The Faux Thomas Jefferson
Faux Thomas Jefferson: A 20th Century American Fiction
Faux Thomas Jefferson was a major factor in the success of the so-called “Roosevelt Revolution” of the 1930s and 1940s.
In this discussion, I explain that this character was conceived by Paul Leicester Ford in the final decade of the 19th century. Mr. Ford was a member of the progressive movement that mobilized then to combat the evils of capitalism. He helped define it by casting Jefferson as the leader of the proletarian “masses”. His brainchild was more clearly defined after World War I when America’s intelligentsia answered John Dewey’s call to improve the quality of life for America’s working poor. A circle of scholars within this set perceived Jefferson as their spiritual leader, and, while preparing the commemoration for the 100th anniversary of his death in 1926, they transformed the 18th century enemy of hierarchical tyranny into the symbolic leader of a progressive reconstruction of America’s society.
Less than a decade after these scholarly Jeffersonians redesigned Paul Leicester Ford’s champion of the working classes, Franklin Roosevelt launched his revolution. The Roosevelt Revolution had social, political, and economic dimensions akin to the program John Dewey began to promote at the turn of the century. After transforming the Democratic Party into a people’s party, he ran for and won the presidency. As President, he made faux Thomas Jefferson the public face for his plans to restore the nation from its economic collapse and relieve the suffering of those injured by it.
While preparing Jefferson’s 200th birthday celebration, the administrators of President Roosevelt’s now benevolent government began coordinating with Jeffersonian managers of the nation’s history and heritage. This partnership is known today as the Political-Historical Complex. The highpoint of the celebration it planned was President Roosevelt’s dedication of the Jefferson Memorial, which took place on 13 April 1943. After the President apotheosized faux Thomas Jefferson, , the Political- Historical Complex dedicated itself to building public reverence for the iconic leader and the system he personified. Faux Thomas Jefferson then became a bellwether to lead the American flock to the place where good shepherds could manage it.