Thursday, June 14, 2007


(Patriotism: "The last refuge of a scoundrel". Dr. Johnson)

"As to the invocation of Jefferson, we know that when he and James Madison first proposed the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom (the frame and basis of the later First Amendment to the Constitution) in 1779, the preamble began, "Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind free." Patrick Henry and other devout Christians attempted to substitute the words "Jesus Christ" for "Almighty God" in this opening passage and were overwhelmingly voted down. This vote was interpreted by Jefferson to mean that Virginia's representatives wanted the law "to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahomedan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination." Quite right, too, and so far so good, even if the term Mahomedan would not be used today, and even if Jefferson's own private sympathies were with the last named in that list."

The Contingencies staff does not endorse the writings of Mr. Hitchens (except as an example of a rather pungent, secular prose style), but he has read his Jefferson and Founding Fathers rather closely (as well as Voltaire, Hume, and French encyclopedists--the real intellectual forces behind American--and French Rev.s); indeed Hitch. wrote a rather nice book on Jefferson (which we are reading at our leisure) which would not go over well at the Cafe a Gauche. TJ might object to some of the rightists' infringement on Due Process (and to zealots, whether Muslim, Xtian, Mormonal or jewish), yet anyone who thinks TJ would be siding with the likes of Damascus Nancy and Co., or the multiculturalist left as a whole, like, needs to lay off the bongs and tofu-burgers, and the WhatIf game for a while. And anyone who has read even a few tales of Nate Hawthorne soon realizes that the American experiment, including the Jeffersonian, was hardly ever a glorious thing: more like a farm-boys' beer blast against some outgunned colonists.


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