Virtual Class--Thomas Jefferson Saint or Sinner?
Thomas Jefferson used to be loved by all Americans and claimed by people of both political parties. In the 20th Century, he was put on our money and called America’s Founding Father. But now many people see Jefferson as a hypocrite and some even want to tear down his statues.
This isn’t the first time that Jefferson has been controversial. In his own lifetime, Jefferson had strong admirers and enemies. So which was he: a political saint or sinner?
We will try to answer this question by talking about the life and times of Thomas Jefferson and looking at three of the writings for which Jefferson himself wanted to be remembered: the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and the founding of the University of Virginia. We’ll try to understand Jefferson’s views on government, religion, freedom, and slavery – all the topics that made him controversial in his day and ours.
Jeffrey Sikkenga is Executive Director of the Ashbrook Center and professor of political science at Ashland University. Jeff received his BA from the University of Virginia and his MA and PhD from the University of Toronto. Jeff has been at Ashland and connected to the Ashbrook Center since 1997, serving as an adjunct fellow of the Center, a faculty member in Ashbrook’s Teaching American History program, co-director of the Ashbrook Scholar Program, and Interim Executive Director.
At Ashland University, Jeff served as President and Vice-President of the Faculty Senate and was chair of the search committee for the Provost of the University. He was also assistant chair of the Department of History and Political Science.
Jeff has been a senior fellow in the Program on Constitutionalism and Democracy at the University of Virginia, a visiting scholar at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, and the William E. Simon Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine University. He has lectured across the country on religious liberty, American politics, and the Supreme Court. He is the author of a number of reviews, articles, and book chapters on political thought, the US Constitution, and politics and religion. They have appeared in journals such as the American Journal of Political Science, Political Theory, History of Political Thought, Journal of Politics, and Political Science Quarterly. He has published several books, including History of American Political Thought (2nd edition).