Thomas Jefferson served as a lightning rod for controversy. Few major figures in American history provoked such a polarization of public opinion. To the Marquis de Lafayette he stood out as “everything that is good, upright, enlightened, and clever,” a man “respected and beloved by everyone that knows him.” Martha Washington disagreed, for she considered Jefferson “one of the most detestable of mankind.” While his supporters organized festivals in his honor where they launched fireworks, marched in parades, and praised him in poem and song, Federalists portrayed him as a dilettante and demagogue, double-faced and dangerously radical, as an atheist and “Anti-Christ” hostile to Christianity. This colloquium investigates the factors that made Jefferson such a divisive figure. How did his own actions combine with events beyond his control to shape the development and evolution of his two-sided image?
What better way to learn about American history is there than by reading the primary sources, and discussing them with talented colleagues? What better place to learn about American history than in the places it was made? Participating teachers will read a set of primary source documents (150-200 pages), travel to a relevant historic site, and engage in conversation with up to 20 colleagues over the course of a weekend. In addition, participants will receive a stipend of $225 to defray the cost of travel to and from the program site.