“Clearly, Jefferson’s own conception of individual freedom,” Joseph J. Ellis wrote in his study of the Virginian, American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson in the decade after Ronald Reagan’s presidency and before the rise of the New American Tea Party, “was more restricted than modern day notions”:
His vision was essentially negative: freedom from encroachments by either church or state. It was all a piece with his antig0vernment and therefore incompatible with our* contemporary conviction about personal entitlements, whether it be for a decent standard of living, a comfortable retirement or adequate health care, all of which depend on precisely the kind of government sponsorship he would have found intrusive. His was the freedom to be left alone, which has more in common with twentieth-century claims to privacy rights than more aggressive claims to political or economic power.
That vision closely parallels my own — and I would daresay that of many conservatives today, including a certain Mr. R. Reagan and many who join the various Tea Party protests.
*By “our,” it seems he means American liberals in the late twentieth (and early twenty-first) century.