Tag Archives: Thomas Jefferson

Angelica Schuyler Church’s portrait of Thomas Jefferson by John Trumbull (with a Cruger twist)

In the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, amid much larger and more famous paintings, hangs a small portrait of Thomas Jefferson with a most interesting history for any fan of Alexander Hamilton or the Hamilton musical. In 1786 and 1787, John Trumbull visited Thomas Jefferson in Paris. With Jefferson’s “assistance,” Trumbull began painting The Declaration of Independence on a small 21-inch by 31-inch canvas. This small painting became the basis for the huge 12-foot by 18-foot painting of the same name that hangs in the U.S. Capitol.

John Trumbull also used the original The Declaration of Independence as the source for three small portraits of Thomas Jefferson. One of the portraits was given to Maria Cosway, a married woman whose amorous correspondence with Jefferson has historians debating whether their relationship went beyond words. Another was given to Thomas Jefferson’s daughter. The other portrait of Jefferson painted by Trumbull was given to another one of Jefferson’s close friends, with whom he also wrote numerous flirtatious letters, Mrs. Angelica Church, known to many as the eldest of the Schuyler sisters. Luckily for fans of both Alexander Hamilton and Angelica Church, this portrait hangs in Gallery 753 of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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John Trumbull’s Thomas Jefferson [Metropolitan Museum of Art] (© Michael E. Newton)

Fans of the real Alexander Hamilton who know a thing or two about his biography (that’s not mentioned in the musical) will also enjoy the provenance of this painting. When Angelica Church died in 1814, this painting was inherited by her daughter, Catherine. Catherine was married to Bertram Peter Cruger, who happened to be the son of Nicholas Cruger, the man who befriended and employed Hamilton back on St. Croix in the 1760s and 70s. Trumbull’s painting of Jefferson stayed in the Cruger family for three generations until Cornelia Cruger bequeathed it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1923

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Another misleading fact in David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies

Now that David Barton’s book, The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson, has been pulled from the shelf, I’m obviously a little late to the party. I guess I was too timid to disagree with this acclaimed author. Additionally, I had not read the book, so didn’t feel qualified to publicly point out errors. I actually heard David Barton discussing this on Glenn Beck and immediately disagreed with him.

Furthermore, I have not read the book refuting many of Barton’s claims, so I might be repeating what others have already said.

In The Jefferson Lies, David Barton writes (page 135) that “Other presidential actions of Jefferson include:”

Signing federal acts setting aside government lands so that missionaries might be assisted in “propagating the Gospel” among the Indians (1802, and again in 1803 and 1804)

Directing the secretary of war to give federal funds to a religious school established for Cherokees in Tennessee (1803)

Negotiating and signing a treaty with Kaskaskia Indians that directly funded Christian missionaries and provided federal funding to help erect a church building in which they might worship (1803)

Assuring a Christian school in the newly purchased Louisiana Territory that it would enjoy “the patronage of the government” (1804)

I have not checked the accuracy of all these claims, but I assume them to be true. However, Barton’s writing makes it seem like Jefferson did these things in support of spreading Christianity to the Indians. However, Thomas Fleming writes in The Louisiana Purchase (pages 147-148) about the treaty selling Louisiana to the United States:

One provision of the treaty required that the United States continue to observe Spain’s compacts with the Indians. This meant that a Roman Catholic priest would soon be on the federal payroll.

As a result, some of Jefferson’s support of Christianity among the Indians–a clear violation of his belief in the separation of church and state–may have been forced upon him by Spain’s treaties with the Indians that the United States inherited when it took over Louisiana.

David Barton’s assertion that Jefferson promoted Christianity among the Indians from a personal religious belief appears to be unfounded.

NOTE: I have not researched this topic extensively (which is why I was hesitant to question a “leading scholar” in this field). I merely ran across this information during my research on entirely different topics.

– Michael E. Newton is the author of the highly acclaimed The Path to Tyranny: A History of Free Society’s Descent into Tyranny and Angry Mobs and Founding Fathers: The Fight for Control of the American Revolution. He is currently writing a book about Alexander Hamilton.

Bloomberg versus Jefferson: the role of government.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaking to the UN General Assembly:

To halt the worldwide epidemic of non-communicable diseases, governments at all levels must make healthy solutions the default social option. That is ultimately government’s highest duty.

Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence:

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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…

So is it government’s highest duty to make healthy solutions the default social option? Or are governments instituted among Men to secure our unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness?

I think I’ll let you decide who which speaker is correct.

What Would The Founders Think? review ‘Angry Mobs and Founding Fathers’

What Would The Founders Think? posted a great review/summary of my new book, Angry Mobs and Founding Fathers: The Fight for Control of the American Revolution.

Michael Newton’s latest book, Angry Mobs and Founding Fathers, is a densely packed, meticulously researched, compendium of  historical knowledge.  Newton has done a great job assembling a formidable bibliography1 of both original sources and the works of respected historians, synthesizing them into an exposition of the forces responsible for the American experiment.

Newton documents the disparate roles played by “angry mobs” and by “Founding Fathers.”  These two forces were not always in sync with one another.  At times the irascible mobs were in control, and the aristocratic Founders struggled to reign them in, guide their passions, or even just keep up.  At other times, like during the period of Constitutional Convention, it was the Founders who struggled to convince the masses of the efficacy of their plans.

Read more…

The Founding Fathers Solve Our Debt Crisis

The United States accrued a huge debt to fight the American Revolution. The debt equaled 35 to 40 percent of GDP at a time when government spending and taxes were just 2 percent of GDP. Interest consumed about half of the government’s revenues. Numerous states and the government under the Articles of Confederation were negligent in paying interest and principle.  The nation faced a real debt crisis.

The Founding Fathers recognized the burden of such a large debt and wanted to pay it off.

Read the rest at What Would the Founders Think…

What Would the Founders Do About Egypt and Hosni Mubarak?

Read my piece over at What Would the Founders Think.