Thursday, October 04, 2007


Larson2Writing in a recent issue of The New Yorker, which, by the way, consistently contains the best writing in the English language, historian Jill Lepore reviewed
Edward J. Larson's new book, “A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America’s First Presidential Campaign” (Free Press; $27). Her review was titled "PARTY TIME - Smear tactics, skulduggery, and the d├ębut of American democracy."

The following caught my eye:
But the most ferocious attacks on Jefferson concerned his views on religion. Jefferson had once offered a Franklinesque statement of his passionate commitment to religious toleration: “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” All over the country, clergymen preached that such a view could lead to nothing but unchecked vice. From New York, one minister answered Jefferson, “Let my neighbor once perceive himself that there is no God, and he will soon pick my pocket and break not only my leg but my neck.”
I smiled. Maybe Jefferson would have also, thanking God for his Virginia neighbors rather than than those of the minister.