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Overrated & Underrated

May 2024
1min read

I must take exception to Nathaniel Burt’s casual and uninformed appraisal of Thomas Jefferson.

Mr. Burt renders an appraisal of Mr. Jefferson that is obviously influenced by our nasty contemporary notion of forced iconoclasm. Any informed reader knows that Jefferson never claimed to be the creator of American independence, as Burt suggests, although the third President did take great pride in his authorship of the Declaration. It was this act, his work on the statute for religious freedom in Virginia, and his establishment of the University of Virginia for which he most wished to be remembered. Perhaps Burt is reading his history in iambic pentameter, for the Jefferson he describes bears little resemblance to the prose history with which I am familiar.

The wonder of Thomas Jefferson is not that he always succeeded in the widest range of endeavors ever undertaken by a person born on this continent, but that he could have failed at most of them and still earned the respect with which he is currently held by informed people around the world.

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