In honor of President’s Day this past month, this blog is dedicated to quotes from my favorite president, Thomas Jefferson. I’ve always appreciated Jefferson’s famous logic and eloquence. A Renaissance man in the true sense of the word, he adored literature, music, religion, science, nature, politics, and spoke five languages fluently.
The founding fathers, including Jefferson, designed our country with a surprising amount of foresight, when you consider that they were a bunch of rebels forming a makeshift constitution on an untested democratic model. When I think of Jefferson in modern terms, I think of him tweeting and blogging from the floor of Congress, famous pithy comments such as:
“If the present Congress errs in too much talking, how can it be otherwise in a body to which the people send one hundred and fifty lawyers whose trade it is to question everything, yield nothing, and talk by the hour?”
And his defense of free press:
“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
Above all else, Jefferson preached responsibility – to one’s self, to one’s government, to one’s reputation and religious beliefs at all times:
“In matters of style, swim with the current. In matters of principle, stand like a rock,” he once quipped.
Many of his insightful words are just as applicable today as they were then:
“I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”
“My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.”
“It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted upon would save one-half the wars of the world.”
I don’t care what side of the aisle you are on – that’ll preach.
If Jefferson had a blog, he probably would have expounded on two topics that were dear to his heart – the freedom to bear arms and an ardent opposition to socialism:
“For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well-organized and armed militia is their best security.”
“The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”
“To take from one because it is thought that his own industry and that of his father’s has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association—the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.”
“I think myself that we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious.”
Jefferson believed in a sense of personal responsibility that is lost in a modern era. And not just politically.
I don’t have anything saved for retirement, but it’s OK, because the government is going to take care of me.
It’s not my fault I can’t get anything accomplished – I don’t have time.
I’m living in sin, but it’s OK because Jesus’ blood covered everything.
We live in a culture that teaches us to blame our childhood for our inner turmoil, to charge it when we don’t have the money, to quit when we don’t feel like finishing, to abandon ship when relationships get tough, to give up on our religion when things get hard, and to blame anything and everything but ourselves for the general course of our lives.
Jefferson’s thoughts on religion were harder to discern. He supported Christian teachings and spent hours studying the words of Christ, but believed in boldly questioning the existence of God and never challenging the religious beliefs of others.
So if we were exchanging blogs, what would Jefferson say about Coffee, Tea and Holy Water?
It’s hard to say.
Only I don’t think he would be as hung up on words as we are.
He would probably be the first to chime in that faith without deeds is dead.
And while he might be honored that he is oft-quoted, I have a feeling that his thoughts on responsibility would steer him away from the written word and onto the course of human actions.
He would probably say simply, in his own words, “It is in our lives and not our words that our religion must be read.”
*Quotes taken from BrainyQuote.net and Thomasjeffersonquotes.net