2012 Endorsements: Thomas Jefferson

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 17th, 2012

2012 Election

When the Radicals attacked Parliament and the King’s Ministers Jefferson’s Summary View attacked King George

When Thomas Jefferson entered politics he was still a quiet and shy awkward young man.  He was not the public speaker Patrick Henry was.  And did not enjoy being in the spotlight.  That said he was incredibly book smart.  When he was in college he spent up to 15 hours a day reading.  And another 3 hours practicing his violin.  Which probably explained why he was quiet and shy.  And not a real lady’s man.  His first love was and always remained his books.  And it was this insatiable thirst to read and learn that made him one of the greatest writers of the Revolutionary era.  It was also where he was most comfortable.  For it was something a quiet and shy young man could do best in his solitude.

After earning a law degree he went into law.  Then he won a seat in the Virginian House of Burgesses.  And joined the opposition against the taxing efforts of British Parliament.  As well as their regulation of trade.  Going so far as to join a boycott of British imports.  Unless it was something really nice that he really, really wanted.  For he was a bit of a dandy who enjoyed the finest fashions, furnishings, wines, pretty much anything French, etc.  If it was fashionable in high society Jefferson probably had it.  But you wouldn’t believe he was a dandy by his writing.  For he wrote some powerful stuff while still in the House of Burgesses.  Especially his A Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774).  Published at a time when there was a lot of friction between the colonies and the mother country.  As furious debate raged about Parliament’s right to tax and regulate trade in the colonies.  To summarize his Summary View Jefferson stated, “The British Parliament has no right to exercise authority over us.”  Like many of the Revolutionary generation, Jefferson did not like some distant central power imposing their will on them.  But Summary View went even farther.

At the time most British Americans still wanted to be subjects of Great Britain.  They just wanted the same rights subjects living in England had.  Namely, representation in Parliament.  Denied that they attacked the dictatorial powers of Parliament.  And the king’s ministers.  But they didn’t attack King George.  Jefferson did.  When the other radicals attacked Parliament and the king’s ministers Summary View attacked King George.  While the other radicals wanted fair and equal treatment as subjects of the British Crown Jefferson was already moving beyond that.  He was ready for independence from the British Crown.  For he had no love of monarchy.

The States drafting their own Constitutions was a de facto Declaration of Independence

Much of the trouble in the colonies began with the Stamp Act of 1765.  But in Summary View Jefferson said their problems went further back.  To 1066.  To the Norman Conquest of England.  A time when, according to the Whig interpretation of history that Jefferson had read, things changed.  All land belonged to kings after 1066.  Not to the people.  But before the Norman Conquest there was the Saxony model of government.  Tracing its lineage back to Saxony Germania.  Along the North Sea.  Where once upon a time in a mystical place the good people of Saxony enjoyed representative government.  A beautiful system of government under which people lived in harmony and bliss.  Until feudalism came along.  And kings arose.  Who snuffed out these old ways.  So Jefferson hated all monarchies.  The nobility class.  And birthrights.  He didn’t believe in the divine rights of kings.  To him they were just a bunch of bullies who came along and changed the rules of the game by force for personal gain.  And King George III was no different.

When Peyton Randolph left the Continental Congress Jefferson replaced him.  At the time he was a very minor player in Virginian politics.  But his Summary View created a reputation that preceded his arrival.  And he was warmly welcomed.  Especially by the more radical elements.  The Americans had not yet declared their independence but they were already at war with Great Britain.  Blood was spilled at Lexington and Concord.  And General Washington was now in command of the Continental Army then laying siege to the British in Boston.  More importantly, some states were already drafting their own constitutions.  To form new governments to replace the royal government.  Which to many (including Jefferson) was the most pressing business.  As it was a de facto declaration of independence.  Which was even more important than the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.  Something the more senior members delegated to the junior member from Virginia.  Because they had more important things to do.

In May and June of 1776 Jefferson’s mind was back in Virginia.  And he wrote three drafts of a new constitution for Virginia.  His constitution was similar to the future U.S. Constitution.  It included a separation of powers.  A 2-house (i.e., bicameral) legislature.  An independent judiciary.  And, most importantly of all, a WEAK executive.  Leaving political power in the hands of the people via their representatives in the legislature.  There would be no royal governors or kings in the new state government.  Just pure self-government.  Just like in that mystical place where the Saxons lived in harmony and bliss.  And so it would be in Virginia.  There would be democracy.  At least for the people who owned property and paid taxes, that is.  For if you wanted to tell government what they could do you had to have skin in the game.  And pay taxes.  But after taking care of this Virginian business he got around to writing the Declaration of Independence.  And that thing that no one wanted to waste their time doing?  It became the seminal document of the United States.  Making Jefferson a superstar among the Founding Fathers.  In posterity John Adams regretted that he didn’t waste his valuable time to write it.

If Jefferson were Alive Today he would likely Endorse the Republican Candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan

After the Americans won their independence Jefferson accepted a diplomatic post in France where he accomplished little.  Jefferson championed open markets and free trade.  And he worked tirelessly with the French to adopt a free trade agreement.  So cheap raw materials (like Virginian tobacco) could flow to France.  And cheap manufactured goods could flow to the United States.  But the political reality in France stymied him.  The French refused to lower tariffs so they could protect their domestic markets.  Not to mention that those high custom duties allowed corrupt officials to pocket more for themselves.  His only success in France was a Dutch loan John Adams secured while Jefferson was tagging along.  Adams understood the complex world of international finance.  Jefferson did not.  Other than large sums of money tended to corrupt people.  Custom agents.  And governments.  So it was a wise thing to keep the centers of finance apart from the center of government.  Which is why the federal capital is in Washington DC and not in New York City.

Jefferson was in France during Shay’s Rebellion.  An armed protest against new taxes imposed by Boston.  Those in the fledgling government worried about suppressing this uprising (the Continental Congress had few resources other than to ask states for contributions) to prevent the collapse of the new nation.  While Jefferson said, “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive…I like a little rebellion now and then.”  And, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.  It is its natural manure.”  Later, serving as Secretary of State in the Washington administration, he battled with Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton over the size of government and the meaning of the Constitution.  Hamilton wanted to expand the power of the federal government to help jumpstart America into becoming a mighty empire like the British Empire.  With the government partnering with the private sector.  Pooling great amounts of capital together to build incredible things.  While Jefferson wanted all Americans to be yeoman farmers physically working their own land.  With as small a federal government as possible.  And one that spent as little money as possible and remained debt-free.  In fact, when he was president he slashed spending so much that the nation could barely afford the navy to protect its shipping from the Barbary pirates.

So it is pretty clear that Thomas Jefferson hated big government.  He spent his entire political life trying to limit the power and scope of government.  To make government as impotent as possible.  To the point where he even supported a little rebellion every now and then to keep government in its place.  What would he think of the federal government today?  It would probably make him physically ill.  The spending?  The debt?  The federal register?  These would make him long for the responsible governing of King George.  And his pro-American policies.  If he were able to vote today he would vote for the lesser of two evils.  And that would be the party of limited government.  To stop the out of control growth of the federal government.  And hopefully reduce its size.  If Jefferson were alive today he would likely endorse the Republican candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan for president and vice president.

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