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Thomas Jefferson: Liberty and Power

It is doubtful that Thomas Jefferson could have been elected President in the twentieth century. It is almost equally doubtful that he could have been elected to that high office at any time past 1850. Now I do not draw these conclusions simply because, as we say, times change, and any person thrown suddenly into another era would be more or less out of place and unsuited to positions of power and prestige in the later era. It is rather that Jefferson did not have the temperament, character, and turn of mind to have won election in the later era.

The Man

Jefferson shrank from public debate as a young child does from going into the darkness alone. He avoided, so far as possible, all occasions for public speaking. He disliked pomp, ceremony, confrontations, and heated discourse. As President, he preferred written opinions from his department heads rather than to convene cabinet meetings in an attempt to reach conclusions. He was tall, gangly, freckled, sandy-haired, and some thought they detected a sneakiness about him. For this latter reason, especially, he would probably have been a disaster on television, where openness and straightforward honesty of appearance is essential, though actors can feign such looks with ease, while honest men with a squint might be thought scoundrels. Some thought Jefferson was being overly anxious for popular approval when he did not speak out on controversial matters. The truth may be otherwise; Jefferson loved the truth too much to see it traded casually in the marketplace.

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I wonder what remedies

I wonder what remedies Jefferson would propose to fix the mess we find ourselves in today? Would he be for term limits? A balanced budget amendment? Or would he conclude, as so many of us have, that individual liberty and government are just simply completely incompatible?

One concept that I wish he would have given more thought and attention to expressing is the idea of generational sovereignty. The fact that the Constitution was an agreement between a bunch of wealthy white land owners more than 200 years ago makes it too easy for today's politicians (and voters) to ignore. What if each generation had to agree on their own pact?

Consider just how radical (and right!) Jefferson was on this. From his letter to Madison on generational rights:

On similar ground it may be proved that no society can make a perpetual constitution, or even a perpetual law. The earth belongs always to the living generation. They may manage it then, and what proceeds from it, as they please, during their usufruct. They are masters too of their own persons, and consequently may govern them as they please. But persons and property make the sum of the objects of government. The constitution and the laws of their predecessors extinguished them, in their natural course, with those whose will gave them being. This could preserve that being till it ceased to be itself, and no longer. Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19. years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force and not of right.


I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be. Albert Einstein

I am alot...

like this Jefferson fellow...as far as truth and public speaking and withdrawing from heated debate, pomp and ceremony.

Father - Husband - Son - Spirit - Consciousness

Thomas Jefferson:

237 year World Record Holding Champion for the best breakup letter ever written.

When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign: that the dunces are all in confederacy against him. ~J. Swift

I feel dumb

It took about 4 hrs for that to sink in. +1