What if Thomas Jefferson was a Blogger?

Every Independence Day I read the Declaration of Independence. I don’t tire of it. Each year I get goose bumps as I read it. The clarity of voice in our founding fathers in the historical document is simply amazing.

Thomas JeffersonThis year I got to thinking, what if Thomas Jefferson and the founding fathers had the opportunity to blog? What if the Internet had been invented in the 18th century. Rather than Thomas Jefferson distributing the scroll of paper (after Congress approved it August 2, 1776) announcing the independence of the 13 colonies, he (and many others) would’ve blogged about becoming independent from mother England.

And, what if the Declaration of Independence was drafted as a document in Google docs shared by the committee of five who drafted it: John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, Roger Sherman and Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson is credited with the authorship of the famous declaration document which was “inked” into an official scroll document to be distributed throughout the land and delivered to mother England by ship. Signing Declaration of Independence

I don’t need to be reminded of how fortunate we are to have the technologies we have at our fingertips. Reading this historical document on July 4th every year serves to remind me how blessed I am to be an American and how lucky I am to be alive during this time.

Our military men and women serving us bravely in far away lands communicate with their families with webcams across the Internet. The citizens of Iran have been communicating with the world using mobile devices, Twitter, Facebook and blogs. The Iranian authorities have been unable to completely prevent citizen journalists from essentially playing the role of uncensored media to the world.

Similarly, some business executives have not yet awakened to the capabilities available to their customers, employees and competitors using these commonplace technologies.

Just like long haired ponytails were the popular culture for men during the time of our founding fathers, the modern day popular culture is for people to “tweet” their sentiments about your new product announcement, or your decision to layoff 20% of our your workforce, or merge with your largest competitor, or (fill in the blank). Whether your company is public requiring disclosure of every substantial event, or private, the current culture is that everything is public on the social web.

The Internet makes this possible. The culture of transparency makes this popular.

Does your CEO resist this culture? Does your chief marketing executive resist this culture? Does your chief sales executive resist this culture? Does your chief financial officer resist this culture? Does your chief people officer resist this culture?

Are You Swimming Upstream?

salmon swimming upstreamYou know the cliche “swimming upstream.” What image do you get when you hear that cliche? My visual is a salmon swimming fiercely against a river current. They do it yearly to spawn but you can’t help but wonder why they do it. Only a few make it. The odds are so against them. Why not “swim with the current” and get there faster?

That’s the question I ask when I encounter business executives who resist the new social web. These are the executives who know social networking is here to stay but think it’s a waste of time for them and their employees.

In my book, Marketing 2.0, I refer to this as social media abstinence. I suggest it’s the biggest risk in business today.

Business executives who abstain from engaging their buyers on the web where their buyers want to be engaged are risking their future. If their employees get it, it’s only a matter of time before they seek employment elsewhere, or worse yet their competitors will engage their customers in the culture of the social web and capture market share.

If Thomas Jefferson had access to the Internet I don’t think he would’ve abstained from using it to write and distribute the Declaration of Independence ahead of time. I bet it would’ve gone viral. Don’t you?

@berniebay

About the Author
Bernie is founder and CEO of Find and Convert and leads the agency’s strategy. Bernie is a consummate content producer on digital marketing insights and best practices and hosts the Social Business Engine digital TV show and podcast.

12 Comments to What if Thomas Jefferson was a Blogger?

  1. by William G. Hyland Jr

    On July 6, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    In celebration of the 4th of July, I offer this essay in defense of our greatest founding father, Thomas Jefferson. I feel Mr. Jefferson’s reputation has been unfairly eviscerated by a misrepresentation of the DNA results in the Hemings controversy. The exhumation of discredited, prurient embellishments has not only deluded readers, but impoverished a fair debate. In fact, with the possible exception of the Kennedy assassination, I am unaware of any major historical controversy riddled with so much misinformation and outright inaccuracies as the sex-oriented Sally Hemings libel.
    The “Sally” story is pure fiction, possibly politics, but certainly not historical fact or science. It reflects a recycled inaccuracy that has metastasized from book to book, over two hundred years. In contrast to the blizzard of recent books spinning the controversy as a mini-series version of history, I found that layer upon layer of direct and circumstantial evidence points to a mosaic distinctly away from Jefferson. My research, evaluation, and personal interviews led me to one inevitable conclusion: the revisionist grip of historians have the wrong Jefferson–the DNA, as well as other historical evidence, matches perfectly to his younger brother, Randolph and his teen-age sons, as the true candidates for a sexual relationship with Sally.
    A monopoly of books (all paternity believers) written since the DNA results have gone far beyond the evidence and transmuted conjecture into apparent fact, and in most instances, engaged in a careless misreading of the record. My new book, IN DEFENSE OF THOMAS JEFFERSON (Thomas Dunne Books, 2009), definitively destroys this myth, separating revisionist ideology from accuracy. It is historical hygiene by pen, an attempt to marshal facts, rationally dissect the evidence and prove beyond reasonable doubt that Jefferson is completely innocent of this sordid charge:
    • the virulent rumor was first started by the scandal-mongering journalist James Callender, who burned for political revenge against Jefferson. Callender was described as “an alcoholic thug with a foul mind, obsessed with race and sex,” who intended to defame the public career of Jefferson.
    • the one eyewitness to this sexual allegation was Edmund Bacon, Jefferson’s overseer at Monticello, who saw another man (not Jefferson) leaving Sally’s room ‘many a morning.’ Bacon wrote: “…I have seen him come out of her mother’s room many a morning when I went up to Monticello very early.”
    • Jefferson’s deteriorating health would have prevented any such sexual relationship. He was 64 at the time of the alleged affair and suffered debilitating migraine headaches which incapacitated him for weeks, as well as severe intestinal infections and rheumatoid arthritis. He complained to John Adams: “My health is entirely broken down within the last eight months.”
    • Jefferson owned three different slaves named Sally, adding to the historical confusion. Yet, he never freed his supposed lover and companion of 37 years, ‘Sally Hemings’ from her enslavement, nor mentioned her in his will.
    • Randolph Jefferson, his younger brother, would have the identical Jefferson Y chromosome as his older brother, Thomas, that matched the DNA. Randolph had a reputation for socializing with Jefferson's slaves and was expected at Monticello approximately nine months before the birth of Eston Hemings, Sally’s son who was the DNA match for a “male Jefferson.”
    • The DNA match was to a male son of Sally’s. Randolph had six male sons. Thomas Jefferson had all female children with his beloved wife, Martha, except for a male who died in infancy.
    • Until 1976, the oral history of Eston’s family held that they descended from a Jefferson "uncle." Randolph was known at Monticello as "Uncle Randolph."
    • Unlike his brother, by taste and training Jefferson was raised as the perfect Virginia gentleman, a man of refinement and intellect. The personality of the man who figures in the Hemings soap opera cannot be attributed to the known nature of Jefferson, and would be preposterously out of character for him.

    William G. Hyland Jr.
    Attorney at Law
    Tampa, FL.

  2. by Bernie

    On July 7, 2009 at 6:07 am

    Bill,
    Your passionate proclamation of Jefferson's innocence in the alleged sexual allegations is very meticulous. I'm sure your book "closes the case."

    I am willing to bet that most Americans are not aware that such an allegation was ever made against Jefferson.

    Two thoughts come to mind in your account.
    1) In contemporary society we would have the opportunity to discuss our opinion of these allegations on the social web through platforms such as this blog, Twitter, etc.
    2) Jefferson himself would've been wise to use the social web technologies to proclaim innocence, just as Obama does today, even if it's not literally him typing on the keyboard.

    Thanks for sharing your account of Jefferson's innocence. Good luck with your book!

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    On May 17, 2010 at 5:34 am

    efferson is credited with the authorship of the famous declaration document which was “inked” into an official scroll document to be distributed throughout the land and delivered to mother England by ship.

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