Clay S. Jenkinson,
Becoming Jefferson's People:
Re-inventing the American Republic
in the 21st Century

(Marmarth, 2004)

Once upon a time, in a land far away from an empire ruled by a tyrant, people grumbled, and fretted, and stewed about tyranny, taxation without representation and the right to self-governance. The colonists, the king and various representatives from the land far way and the empire (which ruled much of the civilized world) could not agree on How Things Should Be. Thus it was that in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, in insufferable heat and at no great cost to themselves, representatives from 13 colonies crafted a new document that became the Declaration of Independence.

It is with much delight then, that I can recommend to you a little jewel of a book by Clay S. Jenkinson, titled Becoming Jefferson's People: Re-inventing the American Republic in the 21st Century.

Jenkinson is based in Nevada and has an astonishing expertise on things Jeffersonian. I first heard Jenkinson on a public radio program in Minnesota, and have been fortunate enough to find the program in other places in which I lived. Jenkinson hosts a program called The Thomas Jefferson Hour, with Jenkinson assuming Jefferson's persona to answer questions from the moderator, as well as phoned-in questions from listeners. Jenkinson is also renowned for his expertise on Lewis and Clark, as well as Theodore Roosevelt, and is passionate about conservation of the plains. In some ways, Jenkinson is a spiritual descendant of Jefferson, particularly in his belief that Jefferson can teach as much today as he did 200 some years ago.

One of the more remarkable things about this series of essays/correspondence of Jefferson's is their immediacy and relevance to today's political and cultural happenings. If history repeats itself, then this book is a worthy volume to have on hand to read on nights when the news is too awful to contemplate. Each piece within this book allows for one to freely dip into it without losing the narrative flow, or interest.

Each topic, such as education, is framed within the context of Jefferson's writing and letters, and is followed by an essay by Jenkinson that frames the topic, allowing the reader to find relevance within it.

Jefferson has been viewed as a hypocrite for being publicly against slavery, yet is alleged to have fathered several children with his slave, Sally Hemming. One thing that Jenkinson reminds us of within this book, and with his knowledge and understanding of Jefferson is that with his many flaws, Jefferson was a gifted man whose writings and philosophy enable all of us to have a voice, if only on paper.

by Ann Flynt
26 August 2006

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