The Jefferson Rule

How the Founding Fathers Became Infallible and Our Politics Inflexible

The Jefferson Rule

In The Jefferson Rule, historian David Sehat describes how everyone from liberals to conservatives, secessionists to unionists have sought out the Founding Fathers to defend their policies.

Beginning with the debate between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton over the future of the nation, and continuing through the Civil War, the New Deal, the Reagan Revolution, and Obama and the Tea Party, many pols have asked, “What would the Founders do?” instead of “What is the common good today?” Recently both the Right and the Left have used the Founders to sort through such issues as voting rights, campaign finance, free speech, gun control, taxes, and war and peace. They have used an outdated context to make sense of contemporary concerns.

This oversimplification obscures our real issues. From Jefferson to this very day we have looked to the eighteenth century to solve our problems, even though the Fathers themselves were a querulous and divided group who rarely agreed. Coming to terms with the past, Sehat suggests, would be the start of a productive debate. And in this account, which is by turns informative, colorful, and witty, he shows us why.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476779775 | 
  • May 2015
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Video

Do the Founding Fathers have all the answers?

Historian David Sehat, author of 'The Jefferson Rule', discusses why connecting modern politics to the Founding Fathers era is dishonest.

About the Author

David Sehat

David Sehat is Associate Professor of History at Georgia State University. His first book, The Myth of American Religious Freedom, won the Frederick Jackson Turner Award from the Organization of American Historians. Visit DavidSehat.net.

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