Monday, December 3, 2007

Adams vs. Jefferson

One of the things I like to do when I travel down to Williamsburg on vacation is browse the book store. Given the fact that I (a) love books and (b) adore examining history - going to the book store in the Williamsburg Visitor center is like my version of some sort of mystical ecstasy experienced at the end of a pilgrimage. On a hot summer day, there's nothing better than spending hours surrounded by books all about one of your favorite subjects (especially when you've been told that you can spend money to take some of those books home with you).

On my last day at Williamsburg this past summer I came across the book shown on the left. Adams vs. Jefferson. It was on the clearance table for some paltry sum so I grabbed it - figuring I wouldn't be out anything if the book wasn't that good, that that the topic interested me. I brought it home and there it sat as I read all the other books I had purchased at the Williamsburg book store (oh how I love the book store). I kept putting it off, as I had other reading to do - but when my vacation came up last week I decided to put down my theological reading and dive into Adams vs. Jefferson instead. I just needed a break - and I'm sooooo glad took that breather from theological reading - this is a phenomenal book! Let me sum up some thoughts on Adams vs. Jefferson.
  • I've always felt weighed down by being forced into a position of prominence (a pastor) that I don't really feel equipped for. What's more - the consistent whispers that I'm somehow power-hungry or autocratic suck the joy out of even the few things I do feel I can actually do in this position that I don't really want to be in (it's a calling). Guess what? I'm not alone! Each of the first three presidents of the USA really hated being the president - the served because they felt compelled to, and didn't really enjoy it at all as their political opponents worked to make life miserable for them. I've always said that treating the Church like a political battleground was a really bad idea - now I have even more reason to say that.
  • The one person who really coveted in power in the early days of the Federal Republic was narrowly kept out of power (no thanks to George Washington, who never really saw this guy very clearly). Even with what I already knew about him Adams vs. Jefferson made me very glad that the election of 1800 pretty much ended Alexander Hamilton's political career. It would have been ironic if the Federal Republic would have slipped into Empire by the hands of the man who penned it's Constitution.
  • We are spoiled. We are so used to the idea that power changes hands between various players without bloodshed that we just don't get how insane the very idea is. Back in 1800, with an electoral tie and the thread of secession looming over the infant nation - there wasn't a war. One party left power, and another party came into power, and the electorate (even though the system was set up to keep the electorate away from selecting the president) felt that they were the one's who made a decision. Jefferson posited that the election of 1800 was the fulfillment of the American Revolution (a point which made Adams bristle) - I think he may be correct. It was something that hadn't be done before - and it worked. Amazing.
  • 200 years and politicians are still using the same arguments against their opponents. Folks were telling people to hide their Bibles if Jefferson was elected President!
  • I find it ironic that the fears of both the original political parties (Federalist and Republican) have come to pass. The Federalist would be appalled that we had become so "democratic" that "what people wanted" would take over the country (as opposed to "what people need"). The Republicans would be appalled that the country was in the grip of powerful (and rich) interests which could ignore the people entirely. So we have a supposedly "open" system where everyone feels like they have a the ability to have a say and get what they want ("If I really wanted to I could get involved any time...") yet is, in reality controlled by corporate interests. How sad. I guess it comes from being spoiled - we stopped being surprised by the fact that we don't implode every time the government changes that we're no longer surprised when it doesn't change.
Anyway, do yourself a treat and read this book - you won't be able to put it down. You can click on the link to Amazon and I'll get a percentage of the funds - but I'm not sure I'll ever see them because how they have the gall to ask me for some seriously sensitive information to prove who I am it beyond me (I am in amazon associates, essentially, for the privilege of displaying cover-images with no hassle).


Dr. Qohelet said...

I'm in complete agreement about Hamilton. He was a bad egg.

Erik said...

I've a friend who was obsessive about her hatred for Hamilton in High School, she used to cheer when the duel was mentioned.