Happy Birthday Thomas Jefferson!

browere's life mask oct 15 1825

John Browere’s life mask of Jefferson, which was taken at Monticello
on October 15, 1825 when Thomas Jefferson was 82-years old—
9 months before his death on July 4, 1826.

TO COMMEMORATE the 271st anniversary of the birth of Thomas Jefferson (Sunday, April 13, 2014) I’d like to offer my all-time favorite excerpts from his writing, in no particular order. Happy Birthday Mr. Jefferson!

“When all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another, and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.” — Thomas Jefferson, 1821

“It [is] inconsistent with the principles of civil liberty, and contrary to the natural rights of the other members of the society, that any body of men therein should have authority to enlarge their own powers… without restraint.” — Thomas Jefferson, 1778

“The greatest [calamity] which could befall [us would be] submission to a government of unlimited powers.” —Thomas Jefferson, 1825

“[It] would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights; that confidence is every where the parent of despotism; free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence; it is jealousy, and not confidence, which prescribes limited constitutions to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power … In questions of power, then, let no more be said of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” — Thomas Jefferson, 1798

“The spirit of the times may alter, will alter. Our rulers will become corrupt, our people careless. A single zealot may commence persecutor, and better men be his victims … From the conclusion of [their] war [for independence, a nation begins] going down hill. It will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They will forget themselves but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights. The shackles, therefore, which shall not be knocked off at the conclusion of [that] war will remain on [them] long, will be made heavier and heavier, till [their] rights shall revive or expire in a convulsion.” — Thomas Jefferson, 1782.

“When the representative body have lost the confidence of their constituents, when they have notoriously made sale of their most valuable rights, when they have assumed to themselves powers which the people never put into their hands, then, indeed, their continuing in office becomes dangerous to the State, and calls for an exercise of the power of dissolution.” — Thomas Jefferson, 1774.

“It would seem impossible that an intelligent people with the faculty of reading and right of thinking should continue much longer to slumber under the pupilage of an interested aristocracy of priests and lawyers, persuading them to distrust themselves and to let them think for them… Awaken them from this voluntary degradation of mind! Restore them to a due estimate of themselves and their fellow citizens, and a just abhorrence of the falsehoods and artifices which have seduced them!” — Thomas Jefferson, 1807

“A government too concerned with its own authority and too impressed with its own power will willingly sacrifice the liberty of a people on the altar of security, efficiency, and social order.”

(well, this last one is mine, but I believe Mr. Jefferson would concur)

— Coy Barefoot