(April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826)
“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.“
Thomas Jefferson: lawyer, Founding Father, author of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States, was a prime example of the industriousness of freedom. With all of those occupations, it’s hard to imagine when he would have had time to excel at his hobbies as a horticulturist, political leader, architect, archaeologist, paleontologist, musician, and inventor.
Though a far cry from what is deemed “Democrat”, today, he was called a Democratic-Republican, which was later shortened to Democratic. [Modern democrats fall more in line with Andrew Jackson’s beliefs, which he opposed].
Jefferson ardently believed in some important conservative principles such as small government and individual rights. Thus, conservative Republicans are correct in aligning themselves with him.
He believed that Republicanism, also known as representative Democracy, is the best form of government to prevent the tyranny of the majority. Jeffersonian Democracy dominated American politics in the period of the First Party System from 1800-1820 and it comprises a major interpretation of republican values.
Its most important concepts include:
- Limited federal government, giving more power to the state
- The farmer is the archetypal citizen. A working class, rural society is better than corrupt business societies
- It is the duty of Americans to spread democracy throughout the world, but the United States should avoid entangling alliances
Jefferson began to garner national attention in 1774, when he wrote a political pamphlet, A Summary View of the Rights of British America. In it, he argued that on the basis of natural rights theory, colonial allegiance to the king was voluntary.
“The God who gave us life,” he wrote, “gave us liberty at the same time: the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.”
In fact, upon this pamphlet, Jefferson based the Declaration of Independence. While he was a main author of the document, he noted that the Declaration, “Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind.”
It was he who came up with the “Separation of Church and State” concept, which he outlined in a letter to the Connecticut Committee of the Danbury Baptist Association [Hutson] – and not the Constitution.
Ironically, this was not meant to prohibit in any way the practice of free worship, but rather to protect this right.
James Hutson says in his book, Religion and the New Republic: Faith in the Founding of America, “The “wall” Jefferson erected in his letter to the Danbury Baptists served primarily to separate state and nation in matters pertaining to religion rather than to separate ecclesiastical and all government authorities. The principle importance of his “wall,” like the First Amendment it metaphorically represents is its clear delineation of the legitimate jurisdictions of federal and state governments on religious matters. In short, the “wall” constructed by Jefferson separated the federal regime on one side and ecclesiastical institutions and state governments, on the other.”
– Brooke Musterman
About the Author: Harried yet happy barista Brooke Musterman is the author of Reptiles on Caffeine and the proprietor of the excellent blog Reptilian Rantings. Follow her on twitter and connect with her on Facebook.