Thomas Jefferson: Author of America (Eminent Lives)
Thomas Jefferson: Author of America (Eminent Lives)
Christopher Hitchens

Thomas Jefferson: Author of America (Eminent Lives)

Harper Collins (2005)
Christopher Hitchens

The Fifteenth Annual Series of the LeFrak Forum and Symposium on Science, Reason, and Modern Democracy sponsored a series of four lectures in the spring of 2004 by Christopher Hitchens on Jefferson and 'American Empire.' Christopher Hitchens, one of our most distinguished, prolific, and provocative public intellectuals, delivered a series of lectures on Jefferson and America's role in the world. The lectures were delivered while Mr. Hitchens was in the process of writing Thomas Jefferson: Author of America.

"All honor to Jefferson--to the man who in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so to embalm it there, that today, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression." Abraham Lincoln (1859)

According to Lincoln, Jefferson "was, is, and perhaps will continue to be, the most distinguished politician of our history" (1854). Mr. Hitchens argues that Jefferson, like the country he helped found, is a paradox. On the one hand, he was an apostle of the Enlightenment, a committed revolutionary (in 1789 as well as 1776), an impassioned critic of religious orthodoxy, and a champion of the Ordinance of 1787, which prohibited slavery in the Northwest territories. On the other hand, he was a slave owner who chose not to emancipate his slaves, a defender of states' rights and sometimes apologist for the interests of the South, and the architect of the Louisiana territories. According to Mr. Hitchens, this paradox finds its fullest expression in Jefferson's conviction that America ought to be a "superpower" dedicated to the promotion of "an empire of liberty," a pardoxically imperial expression of the original revolutinary impulse. Throughout the lectures, Mr. Hitchens employs Thomas Paine, Jefferson's ally and critic as a witness and commentator.