First Principles

I’m Not Descended From Jefferson. Keep His Memorial

The American Left’s attempt to erase history is an egregious form of tyranny over the mind, and just like Jefferson, we must fight it with all our might.

Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped.” When George Orwell wrote those prophetic words in 1984, he couldn’t have imagined how quickly they’d be implemented in America.

The latest salvo in the Marxist Left’s attempt to destroy our history is a New York Times article titled: “I’m a Direct Descendant of Thomas Jefferson. Take Down His Memorial.” Written by Lucian K. Truscott, the case is completely unoriginal and intellectually dishonest and only serves to rehash the tired “let’s-erase-the-Founders-because-they-owned-slaves” argument.

Though the Left’s war on the Founders is an abomination, it serves as a good example of a classic leftist tactic: the appeal to emotion. 

Truscott’s article brings nothing new to the table, but because it’s written by a descendant of Jefferson’s, the reader is supposed to take a step back and say “Wow, if even a descendant of Jefferson favors destroying his memorial, I guess there’s some point to it.” It offers little in the way of reason.

The hypocritical thing about these appeals to emotion is that the Left only accepts them if they further their own policy goals. Does anyone think for a moment that the New York Times or Washington Post would publish an article titled: “My family was murdered by an illegal alien. Here’s why we should stop illegal immigration”? Maybe ask Kate Steinle’s family about that.

Truscott claims that Jefferson doesn’t need a memorial in D.C. and argues Monticello is enough because its exhibits on slavery reveal him “with his moral failings in full, an imperfect man, a flawed founder.” It’s ironic that Truscott cites Monticello as a good memorial, considering Jefferson’s former estate does the exactly the opposite of what Truscott claims. Monticello’s exhibits don’t simplistically characterize Jefferson as an evil, irredeemable slaveholder—much to CNN’s chagrin, I’m sure— but as a complex individual with both positive and negative traits; a man renowned for his genius, inventiveness, and rhetorical skills.

Despite Truscott’s reprehensible effort to poison his ancestor’s legacy, Thomas Jefferson deserves to be memorialized for his vital service to our nation. He wrote the Declaration of Independence, which in itself would have been enough to earn him a proud and much-deserved place in the history of our nation. But he also wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which guaranteed freedom of religion in Virginia and was the inspiration for the First Amendment (another thing the Left is now busily trying to dismantle). Among his other accomplishments, he established West Point as America’s military academy, doubled the size of our nation with the Louisiana Purchase, fought a successful war with the Barbary Pirates, and—inconveniently for Truscott and other detractors—Jefferson also abolished the slave trade.  

America As Uniquely Evil in the World

The last point is especially vital because Truscott insists that, though Jefferson wrote in the Declaration that “all men are created equal,” he “never did much to make those words come true.” This is a disgusting lie. 

Yes, slavery continued to exist until Abraham Lincoln (who, coincidentally, is also on the Left’s hit list) issued the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment was ratified. But the fact that Jefferson ended the importation of slaves to American shores from overseas was a huge gain for the anti-slavery forces and certainly directed momentum toward the eventual eradication of slavery.

In establishing our nation, Jefferson and the other Founders also put slavery on a course to ultimate extinction. They could not have insisted on its abolition when drafting the Constitution, because they knew the slave-holding southern states would never agree, and the nascent nation would have been destroyed before it was even born. Yet they ensured that a future generation would have the ideas it needed to fight to abolish the evil of slavery and—at the cost of over half a million American lives—eventually, it did.

Truscott specifically, and leftists in general, don’t really care about the individual legacies of the Founders. Not even the greatest Founder, George Washington, is exempt from their fury, even though he freed his slaves in his will, guaranteeing that the sick and the old would be taken care of by his estate, and ensuring that orphaned slaves would be taught “reading, writing, and a useful trade.” But instead, Washington is also on the chopping block along with Jefferson, with more and more leftists calling for his blacklisting from our history.

What underpins all of the Left’s historical assumptions is the idea that America is uniquely evil; they ignore the evils perpetrated by almost every other society throughout history. 

They never discuss how the Ottoman Empire abducted Christian children from their crying parents, enslaved them, forcibly converted them to Islam, and then sent them as Janissary troops to massacre their own people. They don’t mention that the Aztecs sacrificed 80,000 human lives to dedicate the Great Temple at Tenochtitlan, killing 14 victims a minute. Neither do we hear much about the Mongols, who murdered millions of innocents in horrific fashion and destroyed flourishing cultures

In the Left’s view, none of these crimes against humanity matter—only the West is guilty, with America being the worst among a band of criminal nations. 

This is the great irony in the neo-Marxist worldview; they fully embrace moral relativism but only when it suits them. They insist that there’s no black and white, only gray. They ignore the crimes of liberal icons like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who placed 120,000 Japanese-Americans in internment camps and openly admired Joseph Stalin, one of the worst butchers in human history. They idolize Che Guevara, ignoring his crimes and his calls to nuke the United States. They praise Communist Cuba, which has a horrendous track record in human rights and subjects its citizens to grinding poverty.

Communist crimes are downplayed, and any atrocities are justified as necessary for “the greater good,” the justification of all blood-soaked psychopaths in every period of history. Is it any surprise that the Left today justifies rioters’ destruction of minority neighborhoods by declaring that “property can be replaced”? It’s all for the greater good! 

The Left’s Power Play

The Left’s war on history was never about righting historical wrongs, otherwise the Marxists wouldn’t currently be destroying statues of Lincoln, the Great Emancipator who ended slavery; of Ulysses Grant, who fought tooth and nail throughout his life against both the Confederacy and the Ku Klux Klan; and, most absurdly, of Frederick Douglass, an ex-slave and one of the most influential abolitionists in our history.

Rewriting history is all about gaining power. If the Founders were evil, then surely the fruits of their labors—the Declaration, the Constitution, freedom of speech, freedom of religion—are all tainted by association. Surely we should give power to our new benevolent dictators to erase everything that came before, and remake our nation in their own image. If this sounds like too much of a slippery slope argument, stop and think: could anyone have imagined only four years ago that increasing numbers of leftists would want to destroy the legacy of George Washington, the father of his country?

The Jefferson Memorial lists several of Jefferson’s quotes on its walls, but the one most appropriate for this moment is the quote directly under the dome: “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” Marxists’ attempt to erase history is an egregious form of tyranny over the mind, and just like Jefferson, we must fight it with all our might. The Left may succeed in tearing down the Memorial, but Jefferson’s words are eternal.