Annette Gordon-Reed on Jefferson’s Plan for the Economy
Annette Gordon-Reed is a professor of law at New York Law School and a professor of history at Rutgers. She earned a place in history with her first book, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, which had an acclaimed but stormy reception when published in 1997, and which The New Yorker described as “brilliant.” She is recognized as one of our country’s most distinguished presidential scholars.Gordon-Reed spent her early career as an associate at Cahill Gordon & Reindel, and as Counsel to the New York City Board of Corrections. She speaks or moderates at numerous conferences across the country on history and law-related topics. Gordon-Reed is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School, where she was a member of the Law Review. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, daughter, and son.
Gordon-Reed: Oh, boy. Jefferson hated banks. He hated banks. He would said, “See, I told you.” It’s all those people up there, you know, what they’re financial shenanigans who were feathering their nest in a lot of people, no. I mean, he would be… Well, the Jefferson who sort of sitting up at Monticello would be opposed to stuff like this anything helping out the bankers. The Jefferson, the politician, the pragmatist would probably look at this and say, you know, if we don’t do something, you know, it’s bad that we’ve come to this point but something has to happen or else it’s going to be worse. But this was his fear, he never really trusted the sort of stocks and, I mean, he was very much an 18th century mind on this question, land and the stuff that you can touch, all those kinds of things are those are real commodities, you know, hard commodities. Things that are real, not these kinds, you know, instruments of things that people are making up and all depends upon confidence, you know, and that’s really what this is in some ways smoke and mirrors is confidence. Do we believe these things are worth that? So he would have been appalled because this, well, he would have seen this as, you know, the sort of apotheosis of everything that he thought was going to happen once you started and with… you know, with Wall Street. He would have thought of this Wall Street, but, you know, Hamiltonian kind of policies about investment and debt and instruments that ordinary people have no way of understanding and even the people who were doing them they probably don’t understand derivatives, all the kinds of things that are involved in all this. So this was his nightmare of a financial system.
Annette Gordon-Reed on why Thomas Jefferson hated banks.
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