Thomas Jefferson: Avant-Garde Revolutionary

JeffersonBy TLB Contributor: Ken LaRive

Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743 at Shadwell, in Albemarle county, Virginia. He was tutored in the finest classical traditions by a very well respected and learned man, the Reverend James Maury. When he was sixteen, he attended William and Mary College in Williamsburg, then continued his education in Law under George Wythe, who was the first professor of law in America. Years latter, he signed Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.

In 1765 Thomas Jefferson became a student at The House of Burgesses, noteworthy because it was there that he witnessed Patrick Henry’s insubordinate stand against the Stamp Act. It changed him to activation, and with his mastery of the Virginia Bar he began his practice in 1769. From that time on he was involved in revolutionary politics.

It is said that Thomas Jefferson was a “renaissance” man, but in retrospect he was much more. A prolific writer of letters, his education rivaled the finest offered in Europe, and now considered the true American son of enlightenment, with over 16,000 written letters. They were well orchestrated and insightful, and communicated with nearly every influential person in America.  He had a myriad of cultured talents, as a lawyer, agronomist, musician, scientist, philosopher, author, architect, inventor, and master statesman.

What is amazing to the student of American History, is the incredible insight Jefferson had for what we now face as a nation. He speaks to us directly. His study of Europe’s many forms of dictatorship and socialism gave him an insight that propels his thoughts through the ages, even as he was so respected in his own time.

I will display for you ten of his most profound quotes, but this is only from my perspective, as each of them are jewels in their own right….

“Every citizen should be a shoulder. This was the case with Greeks and Romans, and must be that of every free state.”

“The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it always to be kept alive.”

“A republican government is slow to move, yet once in motion it’s momentum becomes irresistible.”

“Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppression of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day.”

“Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom.”

“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around (the banks) will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.”

“When the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government. there is tyranny.”

“We in America do not have government by majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”

“I know no safety depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves: and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.”

“The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”

To understand the life and times of our founding fathers read the The Federalist Papers. They are a series of eighty-five essays urging the citizens of New York to ratify the new United States Constitution.

Written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, the essays originally appeared anonymously in New York newspapers in 1787 and 1788 under the pen name “Publius.”

A bound edition of the essays was first published in 1788, but it was not until the 1818 edition published by the printer Jacob Gideon that the authors of each essay were identified by name. The Federalist Papers are considered one of the most important sources for interpreting and understanding the original intent of the Constitution.

Thomas Jefferson wrote a rather obscure article not studied widely today entitled “A summary View of the Rights of British America”. This paper codified the American Revolution mindset, and was secretly printed and distributed as a pamphlet throughout the colonies. It also landed in the hands of Edmund Burke who was sympathetic to the colonial condition, where he circulated it widely in England. Read this, it is your heritage.

Thomas Jefferson was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, with minor corrections by John Adams, and embellishment by Franklin. It was adopted on July 4th, 1776.

And if you please, one more: “The god who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time: the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.”- Thomas Jefferson

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