Thomas Jefferson: Champion of Liberty

jeffersontyrannygovDinner Topics for Monday

key“I am for freedom of religion, and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another; for freedom of the press, and against all violations of the constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents.~Thomas Jefferson

Book Reviews: Thomas Jefferson history

The Real Thomas Jefferson: The True Story of America’s Philosopher of Freedom, PART 1

Andrew M. Allison

Book Reviews: This is a large book, very easy and enjoyable reading, but also packed with valuable information. I will share with you some notes and quotes, a little at a time. But don’t miss reading the entire book with your family. It belongs in every American’s home library.

Notes and Quotes on the life of Thomas Jefferson

C.A. Davidson

Thomas Jefferson rarely spoke in government sessions. He never made a political speech.(p.45) He preferred to remain in the background, but he was famous for his “power of the pen.” He said Congress talks too much, but they are all lawyers, what else do you expect? (pp. 112, 150)

During the deliberations of the House of Burgesses in colonial Virginia, Jefferson declared a day of fasting and prayer to try to resolve issues, but, as usual, the royal governor, Lord Dunmore, dissolved their assembly. (p.49)

Legislative work

Property ownership.  In October 1776 he initiated and passed bills to end the custom of “entail”, which means that the oldest son automatically inherits all the property, and other siblings receive nothing.

Voting. In those days people had to own property in order to qualify to vote. That custom was not eliminated, but Jefferson created an extremely low property qualification for voting. He believed that an agrarian society of many small landholders was the safest foundation for a republican government.

Education

He believed that the exercise of political power should be based on knowledge, not ignorance.

Quote: Experience has shown that even under the best forms [of government], those entrusted with power have in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny; and. . .the most effectual means of preventing this would be to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large. . . (p.82)

Notes and Quotes on the life of Thomas Jefferson, Part 2

C.A. Davidson

Diplomacy in France

Architecture

The building in Richmond VA is patterned after a Roman temple in southern France. Jefferson did more than any other man to stimulate classical revival in America. He has been referred to as the “father of our national architecture.” P.129

Life in France 

He was critical of the vain and indolent lifestyle of many women in France, and cautioned Americans against European luxury and dissipation.

Maria Cosway was an English artist whom Jefferson befriended in Paris. Some modern writers have tried to call their relationship a “love affair”, but Jefferson was devoted to his deceased wife. Responsible historians  have demonstrated that “there is absolutely no evidence nor reason to believe that the relation became anything but platonic.” P.133

Although Jefferson did not appreciate the morals of Parisian society, he loved the people and,  greatly appreciating French culture, he enthusiastically took in all he could during his stay there. He was a good friend of the Marquis de Lafayette, hero of the American Revolutionary War. P.135

Constitution

Although Jefferson was not physically present for the writing of the United States Constitution, he was highly influential in the creation of the document. From France he sent Madison 200 volumes on various forms of confederate governments attempted throughout history.

He urged proper division of powers: legislative, executive, and judiciary. He disliked the eligibility of the president to be re-elected indefinitely, and the absence of a bill of rights. pp 139-141

Quote

We can surely boast of having set the world a beautiful example of a government reformed by reason alone, without bloodshed. . . but the world is too far oppressed to profit by the example. P. 143

Personal character

He never used tobacco, profanity or playing cards. He gave away much to the poor; deer ate out of his hand.

Several of his inventions are familiar in our era—the swivel chair, revolving table top, folding campstool, adjustable music stand. He appreciated comforts and conveniences. pp 178-186

Andrew M. Allison

Notes and Quotes on the life of Thomas Jefferson, Part 3 The Election

C.A. Davidson

In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution. (Allison, p. 200)

The Alien and Sedition acts brought about the permanent dissolution of the Federalist Party.

“I am for freedom of religion, and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another; for freedom of the press, and against all violations of the constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents. “ p 203

 The Truth about Thomas Jefferson

Attacks by the newspapers—(really no different from media attacks of today. C.D.)

Jefferson did not even campaign for the presidency, but he was so much liked that people nominated him. There were many slanderous attacks against him.

The charge of atheism was the most pressed in this campaign: it was not only made in the public press; it was hurled from pulpits in various places. . .As the story goes, the time was approaching when Bibles were to be hidden in New England’s wells.  Dumas Malone, Jefferson the Virginian, pp. 479, 481

Jefferson chose not to defend himself publicly against the many vulgar accusations. To James Monroe he said, “As to the calumny of atheism, I am so broken to calumnies of every kind. . .that I entirely disregard it. . .It has been so impossible to contradict all their lies that I have determined to contradict none, for while I should be engaged with one they would publish twenty new ones. [My] thirty years of public  life have enabled most of those who read newspapers to judge of one for themselves.” Pp 203

Those in public office who choose to hurl personal attacks at their opponents, instead of analyzing the policies and principles involved, should pay attention to these words by Jefferson. (C.D.)

On the day that Jefferson’s election to office was publicized, he visited John Adams.

He was very sensibly affected, and accosted me with these words: “Well, I understand that you are to beat me in this contest, and I will only say that I will be as faithful a subject as any you will have.”

“Mr. Adams,” said I, “this is no personal contest between you and me. Two systems of principles on the subject of government divide our fellow citizens into two parties. With one of these you concur, and I with the other. As we have been longer on the public stage than most of those now living, our names happen to be more generally known. One of these parties, therefore, has put your name at its head, the other mine. Were we both to die today, tomorrow tow other names would be in the place of ours, without any change in the motion of the machinery. Its motion is from its principle, not from you or myself.”

“I believe you are right,” said he, “that we are but passive instruments, and should not suffer this matter to affect our personal dispositions.” (Allison, pp 206-207)

Jefferson was the candidate of the party representing republican principles, and also the choice of the people. Aaron Burr was the choice of the Federalist Party. The vote was taken by states, not delegates. The states were equally divided between the Republican and Federalist parties.  Congress was deadlocked for an entire week and for more than thirty ballots. Finally the deadlock was broken on the 36th ballot by James A. Bayard of Delaware, who was the only delegate from his state, Delaware. (p.212)

This procedural problem was corrected by the 12th amendment to the Constitution.(p.207)

Dinner Talk Topics

1. Compare the events of Jefferson’s election to the political scene in our day.

2. In Jefferson’s time the press (today called the media) was irresponsible in its reporting. Do you find similarities in media reporting today? Which media sources do you think are responsible and truthful?

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3 comments on “Thomas Jefferson: Champion of Liberty

  1. Voting rights in the American colonies had always been governed by property qualifications. During the revolution there was a movement to reduce the requirements for voting. Some leaders argued that property qualifications should be eliminated altogether, but such a radical step would have to wait for the nineteenth century. The revolutionary years did see the widening of the franchise in most states. In Virginia, any man who possessed twenty-five acres of farmland or five hundred acres of unimproved land could vote. Any man who paid taxes could vote in Delaware, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Vermont.

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