Top 10: Misconceptions about Jefferson

January 23, 2010 at 10:02am

Everybody loves countdowns, right? Right. So, I’ve come up with my own list of things people get wrong about Jefferson, based on my extensive observation of the stuff people put on the Internet or ask us about. Here goes:


  1. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Constitution. That would be the Declaration of Independence. For Pete’s sake, they don’t even rhyme or anything, people!

  2. Thomas Jefferson invented coathangers/triple-sashed windows/skylights/polygraphs/dirt. Well, this is somewhat debatable, depending on what your definition of an “invention” is, but the party line now is that Jefferson invented only the moldboard plow and not any of those other things.

  3. Thomas Jefferson said [x]. TJ said lots of things, but strangely enough, not most of the things people think he said.

  4. Thomas Jefferson was a Democrat/Republican/liberal/conservative. Yeah, you wish, Democrats/Republicans/liberals/conservatives! For one thing, the names of the parties have changed (that one really gets the ignoramuses out there). For another, it’s practically impossible to put a modern political label on TJ, because, well, he’s not a modern politician.

  5. Thomas Jefferson grew marijuana. He did grow hemp, but as I understand it, the type of industrial hemp grown to make rope and cloth and so forth contains only minimal amounts of the compound that makes so many people so happy. Nice try, potheads!

  6. Thomas Jefferson was an atheist/Deist/not a Christian. Some say that TJ cannot be called a Christian because he did not believe in the divinity of Jesus. On the other hand, TJ called himself a Christian, so I’m just going to take him at his word.

  7. Thomas Jefferson was my ancestor/relative. Well, that could be, actually. Statistically speaking, however, most people would be wrong about this.

  8. Jefferson was the first to bring vanilla/macaroni & cheese/ice cream to the United States. Jefferson was most likely not the first person to bring any of these foods to America, although his name probably has become attached to them because these were foods he served at dinners during his Presidency, which tended to be highly remarked-upon. So perhaps one could say that although he didn’t introduce them, he may have played a large part in popularizing them.

  9. Jefferson was a Freemason. Negatory.

  10. Thomas Jefferson bought a Qur’an so he could study his enemies and fight the Muslims. Some people clearly wish this was true, but sadly: no.

So there you go. I apologize if your favorite Jefferson misconception didn’t make it onto the list, but you can always post it in the comments. I love misconceptions, as long as they’re not mine!