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Politics / We The People

Letter from Thomas Jefferson – to Our Time

Thomas Jefferson

Exactly 210 years ago this month, a recently retired president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, found himself being asked advice – by a future governor of Virginia, one William Nicholas.  The answer Jefferson offered to his political colleague – is fascinating, in context of current events.

While we think of Jefferson as the iconic author of our Declaration of Independence and America’s esteemed third president, he was controversial in his time.  The reasons were diverse.  They included his innate belief in the good sense of average Americans, unshakable trust in their ability to see the truth.

He stirred controversy by opposing an indebted federal government (which Hamilton favored), seeking to avoid international entanglements – especially with Great Britain, constructing America’s first naval ships, including the USS Constitution, and opposing slavery. 

In short, Jefferson felt individual responsibility, lower taxes and a smaller, accountable federal government took precedence over whatever good might come of federal debt, higher taxes, and lure of material benefits from Congress.  I think he was onto something.

He would be shocked at America’s 23 trillion-dollar debt, taxes which consume half a worker’s wages, federal “entitlements,” and glib promises by presidential candidates to “forgive” – that is, assume to taxpayers – every citizen’s (and non-citizen’s) debt for medical care, education and altering weather.

He believed strongly in education – and making the Constitution a centerpiece of every citizen’s education.  He would defend America’s borders – and did in his time.  He would defend an accurate teaching of US and global history.  He would defend civic duties and first principles, including free speech and free exercise of religion.  After all, he put God and those principles into the Declaration.   

At heart, he was a fiscal conservative – cautious on public debt, resistant to taxes.  Contrary to current thinking, he wrote:  “I consider the fortunes of our country as depending, in an eminent degree, on the extinguishment of the public debt … because that done, we shall have revenue enough to improve our country in peace and defend it in war, without recurring either to new taxes or loans.” 

While a product of his time, he was troubled by the clash of morals and slavery. No coincidence, inside the Jefferson Memorial, you read: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.” 

He also wrote: “There is not a man on earth who would sacrifice more than I would, to relieve us from this heavy reproach,” slavery.  While he understood the stain could not be removed in his time, he shouted the contradiction – and was condemned.

Beyond strengthening our defense, he confronted the Middle East, beating the Barbary Pirates.  He did that with naval ships many did not want him to build.  While he opposed entanglements, his USS Constitution ended up critical in securing victory over Great Britain in the War of 1812 – under his successor.  

The main point:  While we today revere Jefferson’s boldness, tenacity, constitutional and small government convictions, emphasis on individual liberty and responsibility, smaller government, lower taxes, national defense, and distaste for foreign entanglements, these were not popular positions.

Perhaps most we honor his trust in the good sense of average Americans, their penetrating instincts, willingness to work hard, hunger for facts, belief in the future, no matter their critics – and his. 

That brings me – as we think on current controversies – to what Jefferson wrote to that inquiring colleague, Mr. William Nicholas, 210 years ago this month.  Perusing Jefferson’s many letters, I found this one especially heartening. 

How did Jefferson handle critics?  Well, this is how: “I laid it down as a law to myself, to take no notice of the thousand calumnies issued against me, but to trust my character to my own conduct, and the good sense and candor of my fellow citizens.” 

In short, critics and controversies, calumnies and crisis-mongers are as old as Mankind.  They were in the days of Jefferson – and are still.  You can let them get to you, or take stock of your own views, belief in America, and “good sense” of like-minded American citizens.  Jefferson suggests the latter, and – as Congress heaps a “thousand calumnies” – I tend to agree.   My faith is still in “We, The People.”

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Read more articles by Robert B. Charles

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Wayne D Peterkin

Excellent sentiment. But perhaps misplaced today when we see the ignorance of so many Americans who have not been taught history nor civics and are willing to adopt violence against those who have an alternate view (Antifa, BLM, etc.). While enough Americans still possessed the common sense to deny a corrupt Hillary and elect President Trump, what we see today is an ongoing attempted coup to deny the will of those voters along with a steady and phony smear campaign by the president’s opposition aided by a left-wing media to insure he cannot achieve a second term in spite of the success he has brought the country. Jefferson would be appalled today, not just by the debt and other things he opposed but mostly by the willful ignorance of so many Americans.

John C. D'Amico

It appears that President Trump is handling his thousands of calumnies fired by Congress and the media just like President Jefferson did. I can’t wait to fire back by re-electing our President.

Irene Stout

Excellent article. I wish our government had men and women of his integrity and honor. Sadly we have the opposite , despicable and corrupt men and women in the Democratic Party. Job said it well they drink injustice like water!

arnold j boge

What good sense he had. I pray that Donald Trump stays above all the calamity our congress throws at us and that ‘We the People’ can drain the swamp!!!!

Frank S.

It’s refreshing to read something as enlightening as Jefferson’s own words, this at a time when the regressive Left is working overtime to deprive America of its rich democratic (constitutional Republic) heritage by dumbing the people down. I would ask that everyone read Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address. You will find it particularly prescient in today’s politically charged environment. America was/is so blessed to have the wisdom of the Founders.

Rich

Excellent article. Today we have a problem that common sense is very uncommon.

Dee

He kept slaves and 1 in particular right up at his death. His daughter released her. That slave he sent to school with his daughter to be taught the same courses. So many today have not been taught civics or world or US History. They only want to erase history even not knowing it. History only repeats itself esp. when not known. Way back families lived together and supported one another thru generations. Today folks live all over the world where they find jobs. People don’t even know their neighbors today. people used to help one another, some still do but many don’t. Kids need playdates now. We never did growing up. The world has changed and not necessarily for the best. Fear and hate. Violence. Greed, Think about our Congress compared to those first Congress’s that went to the capital for a season or two and then returned home.… Read more »

Jerry Brittain

Letter to all Democrats in the House and Senate of the United States and other followers! October 1, 2019 Ladies and gentlemen in our government who have been on the Devils side for years and done all you could to cheat, lie and divide this country for your own profit and power. There is one who is more powerful than all of you combined and you have this day fallen into His hands! I am a prophet of the Most High God and I say to you today that: “You have been weighted in the balances and found wanting before Jehovah God and destruction is on its way for you!” You have mistakenly thought that the ordinary American has no power and that we are just a bunch of sheep but you are finding out that we are not. God has stepped in to correct the wrongs that you have… Read more »

Glenna Cox

President Jefferson was a wise man.

Phil Cusumano

Amen! I wish our president, although his intentions are good often, would learn from this and not feel he has to respond to every trite criticism on Twitter day and night.
I do believe someone bigger than himself put him there he needs to rest in that and just keep doing the right thing. Hopefully it will become obvious to many moderates that the left isn’t really doing all they’re currently doing to help the nation but to regain power for themselves that is what this is really all about.

Martin

This our problem we have.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”
Edmund Burke
The good men we do have are far too few

JohnH

Great history lesson for us all

Charles

Pray Psalm 91 over both our President Trump and America!

Jack Thomas

“THE TWO ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE ARE CRIMINALS AND THE GOVERNMENT, SO LET US TIE THE SECOND DOWN WITH THE CHAINS OF THE CONSTITUTION, SO THE SECOND WILL NOT BECOME THE LEGALIZED VERSION OF THE FIRST.” ——- Thomas Jefferson

Greg Russell

My faith is not in “We the People”, since, as we`ve seen, too many can be bought at the alter of government with “free things”.

My faith is eternally in our Lord and Savior: Jesus Christ.

Phil Caiazzo

Fantastic article I hope President Trump gets a chance to read it.

Anne Marie Pender

Well said! Can we find that in “our representatives” today? What a mess they are making of our country! Hang strong Mr. Trump!! I personally want to help you hang on. You are a fabulous breath of fresh air!

Brenda Blunt

We need today to reflect upon the earlier history of our former presidents and the lessons learned so that it may help us today!

Janet

Thank you for sharing this.

Gordon Grochau

Excellent!! I hope someone forwards this to our President. I’m sure he would like to see it.