Thomas Jefferson

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    What would you say about Ivan Eland’s ranking of Mr. Jefferson as 26th on the list, in his book, “Recarving Mt. Rushmore?” He bases his rankings on the criteria of how each president affected peace, prosperity, and liberty, and his chief criticism of Mr. Jefferson concerns his policies toward the Indians. If I remember correctly, I think he even describes the policies as genocidal.


    There’s a chapter on Jefferson’s Indian policy in my latest book, Thomas Jefferson–Revolutionary: A Radical’s Struggle to Remake America.

    Jefferson favored assimilating the Indians into American culture, with its republican government, modern science, agricultural rather than hunter-gatherer basis, etc. He looked upon their stone-age cultures as backward and believed that becoming American would benefit both American citizens and Indians.

    When people see the word “genocidal,” they think of mass murder. Another part of the definition has to do with eliminating a group’s culture. Since Jefferson wanted to assimilate Indians into American culture rather than leave them to their pre-Columbian ways, I suppose that fits. He certainly did not favor murder of Indians.

    I haven’t read that part of Ivan’s book.

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