. The very men often who acclaim him cannot refrain from sneers; and even his bitter political enemies lean on his authority. A Populist senator of the last generation remarked that "every opinion delivered in the Senate of the United States was backed by a quotation from Thomas Jefferson.” His name is cited more often than any other in our political platforms, his portrait hangs with Washington's and Lincoln's in our convention halls, his principles are appealed to as the creed of every true American. Surely, there is no stranger problem of our political psychology than this mixture of veneration and vituperation, of inspiration and exasperation, still provoked by the mention of the name of Thomas Jefferson.
Suggestions in explanation of this anomaly will appear frequently in the following pages. Here I can only urge the obvious but too often neglected truism that the excellences of men are diverse, and that genius, as Lord Acton said long ago, deserves to be judged by its own best performance. To call Kreisler a second-rate fiddler because he cannot sing like Caruso, or Botticelli a mere dauber because he does not paint in the style of Raphael, appears at once as arrant nonsense; yet many a respectable historian has based his whole condemnatory judgment of Jefferson on the fact that he was not like Hamilton. Indeed, no more astonishingly persistent prejudice can be found in our American historiography than the treatment of these two great men like twin buckets in a well, alternately elevated or de pressed according as an historian of the Federalist or the Republican school manipulated the chain. Jefferson was in public life almost continuously from his entrance into the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1769 to his retirement from the presidency in 1809. During less than four of those forty years was he in direct contact with Hamilton in the stormy scenes around Washington's cabinet table. Grave and important differences between these men were there revealed, to be sure; disagreement on the
extent and nature of the powers of the central government, on the relative value of urban-industrial and agricultural communities, on the capacity of the common people for self-government. But important as these matters are, they by no means exhaust the interests of Jefferson's many-sided activity; nor should they be dwelt on, as they often have been, to the exclusion or obscuration of his splendid services to our diplomacy and public law, to the reform of inveterate social despotisms, to the clarification of the political philosophy of democracy, and to the advancement of freedom of thought, speech, and creed through a widely extended system of public education.
It has been my desire to present the whole man Jefferson in this modest volume, and to present him as far as possible in the first person. The portrait need not be less faithful because the canvas is small; though the form and size of my book are themselves a sufficient disclaimer of any attempt to add an "original contribution" to the mass of Jeffersonian scholarship. I have wished only to write a truthful and readable account of the life of a great American citizen, who served his fellow-citizens long and devotedly in public office, and who will continue to serve his fellow-men so long as freedom is loved and fought for.
D. S. M. COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, NEW YORK,