Monday, October 06, 2003


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Thomas Jefferson's Revolution

“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

No doubt you will recognize the popular wisdom of Thomas Jefferson regarding Liberty, but are you familiar with what he said in a letter to John Adams, late in his life? "To attain all this (universal republicanism), however, rivers of blood must yet flow, and years of desolation pass over; yet the object is worth rivers of blood, and years of desolation." - September 4, 1823

The history of the American Revolution is usually portrayed as a struggle for independence. The hidden story is that the brief experiment with a Republic, was crushed before it ever had a chance to succeed. Autonomy from the Crown, didn’t guarantee Liberty for citizens. When Jefferson penned the decisive essential declaration, “he drew heavily on the doctrines concerning the general principles of liberty and the rights of man which Locke set forth in his work; Of Civil Government. In particular, in the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson copied Locke's words, "Life, liberty and property" which were subsequently changed to "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" ”. While property has a very narrow meaning in modern society; back then, it intended a profound significance and limiting factor on government.

The desolation that Jefferson referenced, is a recognition of a prevailing annihilation that natural man has towards a state of rule. The STATE is government administered by coercion. Inborn rights are intrinsic within one’s nature. Independence of Englishmen from England, was a reluctant alternative for many colonists. When the revolution was won, the war for the entente began. The Federalist Papers are viewed by most Americans as constitutive arguments to justify a new constitution. The erroneous case that the Articles of Confederation failed, is a study in the road to surrender.

Few truly understand the nature of the 1776 Revolution. Concealed from memory is that Jefferson did not attend the convention nor was he a contributor to the U.S Constitution, primarily drafted and guided to ratification (who’s legality is still suspect) by James Madison. In private writings to Jefferson, Madison tips his hand and admits a shortcoming to the new constitution - Congress was not given a negative (veto) over state laws.

From James Madison Explains the Constitution to Thomas Jefferson, we get the rational of Madison.

“It was generally agreed that the objects of the Union could not be secured by any system founded on the principle of a confederation of Sovereign States. A voluntary observance of the federal law by all the members could never be hoped for. A compulsive one could evidently never be reduced to practice, and if it could, involved equal calamities to the innocent and guilty, the necessity of a military force, both obnoxious and dangerous, and, in general, a scene resembling much more a civil war than the administration of a regular Government.

Hence was embraced the alternative of a Government which, instead of operating on the States, should operate without their intervention on the individuals composing them; and hence the change in the principle and proportion of representation.

This ground-work being laid, the great objects which presented themselves were:
1. To unite a proper energy in the Executive, and a proper stability in the Legislative departments, with the essential characters of Republican Government.

2. To draw a line of demarkation which would give to the General Government every power requisite for general purposes, and leave to the States every power which might be most beneficially administered by them.

3. To provide for the different interests of different parts of the Union.

4. To adjust the clashing pretensions of the large and small States. Each of these objects was pregnant with difficulties. The whole of them together formed a task more difficult than can be well conceived by those who were not concerned in the execution of it. Adding to these considerations the natural diversity of human opinions on all new and complicated subjects, it is impossible to consider the degree of concord which ultimately prevailed as less than a miracle.”

Devastation of Sovereign States was a stated goal in the formation of this new union. The Bill of Rights, especially the ninth and ten amendments, were mere window dressing to sooth the normal and healthy suspicions of sane citizens. Tyranny is the standard rule for rulers, and constitutional provisions intended to consolidate control, is not a formula for independence.

Amendment IX The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Jefferson’s sympathy for the French Revolution marked a shape contrast with the Alexander Hamilton faction of the Federalists. The wisdom within a non interventionist foreign policy of a John Adams, in the tradition of George Washington, did not fit the despotic vision of Hamilton. The irony is that during a Jefferson administration a naval flotilla was sent to subdue Barbary pirates and the Louisiana Territory was acquired. Such examples fostered a strong centralized government. However, Jefferson did slash Army and Navy expenditures, cut the federal budget, eliminated the tax on whiskey so unpopular in the West, yet reduced the national debt by a third. When Hamilton bargained with Jefferson for the trade-off that allowed for the central government to assume the revolutionary war debt, the fate of the independent States was ceded on the slippery slope of federal seduction.

The liberty of each individual is diminished proportionately with every increase in the range, scope and power of government. The promise of the American Revolution was the ability to limit government, so it could be controlled. Today there is a disconnect from that reality. Rational society knew that repression was the inevitable result from the concentration of civic functions under the auspices of expanding government. The men at Concord Bridge, understood this fact of nature. Now, that insight is lost to most and represents basic evidence for the mastery of the U.S. Constitution as a delusional substitute for genuine individual liberty.

The property of the citizen has become a claim of the federal government. The Sovereign States that Madison resented, have become feudal fiefdoms of an imperial empire. The happiness which is one of those “certain unalienable Rights”, has been lost and replaced with a personal isolation in search of individual dignity and social justice. The masses have been transformed into Hamiltonian Federalists, as the principles of Jefferson are ignored, forgotten and betrayed.

Jefferson’s passion for a restrained central government was a core principle foreseen as a primary reason for separation from England. His concept of an independent and self reliant society was abandoned with the rush to regiment a flawed national identity. The pivotal question is why bondage is accepted with such ease, and so few are willing to be true to the revolution and risk - Our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honor. Heed well, the tradition and sagacity of the “Man from Monticello”. "As revolutionary instruments (when nothing but revolution will cure the evils of the State) [secret societies] are necessary and indispensable, and the right to use them is inalienable by the people." -Thomas Jefferson to William Duane, 1803. FE 8:256

Where are you when circumstance demands that a new revolution is justified to save the purpose of the original nation?

About the Author:
Federal Observer contributor, Sartre is the pen name of a reformed, former political operative. This pundit's formal instruction in History, Philosophy, and Political Science served as training for activism, on the staff of several politicians and in many campaigns. We invite you to visit his website at: Breaking All The Rules.