On March 15, Robert Paquette, Executive Director of The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI), traveled to the Williamsburg Lodge in historic Williamsburg Virginia, to participate in a colloquium on Thomas Jefferson.  Kevin R. C. Gutzman, Professor of History, Western Connecticut State University, an accomplished scholar on the founding period, organized the colloquium.  More than a dozen scholars were invited to discuss a prescribed set of readings, mostly primary sources, to answer the question, was Thomas Jefferson a revolutionary?

The colloquium consisted of six sessions.  On Friday, March 16, participants discussed “Jefferson on Federalism,” “Freedom of Conscience,” and “Colonization and the Question of Slavery.”  On Saturday, 17 March, participants explored “Assimilation and the Question of the Indian Tribes,”  “A Natural Aristocracy and the Question of Public Education,” and “Jefferson on Liberty.”  Mark David Hall, Herbert Hoover Distinguished Professor of Politics, George Fox University, served as discussion leader.

Liberty Fund, a non-profit educational organization headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, has devoted resources to advancing understanding of the idea and institutionalization of liberty and of the responsibilities and duties that go with it for more than a half century. Founded in 1960, by Pierre Goodrich, an Indianapolis lawyer and entrepreneur, Liberty Fund engages in a wide variety of educational activities, including dozens of colloquia held annually and located worldwide.

“Few observers of life on college campuses today,” Paquette observed, “can readily claim their institutions as bastions of reasoned discourse and civility.  Quite the opposite.  I have had the great good fortune of attending Liberty Fund gatherings for several decades.  They proved a welcome refuge from the nonsense and drivel that pervade the academy.  In every case, the conversation proved to be stimulating and at a high level of quality, something I was unable to find after the radical transformation of Hamilton College.  For this colloquium, Professor Gutzman put together a superb collection of readings. They reflect an omnivorous, penetrating mind, one with no few curiosities and puzzles. Without question, the readings and discussion benefited my own forthcoming work on Jefferson and slavery.”

For the Williamsburg conference, two impressive graduate students, investigating issues related to the conference for their dissertations, were invited to participate. “I applaud Liberty Fund for its Burkean understanding of the social contract for the ages,” Paquette added.  “History tells us of the fragility of liberty; it cannot be preserved without effort; and we are living through very dangerous times in higher education with the pusillanimity of leadership on full display”