Monday, July 16, 2007


I have lately begun reading from time to time the writings of Thomas Jefferson collected in a book which I bought from the Monticello Foundation. A mind so clear as his could never become the kind of fundamentalist that fundamentalists like to consider our American founders were.

The two paragraphs below are from his autobiography and show some of the ways that Jefferson thought specifically about two Bible laws which he considered as a Representative to his own Virginia Legislature after he had already written and revised the American Constitution as a Representative to the Continental Congress. You’ll see that he had little regard for old Hebrew Law in at least these two cases. In other places which I hope, in future, to include in this blog, you’ll see that he uses the word “liberal” to describe his own mind and the minds of the men he found congenial to his own. What? A “liberal” fundamentalist!

Mr. Pendleton wished to preserve the right of primogeniture, but seeing at once that that could not prevail, he proposed we should adopt the Hebrew principle, and give a double portion to the elder son. I observed that if the eldest son could eat twice as much, or do double work, it might be a natural evidence of his right to a double portion; but being on a par in his powers & wants, with his brothers and sisters, he should be on a par also in the partition of the patrimony, an such was the decision of the other members. . . .

On the subject of the Criminal law, all were agreed that the 
punishment of death should be abolished, except for treason and murder; and that, for other felonies should be substituted hard labor in the public works, and in some cases, the Lex talionis [the law of retaliation]. How this last revolting principle came to obtain our approbation, I do not remember. There remained indeed in our laws a vestige of it in a single case of a slave. It was the English law in the time of the Anglo-Saxons, copied probably from the Hebrew law of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," and it was the law of several antient people. But the modern mind had left it far in the rear of it's advances.


Discovered the other day while watching a PBS show that Picasso was painting “Guernica” while I was in the womb. I do wonder how much my 17 year old mother considered these events while I was ahatching? She was a singer and played the clarinet for awhile and tried to draw and sculpt. She was quite a person for her time, but, buried in Southern Ohio mores, her path out was blocked and became, at least for her, inescapable.

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