Saturday, December 10, 2005

Thomas Jefferson on Politics & Government

On The Sovereignty of the People
The purpose of government is to enable the people of a nation to live in safety and happiness. Government exists for the interests of the governed, not for the governors. As Benjamin Franklin wrote, "In free governments the rulers are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns." The ultimate powers in a society, therefore, rest in the people themselves, and they should exercise those powers, either directly or through representatives, in every way they are competent and that is practicable.


"[It is] the people, to whom all authority belongs." --Thomas Jefferson to Spencer Roane, 1821. Memorial Edition (ME) 15:328

"Reflection,... with information, is all which our countrymen need, to bring themselves and their affairs to rights." --Thomas Jefferson to James Lewis, Jr., 1798. ME 10:37

"The people cannot be all, and always, well-informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty." --Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, 1787. ME 6:372, Papers 12:356

"What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them." --Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, 1787. ME 6:373, Papers 12:356

On Resistance and Rebellion
"The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere." --Thomas Jefferson to Abigail Adams, 1787.

"God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion... We have had thirteen States independent for eleven years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century and a half, for each State. What country before ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion?" --Thomas Jefferson to William S. Smith, 1787. ME 6:372


"Most codes extend their definitions of treason to acts not really against one's country. They do not distinguish between acts against the government, and acts against the oppressions of the government. The latter are virtues, yet have furnished more victims to the executioner than the former, because real treasons are rare; oppressions frequent. The unsuccessful strugglers against tyranny have been the chief martyrs of treason laws in all countries." --Thomas Jefferson: Report on Spanish Convention, 1792.

"What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." --Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, 1787. ME 6:373, Papers 12:356

"Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends [i.e., securing inherent and inalienable rights, with powers derived from the consent of the governed], it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness." --Thomas Jefferson: Declaration of Independence, 1776. ME 1:29, Papers 1:315

1 comment :

Kamil said...

Thomas Jefferson also once said:

"Democracy is nothing more than a mob rule where 51 percent may take away the rights of the 49 percent"