The Poles of the Revolution (plus ça change…)

“If we take seriously the idea that Jefferson and Adams thought representatively, that they were, in the words of their mutual friend and fellow founding father, Benjamin Rush, “[T]he poles of the revolution,” and that, while others wrought and fought, “[They] thought for [them] all, (letter to Adams, october 17, 1809)” then their thinking with and against one another will have a claim to being the first expression of an American tradition of thinking. That claim was substantiated when we found, in the subsequent history of America, the presence of the arguments that constituted their conversation.” – The Soul of a Nation, 199

The question is whether we have words left for a conversation:

“America, like philosophy, exists only and entirely in an endless conversation. One cannot stop either; engagement in each is a matter of finding oneself (engaged) in it.” – ibid., 4

3 thoughts on “The Poles of the Revolution (plus ça change…)

  1. The correspondence between Adams and Jefferson is mandatory reading for a good citizen. Add in Abigail’s letters. Read John Quincy Adam’s Diary on these two and his letters on the subject. Go to the Library of Congress and look at the collection of books that Jefferson sold to Congress. Go to the Stone Library in Quincy and Look at the books in the Adams Library. Then go home and ponder what happened to our country?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am preparing a series of posts, using pericopes from the correspondence to encourage wider reading in the letters. Did you listen to DMcC’s LOC talk? I thought I had horror stories of undergraduates’ ignorance: can you imagine being a history major and never having heard of Gen. Marshall?


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