Sunday, December 05, 2004

Thomas Jefferson

Another of my long time favorites. I have loved Jefferson since I first learnt of him, and it was sealed in my highschool Government class. It would do us all good to remember where we came from a little more often. The world wasn't always this way; people fought for the rights we are throwing away each day. Great men and women spent their lives achieving this level of ingratitude. I've always been quite a patriot, although I don't feel I've earned that since I've never been out of this country. I'd fight for it though, and I'd have joined the military, except I just don't trust the government to do right by me. Besides, there are other ways of fighting...

"It had become an universal and almost uncontroverted position in the several States, that the purposes of society do not require a surrender of all our rights to our ordinary governors; that there are certain portions of right not necessary to enable them to carry on an effective government, and which experience has nevertheless proved they will be constantly encroaching on, if submitted to them; that there are also certain fences which experience has proved peculiarly efficacious against wrong, and rarely obstructive of right, which yet the governing powers have ever shown a disposition to weaken and remove. Of the first kind, for instance, is freedom of religion; of the second, trial by jury, habeas corpus laws, free presses." --Thomas Jefferson to Noah Webster, 1790. ME 8:112

The inconveniences of the want of a Declaration are permanent, afflicting and irreparable. They are in constant progression from bad to worse." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789. ME 7:311

"Man [is] a rational animal, endowed by nature with rights and with an innate sense of justice." --Thomas Jefferson to William Johnson, 1823. ME 15:441

"Under the law of nature, all men are born free, every one comes into the world with a right to his own person, which includes the liberty of moving and using it at his own will." --Thomas Jefferson: Legal Argument, 1770. FE 1:376

"Of liberty I would say that, in the whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will. But rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law,' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual." --Thomas Jefferson to Isaac H. Tiffany, 1819.

"The idea is quite unfounded that on entering into society we give up any natural right." --Thomas Jefferson to Francis Gilmer, 1816. ME 15:24

"It is to secure our rights that we resort to government at all." --Thomas Jefferson to Francois D'Ivernois, 1795. FE 7:4

"[It is a] great truth that industry, commerce and security are the surest roads to the happiness and prosperity of [a] people." --Thomas Jefferson to Francisco Chiappe, 1789. Papers 15:405

"But a short time elapsed after the death of the great reformer of the Jewish religion, before his principles were departed from by those who professed to be his special servants, and perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind, and aggrandizing their oppressors in Church and State." --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1810. ME 12:345

"The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man." --Thomas Jefferson to Jeremiah Moor, 1800.

"[If] the nature of... government [were] a subordination of the civil to the ecclesiastical power, I [would] consider it as desperate for long years to come. Their steady habits [will] exclude the advances of information, and they [will] seem exactly where they [have always been]. And there [the] clergy will always keep them if they can. [They] will follow the bark of liberty only by the help of a tow-rope." --Thomas Jefferson to Pierrepont Edwards, July 1801. (*)

This doctrine ['that the condition of man cannot be ameliorated, that what has been must ever be, and that to secure ourselves where we are we must tread with awful reverence in the footsteps of our fathers'] is the genuine fruit of the alliance between Church and State, the tenants of which finding themselves but too well in their present condition, oppose all advances which might unmask their usurpations and monopolies of honors, wealth and power, and fear every change as endangering the comforts they now hold." --Thomas Jefferson: Report for University of Virginia, 1818.

And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule for what we are to read, and what we must believe? It is an insult to our citizens to question whether they are rational beings or not, and blasphemy against religion to suppose it cannot stand the test of truth and reason. --Thomas Jefferson to N. G. Dufief, 1814. ME 14:127

"To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical." --Thomas Jefferson: Bill for Religious Freedom, 1779. Papers 2:545

"The advocate of religious freedom is to expect neither peace nor forgiveness from [the clergy]." --Thomas Jefferson to Levi Lincoln, 1802. ME 10:305

"This blessed country of free inquiry and belief has surrendered its creed and conscience to neither kings nor priests." --Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Waterhouse, 1822. ME 15:385

"The spirit of the times may alter, will alter. Our rulers will become corrupt, our people careless. A single zealot may commence persecutor, and better men be his victims ... They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They will forget themselves but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights. The shackles, therefore, which shall not be knocked off at the conclusion of [that] war will remain on [them] long, will be made heavier and heavier, till [their] rights shall revive or expire in a convulsion." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XVII, 1782. (*) ME 2:225

"What a cruel reflection that a rich country cannot long be a free one." --Thomas Jefferson: Travels in France, 1787. ME 17:162

"Man once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind. With such persons, gullibility, which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason, and the mind becomes a wreck." --Thomas Jefferson to James Smith, 1822. ME 15:409

"More than a generation will be requisite [for an unprepared people], under the administration of reasonable laws favoring the progress of knowledge in the general mass of the people, and their habituation to an independent security of person and property, before they will be capable of estimating the value of freedom, and the necessity of a sacred adherence to the principles on which it rests for preservation." --Thomas Jefferson to Lafayette, 1815. ME 14:245

"I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." --Thomas Jefferson to William C. Jarvis, 1820. ME 15:278

"Against such a majority we cannot effect [the gathering them into the fold of truth] by force. Reason and persuasion are the only practicable instruments." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XVII, 1782. ME 2:223

"Truth and reason are eternal. They have prevailed. And they will eternally prevail; however, in times and places they may be overborne for a while by violence, military, civil, or ecclesiastical." --Thomas Jefferson to Rev. Samuel Knox, 1810. ME 12:360

"We who have gone before have performed an honest duty by putting in the power of our successors a state of happiness which no nation ever before had within their choice. If that choice is to throw it away, the dead will have neither the power nor the right to control them." --Thomas Jefferson to Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, 1820. ME 15:281

"My hope [is] that we have not labored in vain, and that our experiment will still prove that men can be governed by reason." --Thomas Jefferson to George Mason, 1791. ME 8:124

"Shake off all the fears and servile prejudices under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear." --Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr, 1787. ME 6:258 Papers 12:15

Jefferson's character

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