Even though, the eighteenth-century America of white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant founding fathers' attitudes toward politics and democracy was profoundly different than today; and also Thomas Jefferson, as one of that Founding Fathers and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, was the single most powerful juris-consult and politician who had been tried to strengthen the rights of the bourgeoisie in the early Republic, simultaneously; nevertheless, he surely knew slavery was wrong, not only in his personal life, he has been owned slaves in his life span and never set them free, but additionally, in his political life he didn’t have the courage to lead the way to emancipation.
What do these two Presidents have in common?
Of all the contradictions in America's history, none surpasses Jefferson's contradictory life and this, coupled with the realization of the fact that, at the time he had owned more than 600 slaves during his lifetime and he took no notice of his fellow revolutionary John Adams' advices when he said that the revolution would never be complete until the slaves were freed. Therefore, in the course of our inquiry, we then find out that there is a huge gap and contradiction between Jefferson's ideas and his own actions - when he shut his eyes and ears to the rights of slaves - as a long career politician, juris-consult, and philosopher in American history. As Jefferson scholar and biographer, historian Joseph J. Ellis puts it, "The best and worst of American history are inextricably tangled together in Jefferson."
So, in light of this argument, we can see that, in penning the Declaration of Independence, at which, he and his fellow revolutionary colleagues - the other Founding Fathers of the newly-formed Republic - declared that all men were created equal; as we read, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Notwithstanding, theoretically the signatories of The Call For Liberty nullified Aristotle's Political Theory "From the hour of their birth, some men are marked out for subjection, others for rule," which had ruled political life in ancient world up until 1776; but practically, Slavery was the exception to the rule of liberty proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence and slaves in all thirteen colonies were told that not only you have no right to speak, but also not the right to be heard.
When we study Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia, which he began writing in 1780 in response to questions from the French Government on conditions in Virginia, we find out that Jefferson was a hypocrite and racist behind the scenes. Actually, Jefferson by penning this notes justifies slavery and Blacks inferiority. "The first difference which strikes us is that of color," Jefferson wrote. "Besides those of color, figure, and hair there are other physical distinctions providing a difference of race," He added. Subsequently, he concluded that "Their griefs are transient .... In general, their existence appears to participate more of sensation than reflection." Following these statements, he claims that "Comparing them by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to me, that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior."
American legal historian Paul Finkekman, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson, in his article The Monster of Monticello: The Real Thomas Jefferson, writes that the third President was a creepy, brutal hypocrite, because "Jefferson was always deeply committed to slavery, and even more deeply hostile to the welfare of blacks, slave or free. His proslavery views were shaped not only by money and status but also by his deeply racist views, which he tried to justify through pseudoscience."
One of Jefferson's complex and controversial legacies can be found in his private life, specifically is the third president's alleged relationship with his black slave concubine Sally Hemmings; even his biographer and Professor of the Commonwealth Honors College at the University of Massachusetts, Joseph J. Ellis in his 1996 book American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, admits that "The alleged liaison between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings may be described as the longest-running miniseries in American history." These considerations, and others such as these, may enable us in some measures to compare Trump to Jefferson. To such a degree, like Jefferson, Trump does not believe in equal men as well. For instance, In 2009, Trump revealed his dissatisfaction with the Declaration’s famous creed “all men are created equal.” If truth be told, he frankly questioned the well-known part of that document by saying that “they say all men are created equal," he added “It doesn’t get any more famous. But is it really true? . . . It’s a very confusing phrase to a lot of people". Once Karl Marx quipped that, "history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce," at the present time, It does seem that with Donald Trump's surprising ascension to the White House as the 45th President of the United States, history is about to repeat itself once more. In comparison to Jefferson, founder of Democratic-Republican Party, Trump, however, on the one hand says that he is the voice of common people by saying that "Today we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the people," but on the other hand, he orders to ban peoples of the seven majority-Muslim countries entering the U.S., planning to build a wall with Mexicans and threatening Iranians, the most peaceful nation in the Middle East, and say that Iranians are playing with fire and we are officially putting Iran on notice . "Iran is playing with fire - they don't appreciate how 'kind' President Obama was to them. Not me!" While, in his inaugural address, Trump promised "We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first," but after a week on the job, in a U-turn shift he threatens to put Iran on notice because Trump does not want Iran to act in his own best interest first. "Iran has been formally Put On Notice for firing a ballistic missile. Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the U.S. made with them!" Trump wrote on his twitter account on February 3, 2017. Even though, he says that transfer of power day is ordinary people's day "This is your day. This is your celebration. And this, the United States of America, is your country," but in practice, he defies immigrants. His predecessor, Jefferson as the third President of the United States, believed the black race was intellectually inferior and that all the Indians should be expelled to the wilderness, wrote American investigative journalist Robert Parry in his essay, Rethinking Thomas Jefferson.
Maybe, it can be said that Trump's anti-establishment attitudes such as "What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people," that he said in his inaugural address on January 20th, 2017, could be traced back to Populist Democratic-Republican President, Thomas Jefferson, when he and other southern slaveholders saw an effective central government as an existential threat to slavery. When Trump says "The United States of America, is your country," like Jefferson who turned a blind eye to the rights of Blacks and Native Americans; we can only guess he is promising something that he himself probably does not believe them. Considering this, like Jefferson, an egregious hypocrite, and the architect of "Indian Removal Policy," the one who laid the foundation for the devastating Indian removals of the 1830s; Trump is doing its best to encounter immigrants and minorities as well.
Just like Jefferson, who considered his election in 1800 the "Second American Revolution;" Trump described his victory and his inauguration as the 45th President of the United States "as the day the people became the rulers of his nation again." Moreover, both Jefferson and Trump, after accession to the presidency, declared war against Judicial system. In his letter to Judge Spencer Roane, Thomas Jefferson complains against exclusive judiciary construction of the Constitution. Because according to Jefferson, such exclusive power of constitutional interpretation would undermine the principle of checks and balances. In point of fact, in Thomas Jefferson's mind, "The Midnight Judges Act of 1801" was considered as John Adams' conspiracy in which the Federalist-dominated Supreme Court aimed the judiciary to gain more power over the executive branch. Briefly told, Jefferson feared that the Federalists intended to use the courts to frustrate Republican plans.
Consequently, Jefferson argued that if the judiciary were given the sole power of constitutional interpretation, then the Constitution would be “a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please.” In the event, Jefferson, as an anti-establishment and populist President, feared that considering the "Federalist" judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions would be a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and it would lead Americans into the hands of oligarchic system of government.
Today, the newly-elected President Donald J. Trump, is in the same situation again as Jefferson. Upon Trump's accession to the White House, he escalated his attacks on the U.S. Judicial system; when he faced a high legal barrier wall constructed by a Federal judge James Robart of Seattle. This encounter occurred owing to the fact that, Judge James Louis Robart, blocked President Trump's controversial executive order — Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States — briefly known as "travel ban," which imposes a 90-day prohibition, with some exceptions, on the refugees and citizens of seven predominately Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, and Somalia. In response, like Jefferson, who declared war on the Judiciary, the White House said that "The president's order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional responsibility to protect the American people." Besides that, President Trump didn't tolerate this and took to Twitter and ripped into the Federal judge's decision many times and warned "When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot, come in & out, especially for reasons of safety & security — big trouble!"
He, also, questioned the legitimacy of the federal judge while referring to him as a so-called judge. “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Trump tweeted. He, later resumed tweeting his displeasure hours later by asking the fate of the country via this tweet "What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?" And then again, he kept on questioning judge's decision by another complaining tweet "Because the ban was lifted by a judge, many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country. A terrible decision." And finally, when three judges refused to reinstate his executive order on travel ban, president lashed out: "SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!"
What do these two Presidents have nothing in common?
Nevertheless, however, Jefferson and Trump both have a lot in common, but at the same time Donald John Trump, has so many differences compared to his anti-establishment, populist predecessor Thomas Jefferson. According to Joshua Kendall’s book America’s Obsessives, contrary to Trump, Jefferson gave only two public speeches his entire life. Based on many character analysis and in-depth researches conducted by several American leading Jefferson scholars on Jefferson's life, psychiatrists at Duke University, writing in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, diagnosed Jefferson posthumously with social phobia. On the contrary, Trump as a socialite businessman, a real-estate and television personality, gets paid a lot of money to speak.
As Conor Cruise O'Brien, the author of Thomas Jefferson: Radical and Racist (1996), writes, "Thomas Jefferson, as the prophet of the American civil religion was a good American in the general sense; he held America and Americans to be vastly superior to Europe and Europeans, morally and socially speaking. But he was not an American nationalist, politically speaking. He was not an 'America firster.' He was a 'Virginia firster." He continues, "The United States was not an object that engaged his emotions; Virginia was. The Declaration of Independence was for him a sacred document, part of the civil religion of liberty. The Constitution of the United States was not...."
Editor-in-chief of the Daily Wire, Ben Shapiro in his article, Trump Has Brought European-style Nationalism to the U.S., Believes that newly-elected President, eyes nationalism as the cornerstone of his platform, but to some extent his favored nationalism has nothing to do with the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. Actually, it does seem that Trump believes in his own ideology instead of Constitution. Contrary to Jefferson — the man who was known as "the Pope of Liberty" and the one who has usually been eyed Virginia as his country in lieu of America — Trump, time and again, in his Presidential campaign slogans "Make America Great Again," "Buy American, Hire American," and "America First," has shown us that, he, apparently, does want America to be first in the world. succinctly, contrary to Jefferson, who was a "Virginia firster," Trump seemingly has depicted himself as an "America firster."
Abbas Torabi has done his MA in North American Studies in Faculty of World Studies, University of Tehran.