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C O U R S E 
The Age of Jefferson
Peter Onuf, University of Virginia
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Thomas Jefferson in Historical Perspective
Notes taken on February 19, 2014 by Edward Tanguay
how people in America and around the world see Thomas Jefferson
what most people know about him is that he is the author of the Declaration of Independence
the creation of a new American nation was an important event in world history
Jefferson's understanding of history that is crucial to our understanding of Jefferson
he sees the revolution in the context of the progress of mankind
he is a child of the Age of Enlightenment
the beginning of a time when it began to be possible to understand things at a deeper and more accurate way, to unlock nature's secrets in a way that had never been done before, to predict, project, and shape the future of the world
the Enlightenment was succeeding on several fronts
scientific enlightenment
philosophical enlightenment
one aspect that remained unchanged by the Enlightenment was government, the fundamental issue of how people would organize and govern themselves
for Jefferson, this would change on July 4th, 1776, it was going to be a new world
when they imagine a new world, the compare to the old world against which they compare their experiment, as they called it
an experimental revolution in political science
common sense of the time:
all men were created unequal
you can't have a society if you don't have order, and order implies hierarchy
society is like a body, and there must be a brain at the top which controls all other parts
Thomas Jefferson
you might have lived under a monarchy, and you may have felt yourself inferior to those who rode by on high horses, but think: are you made any different than them, or was it just their happenstance of being born in the right place at the right time into the right family
the belief in "all men are created equal" changes everything that has to do with government
the belief in this statement changed the world
*** for a government to be legitimate, it has to come from the people, it has to be their government
even the events at the end of 1989 seemed to be a living out of what Jefferson said two centuries prior