Smoky Mountains Sunrise
Showing posts with label Thomas Jefferson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Thomas Jefferson. Show all posts

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Daniel Hannan, MEP: Thomas Jefferson, Anglosphere Hero

Daniel Hannan is an MEP for the South East and blogs for the Daily Telegraph. You can follow him on Twitter. He is pictured above at Monticello last week speaking to the Fund for American Studies

When Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, he included a wistful line that was excised by the other signatories: ‘We might have been a great and free people together’.

Until that moment, the idea that Americans were engaged in a war against a foreign power would have struck Patriots and Loyalists alike as bizarre. Jefferson, like other Virginia radicals, saw himself as a British Whig, heir to the tradition of Edward Coke (1552–1634), John Hampden (1595–1643) and Algernon Sidney (1623–1683). He did not believe he was laying claim to any new rights; rather, he was defending the liberties that he assumed he had been born with as an Englishman. Right up to the end, he had hoped that such liberties might flourish under the Crown, but George III dashed his ambition. We sense Jefferson’s bitterness in the Declaration’s telling complaint about the king ‘transporting hither foreign mercenaries’. Foreign! How historians have glossed over the significance of that word. In sending his Hessian hirelings against Britons, the Hanoverian monarch was in effect annulling their nationality.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Little Rebellion

From Chronicles Magazine
By Clyde N. Wilson

Scandalously, Thomas Jefferson once wrote to James Madison, “I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and is as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”

In the same year, 1787, in regard to what is known as Shays’ Rebellion, he wrote another friend, “God forbid that we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion.” A lack of rebelliousness among the people would demonstrate “a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. . . . And what country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance?”

The “rebellion” in Massachusetts had alarmed many, especially the masters of that commonwealth, who were imbued with a Puritan longing for regulated behavior and saw the tax revolt of Capt. Daniel Shays and his farmers as a threat to their control. In Jefferson’s perspective, the “rebels” were merely adhering to good American practice. What, indeed, had the recent War of Independence amounted to but resistance to heavy-handed government? And such rebellions against unsatisfactory government officials and policies had been a regular occurrence during the long colonial history of the Americans, especially in the Southern colonies.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Public is Shifting Towards a New Jeffersonian Era

Apropos of our democracy, Alexander Hamilton's and Thomas Jefferson's statues stand miles apart here.

America always has been at odds with these two Founders' philosophies of where the nation's exceptionalism would be found.

Today we are in the midst of a cultural U-turn away from a Hamiltonian meritocratic-elitist, centralized-power society to a more Jeffersonian Main Street focus, with state and local governments as the primary powerbrokers.

"When the country feels as though we have pushed too far in one direction, it swings back to the other side," says Dr. Lara Brown, author of "Jockeying for the American Presidency."

Prone to rambling, his clothes slightly worn, Jefferson was creative; his prose was almost poetic, his delivery scattered. The author of the Declaration, his vision of America was of a decentralized federal government, with power spread out to state and local governments.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Couple Find Jefferson Letter at American Legion Hall

From The Washington Post
By Anne Miller

Army veteran Tom Hewitt hovered over the stained and brittle page, itching to get closer but afraid to touch. Crowded into the upstairs office at American Legion Post 24 in Old Town Alexandria, he couldn't believe what his wife was saying.

Not an hour before, Hewitt, 39, and his friends were drinking beer and talking about updating the walls with historic photos. His wife, Candice Bennett, dropped by, and the couple went upstairs to poke through the drawers and file cabinets in the messy third-floor office to look for some photos.

In a drawer, Bennett, 34, spotted a paper that looked very old and unusual. She pulled out her iPhone and tapped away, frantically searching for names. Then she turned to her husband.

"Tom, I think this is a Thomas Jefferson letter," she said.

Read the rest of this entry >>

Monday, August 3, 2009

Bailing the Capitalists: Our Southern Fathers Told Us What To Expect

From Chronicles
By Clyde N. Wilson

“ . . . and bank-notes will become as plentiful as oak leaves.” —Thomas Jefferson

“They [the people], and not the rich are our dependence for continued freedom. And to preserve their independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debts, as that we must be taxed in our meat and drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labours and our amusements . . . our people . . . must come to labour sixteen hours in the twenty-four, give the earnings of fifteen of these to the government for their debts and daily expenses . . . .” —Thomas Jefferson

“But an opinion that it is possible for the present generation to seize and use the property of future generations has produced to both parties concerned, effects of the same complexion with the usual fruits of national errour. The present age is cajoled to tax and enslave itself, by the errour of believing that it taxes and enslaves future ages to enrich itself.” —John Taylor of Caroline

“A crocodile has been worshipped, and its priesthood have asserted that morality required the people to suffer themselves to be eaten by the crocodile.” —John Taylor of Caroline

“We are now making an experiment, which has never yet succeeded in any region or quarter of the earth, at any time, from the deluge to this day. With regard to the antediluvian times, history is not very full; but there is no proof that it has ever succeeded, even before the flood.” —John Randolph of Roanoke

“I said that this Government, if put to the test—a test that it is by no means calculated to endure—as a government for the management of the internal concerns of this country, is one of the worst that can be conceived . . . .” —John Randolph of Roanoke

“Why should the government pay the expenses of one class of men rather than another?” —John C. Calhoun

“A habit of profusion and extravagance has grown up utterly inconsistent with republican simplicity and virtue, and which was rapidly sapping the foundation of our government.” —John C. Calhoun

“It was impossible to force the minds of the public officers to the importance of attendance to the public money, because we had too much of it.” —John C. Calhoun

“It has been justly stated by a British writer that the power to make a small piece of paper, not worth one cent, by the inscribing of a few names, to be worth a thousand dollars, was a power too high to be trusted to the hands of mortal man.” —John C. Calhoun

“The banks have ceased to be mere moneyed incorporations. They have become great political institutions, with vast influence over the welfare of the community . . . .” —John C. Calhoun, 1837

“We must curb the Banking system, or it will certainly ruin the country.” —John C. Calhoun

“Special Privilege, corporate greed, concentrated wealth are divided throughout our Union between those who call themselves Republicans and those who call themselves Democrats, but the difference in name will not forever succeed in hiding from the people the fact that the Democrats of that sort want exactly the same government favors which are demanded by Republicans of that sort . . . . Through cunningly devised tax systems, bond systems, currency systems, bank systems . . . . these modern Highwaymen get boundless booty with minimum risk . . . . Under the Banking and Bonded Systems, all the Roads of Produce lead to the Rome of Imperial Plutocracy . . . . A fight over the offices there may be, and will be; but never a fight over principles.” —Thomas E. Watson, Southern Populist, 1916

“The present corporate economy cannot do other than oppose the private economy; it must by its very nature continue to lessen private opportunity and the security of the individual; and it must very often and finally propose the corporate exploitation of every individual and private right.” —Richard B. Ransom

“The essence of finance/capitalism is not free trade but free money.” —Richard B. Ransom

“The government is the executive committee of great wealth.” —Frank L. Owsley, Southern Agrarian, 1936

From its beginnings, the U.S. government was regarded by Southerners as a matter of liberty, honour, and American mutuality. From its beginnings, the predominant class in the North regarded the government as a source of profits. Southerners saw the Constitution as the people’s control over government power. Northerners saw it as an instrument to be manipulated to their advantage. This difference came to a head in the struggle between Hamilton and Jefferson. Jefferson and his friends (John Randolph, John Taylor, etc.) called Hamilton, Adams, and their friends “monarchists.” By this was meant not only that they favoured kingship, which they did, but that they wanted a strong central government built on patronage to the wealthy (at the expense of the ordinary hard-working producers). The patronage was to be paid through national debt, manipulation of the currency, and various types of business subsidy, which were falsely claimed to be necessary and beneficial to all Americans.

Jefferson and his friends (including a valiant minority of Northerners) managed to hold Hamilton’s schemes in abeyance for two generations, although they were constantly and aggressively put forward. Lincoln’s conquest and near-destruction of the South established the Northern program without any effective check. Yet Jeffersonian ideals continued to wield a certain power long afterward, right up to World War II. It is this Jeffersonianism that is the main theme of Southern history, and not slavery as trendy “scholars” today claim. The regime of the Republican George W. Bush and the Democrat Barack Obama (there is no difference) has now delivered the final death blow to the system of government and to the ideals of freedom established by our forefathers. The Constitution no longer exists except as a collection of minor procedural rules. The distinction between government spending for public purposes and for private profits has been abolished, as has the distinction between federal spending for national purposes and for merely local purposes. The government is now making sure that the economy is frozen so that those who are presently wealthy will remain so and that your and my children and grandchildren will pay the price in a diminished life.

Clyde N. Wilson is a contributing editor to Chronicles. A retired professor of history at the University of South Carolina, he is the author of numerous books, including Carolina Cavalier: The Life and Mind of James Johnston Pettigrew and Defending Dixie: Essays in Southern History and Culture. He is the editor of The Papers of John C. Calhoun.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"All Honor to Jefferson"

From Imprimis
By Jean Yarbrough

Professor of Government, Bowdoin College

The following address was delivered at Hillsdale College on April 16, 2009, at the dedication of a statue of Thomas Jefferson by Hillsdale College Associate Professor of Art Anthony Frudakis.

IT IS one of the wonders of the modern political world that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Unaware that the “Sage of Monticello” had died earlier in the day, the crusty Adams, as he felt his own life slipping away, uttered his last words, “Thomas Jefferson still lives.” And so he does.

Today, as we dedicate this marvelous statue of our third President, and place him in the company of George Washington, Winston Churchill, and Margaret Thatcher on Hillsdale’s Liberty Walk, soon to be joined by Abraham Lincoln, it is fitting to reflect on what of Thomas Jefferson still lives. What is it that we honor him for here today?

Without question, pride of place must go to Jefferson as the author of the Declaration of Independence. That document established Jefferson as one of America’s great political poets, second only to Abraham Lincoln. And fittingly, it was Lincoln himself who recognized the signal importance of its first two paragraphs when he wrote: “All honor to Jefferson—to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times,” where it continues to stand as “a rebuke and a stumbling block to the very harbingers of reappearing tyranny and oppression.”

That abstract truth, of course, was that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights Governments are instituted among Men, Deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” It is surely a sign of our times that so many Americans no longer know what these words mean, or what their signal importance has been to peoples around the world. The one thing they are certain of, however, is that Jefferson was a hypocrite. How could he assert that all men were created equal and yet own slaves? What these critics fail to notice is that this is precisely what makes Jefferson’s statement so remarkable. Under no necessity for doing so, he penned the immortal words that would ultimately be invoked to put the institution of slavery on the road to extinction. His own draft of the Declaration was even stronger. In it, he made it clear that blacks were human and that slavery was a moral abomination and a blot upon the honor of his country.

Jefferson was serving as Minister in Paris while the Constitution was being drafted, and played no direct part in framing it. But he did make known his objections, the most important being the omission of a Bill of Rights. After the Constitution was ratified, he returned to the United States to serve as Secretary of State in the Washington administration. In and out of government in the 1790s, he challenged Hamilton’s expansive views of federal power, warning against a mounting federal debt, a growing patronage machine, and what he considered dangerous monarchical pretensions.

In the tumultuous contest for the presidency in 1800, Jefferson presided over the first peaceful transition of power in modern history, assuring those he had defeated that they too had rights that the majority was bound to respect. His observation, “We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists,” established a standard toward which every incoming administration continues to strive.

As president of the United States, Jefferson sought to rally the country around the principles of limited government. His First Inaugural Address reminded his fellow citizens that their happiness and prosperity rested upon a “wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.” This, he thought, was “the sum of good government” and all that was “necessary to close the circle of our felicities.” Although Jefferson had omitted property from the inalienable rights enumerated in the Declaration, he strongly defended private property because it encouraged industry and liberality—and, most importantly, because he thought it just that each individual enjoy the equal right to the fruits of his labor.

From these political principles, Jefferson never wavered. Writing in 1816, he once again insisted that the tasks of a liberal republic were few: government should restrain individuals from encroaching on the equal rights of others, compel them to contribute to the necessities of society, and require them to submit their disputes to an impartial judge. “When the laws have declared and enforced all this, they have fulfilled their functions.”

At the same time, Jefferson believed that constitutions must keep pace with the times. If the people wished to alter their frame of government, say, to fund public improvements or education, they were free to do so. But they should do so by constitutional amendment and not by allowing their representatives to construe the powers of government broadly. He particularly objected to the Court’s sitting in judgment on the powers of the legislative and executive branches, or acting as an umpire between the states and the federal government. To cede to the judiciary this authority, he believed, would render the Constitution a “ball of wax” in the hands of federal judges. In his battles with Chief Justice John Marshall, he defended the principle of coordinate construction, as Lincoln (and almost every strong president since then) did after him, arguing that each branch of government must determine for itself the constitutionality of its acts.

After his retirement from politics, Jefferson returned to Monticello, where he continued to think about the meaning and requirements of republican government. Republicanism, he was convinced, was more than just a set of institutional arrangements; at bottom, it depended upon the character of the people. To keep alive this civic spirit, he championed public education for both boys and girls, with the most talented boys going on at public expense all the way through college. He envisioned the University of Virginia, to which he devoted the last years of his life, as a temple that would keep alive the “vestal flame” of republicanism and train men for public service. And here, I cannot help but notice how the recent renovations and additions to the Hillsdale campus seem to take their inspiration from Mr. Jefferson’s university, paying graceful homage to an architecture of democracy that inspires and ennobles.

As Jefferson understood it, education had a distinctly political mission, beginning at the elementary level: schools were to form citizens who understood their rights and duties, who knew how earlier free societies had risen to greatness, and by what errors and vices they had declined. Knowing was not enough, however. Jefferson also believed that citizens must have the opportunity to act. Anticipating Tocqueville, Jefferson admired the strength of the New England townships and sought to adapt them to Virginia. The wards, as he called them, would allow citizens to have a say on those matters most interesting to them, such as the education of their children and the protection of their property. If ever they became too dispirited to care about these things, republican government could not survive.

The wards were certainly not the greatest of Jefferson’s contributions to the natural rights republic—that honor must be awarded to the Declaration—but they were his most original. Instead of consolidating power or attempting to forge a general will, Jefferson went in the opposite direction, “dividing and sub-dividing” political power, while multiplying the number of interests and views that could be heard. He saw these units of local self-government as a way of bringing the large republic within the reach of citizens and so keeping alive the spirit of republicanism so vital to its preservation. And in this day and age, when the federal government seems to intrude on every aspect of our daily lives, and people feel powerless over matters of most interest to them, can we doubt that he was right? For this insight, too, let us echo Lincoln: “All honor to Jefferson”!

JEAN YARBROUGH is professor of government and Gary M. Pendy, Sr. Professor of Social Sciences at Bowdoin College. She received her B.A. at Cedar Crest College and her M.A. and Ph.D. at the New School for Social Research. The author of American Virtues: Thomas Jefferson on the Character of a Free People and editor of The Essential Jefferson, she is currently completing a study of Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive critique of the Founders.