Jon Meacham

  • Aired:  11/14/12
  •  | Views: 23,194

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham explains what made Thomas Jefferson an atheist in religion and a fanatic in politics. (6:04)

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE).

>> Jon: WELCOME BACK!

MY GUEST TONIGHT A PULITZER PRIZE WINNING BEST SELLING AUTHOR.

HIS NEW BOOK IS CALLED "THOMAS JEFFERSON: THE ART OF POWER." PLEASE WELCOME BACK TO THE

PROGRAM JON MEACHAM.

SIR, COME ON OUT HERE!

WHO'S BETTER THAN US?

SIT.

>> WELL, I COULD START.

>> Jon: I KNOW, MANY PEOPLE.

JON MEACHAM, THANKS FOR JOINING US.

>> THANK YOU.

>> Jon: "THOMAS JEFFERSON: THE ART OF POWER." LOOK AT THAT.

LOOK AT THAT PICTURE.

THAT WAS A GOOD-LOOKING DUDE.

>> HE WAS A GOOD-LOOKING DUDE.

>> Jon: YOU WROTE HE PROVIDED OVER THE COUNTRY DURING A TIME OF DEEP PARTISAN DIVIDE AND REAL

ANTAGONISM IN THIS COUNTRY.

HAS THERE EVER BEEN A PRESENT WHO HASN'T PRESIDED --

>> NO, JAMES MONROE.

>> Jon: REALLY?

>> THERE WAS AN ERA OF GOOD FEELINGS.

FEDERALISM -- ONE OF THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF JEFFERSON IS HIS REPUBLICANISM REALLY DROVE

FEDERALISTS MAD, WHICH IS NOT ALSO -- WHICH IS ALSO INITIALLY AN ANALOGY RIGHT NOW.

>> Jon: WELL, LET'S DEFINE REPUBLICANISM AND FEDERALISM AS THEY GO.

>> REPUBLICANISM WAS THE VOICE OF THE MANY OVER THE FEW.

AND FEDERALISTS WERE SORT OF PROTO BRITISH, MUCH MORE --

>> Jon: ELITIST?

>> AUTHORITARIAN, ELITIST.

IT WAS BASED IN NEW ENGLAND AND IN SOUTH CAROLINA.

WHICH HAS ALWAYS BEEN TROUBLE.

>> Jon: AND MORE RELIGIOUS.

IT WAS A MORE RELIGIOUS BASED -- HE WAS MORE OF YOUR ENLIGHTENMENT TYPE FELLOW.

>> IT WAS HIS DOING THAT MOVED THE WALL METAPHOR, THE SEPARATION BETWEEN CHURCH AND

STATE, INTO THE VERNACULAR IN A LETTER TO THE DANBURY BAPTIST ASSOCIATION AND THAT WAS A

CRITICAL THING.

HE -- ON HIS RELIGIOUS VIEWS HE WAS A -- SOMEWHAT OF A SKEP I CAN.

HE DESCRIBED CHRISTIANITY AS THE MERE ABRACADABRA OF MEN CALLING THEMSELVES PRIESTS OF JESUS.

(LAUGHTER) HE DIDN'T DO WELL AT LIBERTY.

>> Jon: SO WHEN HE WENT TO GO AT SPEAK AT FALWELL UNIVERSITY, HOW DID THAT GO OVER?

>> IT WASN'T --

>> Jon: NOT A BIG HIT.

HE WAS CALLED AN ATHEIST AT A TIME.

>> AN ATHEIST IN RELIGION AND A FANATIC IN POLITICS BY ALEXANDER HAMILTON OF WHOM JEFFERSON

RESPONDED AFTER SAYING THAT THEY WERE DAILY PITTED IN THE CABINET LIKE TWO COCKS CONSTANTLY AT

EACH OTHER.

>> Jon: SURE.

(LAUGHTER) THAT WILL HAPPEN IN A CABINET.

(LAUGHTER)

>> PRESSING ON --

>> Jon: PLEASE.

(LAUGHTER) AM I SOILING YOUR PULITZER.

(LAUGHTER) I'M GETTING A LITTLE TARNISH ON YOUR PULITZER.

>> PLEASE DON'T SAY "SOIL." (LAUGHTER) AS A FAVOR.

>> Jon: YOU GIVE AS GOOD AS YOU GET THERE.

>> AS A FAVOR, BABY.

AND THEN SKWROFR SON RESPONDED BY SAYING HE DECLINED TO HAVE HIS REPUTATION SLANDERED BY A

MAN FOR WHOM HISTORY FROM THE MOMENT HISTORY COULD STOOP TO NOTICE HIM-- WITH HAMILTON, WHO

WAS AN ILLEGITIMATE CHILD-- HAD NOT ONLY RECEIVED HIS -- RECEIVED HIM INTO THE COUNTRY

BUT HAD HEAPED HIS HONORS ON HIS HEAD.

AND ALL THAT HAMILTON HAD DONE TO REPAY FOR THIS WAS TO ISSUE A TISSUE OF MACHINATIONS AGAINST

THE LIBERTY OF THE COUNTRY.

>> Jon: WOW!

>> SO IT WAS FUN.

I KNOW THAT WE THINK --

>> THE SNAPS THAT THESE GUYS DELIVERED!

(LAUGHTER) ON EACH OTHER.

>> IT WAS GOOD.

>> Jon: THEY WERE AT SUCH A LEVEL.

SUCH A -- THEY WERE OLYMPIAN IN THEIR SNAPS.

(LAUGHTER)

>> IT WAS --

>> THERE'S NO "YO MAMA --" LIKE NONE OF THAT.

>> IT WAS NOT -- WHEN THOMAS JEFFERSON WENT AFTER A POLITICAL OPPONENT IT WAS NOT "HOW'S THAT

HOPEY CHANGEY THING WORKING OUT FOR YOU?" (LAUGHTER)

>> Jon: THE INTERESTING THING TO ME ABOUT JEFFERSON IS THE NARRATIVE OF HIS LIFE IS A REAL

FOCUS ON ENLIGHTENMENT.

OF BRINGING REASON.

WE FIND OURSELVES IN CONSPIRACY TIMES ONCE AGAIN.

>> AND FUNDAMENTALISM.

>> AND FUNDAMENTALISM.

IS IT HARD NOT TO THINK IN YOUR MIND "WHAT WOULD JEFFERSON MAKE OF THIS?

WOULD HE CONSIDER THIS A MILD CASE OF THIS ILLNESS?

WOULD HE CONSIDER IT FULL BLOWN?"

>> HE WAS AN AMATEUR EVERYTHING.

THIS IS A GUY WHO LOVED WINE, WOMEN, SONG, ARCHITECTURE, ART GARDENING, AGRICULTURE, AND

MEDICINE WAS ONE OF THEM AND HE READ A LOT.

HE WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN A GOOD GUY IF HE WERE A DOCTOR ON webmd.com.

>> Jon: I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN.

I'M ON IT A LOT.

>> THE MEDICAL STUFF.

>> Jon: THAT'S RIGHT.

>> LOOKING STUFF UP.

HE WAS ALWAYS ANALYZING, DIAGNOSING HIMSELF.

>> Jon: HE HAD THAT GREAT STORY ABOUT SOMEBODY MEETS HIM AND WHEN THEY SPEAK TO HIM ABOUT

MEDICINE AND WHEN THEY TALK ABOUT ARCHAEOLOGY THEY THINK HE'S AN -- AND THEN THEY SPEAK

ABOUT RELIGION AND THINK HE HE'S A PRIEST AND THEY GO TO THE INN KEEPER AFTER --

>> AND THEY SAID WHO IS THAT MAN?

AND THE INN KEEPER SAID "I THOUGHT YOU KNEW MR. JEFFERSON." THERE WAS REMARKABLE

INTELLECTUAL CURIOSITY INCULCATED AND CULTIVATED AT WILLIAM & MARY IN WILLIAMSBURG

WHICH HE LOVED.

IT WAS A TRANSFORMATIVE EXPERIENCE FOR HIM.

>> Jon: HE AND I ARE JUST SO SIMILAR IN NATURE.

(LAUGHTER)

>> I KNOW, I KNOW.

(LAUGHTER).

>> Jon: I'M CURIOUS HOW MUCH TIME HE SPENT THERE HIGH.

BECAUSE I KNOW FOR ME -- CAN YOU STICK AROUND?

>> SURE.

>> Jon: I WANT TO TALK A LITTLE BIT MORE.

JEFFERSON IS TRULY SUCH A SEMINAL FIGURE IN THE FOUNDING OF OUR COUNTRY.

>> AND HIS VIEWS DO SPEAK TO WHAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT NOW.

>> Jon: NO QUESTION ABOUT IT.

"THOMAS JEFFERSON: THE ART OF POWER." IT'S ON THE BOOKSHELVES NOW.

FASCINATING.

JON MEACHAM.

WE'LL BE RIGHT BACK WITH MORE.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

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