Today, April 13th, is Thomas Jefferson’s Birthday. He is famous for, amongst many things, penning the Declaration of Independence and being the third president of the unites states.
Democracy in America was still very young and relatively fragile during the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. President Jefferson’s election resulted from a contentious battle between federalists (headed by Aaron Burr) and Democratic-Republicans (Jefferson) that many people thought might tear the nation apart! These early political disputes were about many of the same issues we still debate today: how big should the government be? States rights vs federal powers? What should America’s role be in foreign affairs and wars?
President Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural address showcased a humble victor, who went so far as “to declare a sincere consciousness that the task is above my talents”. He marveled at the peaceful transition of power and talked of the commonalities shared by both sides:
“A rising nation, spread over a wide and fruitful land, traversing all the seas with the rich productions of their industry, engaged in commerce with nations who feel power and forget right, advancing rapidly to destinies beyond the reach of mortal eye”
“All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.”
“a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.”
The following are a list of “what I deem the essential principles of our Government, and consequently those which ought to shape its Administration.”:
“Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none”
“the support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against antirepublican tendencies”
“the preservation of the General Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad”
“a jealous care of the right of election by the people”
“absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority”
“a well-disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace and for the first moments of war till regulars may relieve them”
“the supremacy of the civil over the military authority; economy in the public expense”
“that labor may be lightly burthened [burdened]”
“the honest payment of our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith”
“encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid”
“the diffusion of information and arraignment of all [government] abuses at the bar of the public reason [collective reasoning of the citizens]”
“freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected.”
Regardless of where we stand on the specific issues, I think we can all agree that Thomas Jefferson truly did love America and the principles of freedom. Positivity and freedom go hand in hand! In order to see all of the possibilities we are capable of, we must free our minds from the false limitations and distractions. Oppressive, unchecked thoughts are just as real and dangerous as oppressive, unchecked governments.
Happy Birthday President Jefferson! Thanks for following your passions and being a great leader.
You can read his whole 1801 Presidential inaugural speech, which is the source for all of the quotations in this blog post and the words making up the accompanying image, here.