Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity


Posted at 10:13 AM ET, 07/ 2/2010

Declaration of Independence rough draft shows crossout

By Valerie Strauss

Just in time for the Fourth of July, the Library of Congress has this news: Hyperspectral imaging of Thomas Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration of Independence has confirmed that he originally wrote the phrase “our fellow subjects,” but then scrawled over it the word “citizens.”

The change in the Declaration of Independence text occurs in the portion of the document that discusses the colonists’ grievances against King George III. This specific sentence was not in the final declaration but the word “citizens” was used elsewhere and reflected a progression of thinking by Jefferson as he tried to make clear that the people of the fledgling United States were no longer subjects of the British but citizens of their own democracy.

Hyperspectral imaging is the process of taking digital photos of an object using distinct portions of the visible and non-visible light spectrum, revealing what previously could not be seen by the human eye.

Such a find may not seem like a big deal to you but to a historian, it’s huge.

Fenella France, a scientist who conducted the hyperspectral imaging and discovered the blurred word under “citizens,” said: “It had been a spine-tingling moment when I was processing data late at night and realized there was a word underneath citizens. Then I began the tough process of extracting the differences between spectrally similar materials to elucidate the lost text.”

The rough draft of the Declaration of Independence that France inspected can be seen in the online version of the exhibition “Creating the United States” at myLOC.gov (and on-site, appropriately, at the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building).

Follow my blog all day, every day by bookmarking washingtonpost.com/answersheet. And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our Higher Education page at washingtonpost.com/higher-ed Bookmark it!

By Valerie Strauss  | July 2, 2010; 10:13 AM ET
Categories:  History  | Tags:  Fourth of July, July 4, declaration of independence, declaration of independence and signers, declaration of independence text, history, independence day and history, library of congress and declaration, thomas jefferson and declaration  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Reality check on school accountability movement
Next: Favorite quote of the week (by Obey)

Comments

For an alternative version of the Declaration of Independence that laments the fading health of the American Newspaper, see http://robertgerardhunt.com/2010/07/02/Independence-Day/

Posted by: RobertGerardHunt | July 2, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

"...but citizens of their own democracy."

Not quite. The Articles of Confederation did not establish a democracy nor did the Constitution of the United States. In fact, you won't find the word "democracy" in any of our founding documents. The United States did not revert to democracy--to the tyranny of the majority as the Founders called it--until the early 20th century and the establishment of a national income tax, a national bank, and the direct election of senators.

After the constitutional convention, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin, "Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?"

Franklin replied, "A Republic, if you can keep it."

Unfortunately, we couldn't.

Posted by: giantsequoia | July 2, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

For an interesting story about how Senators were elected during Abe Lincoln's day read Lincoln by David Herbert Block, 1995. Representatives were chosen by popular vote but then the Senators were elected by the Reps when they started their session.

Posted by: rogernebel | July 2, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

The United States did not revert to democracy--to the tyranny of the majority as the Founders called it--until the early 20th century and the establishment of a national income tax, a national bank, and the direct election of senators.Posted by: giantsequoia | July 2, 2010 11:26 AM |
--

giantfarrightfraud.

Posted by: twm1 | July 2, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

A good suggestion for reading from rogernebel, but note that Lincoln is by David Herbert Donald, not David Herbert Block. Donald is the eminent biographer of Charles Sumner.

Posted by: emtm | July 2, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

giantsequoia has it absolutely right. We do not live in a democracy. In fact the founders had great disdain for democracies, all of which have failed. We live in a republic of 50 soverign states. They actually saw these as separate countries, except for the constitution which provided limted powers to a central government. Either we return to their original intent, or face the same demise as other, fallen empires!

Posted by: bc2ret | July 2, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

One of the real stories about the founding fathers had to do with the Constitution: the issue of slavery. Because those who were drafting it could not get support of the Southern states' delegates if they included language abolishing slavery, they included the three-fifths compromise: counting slaves as votes for the white populations in the South, but not as human beings. Jefferson, a slave owner himself, was complicit in this compromise. One of the low points in the nation's history. Of course, it led to the Civil War.

Posted by: dudh | July 2, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

"...but citizens of their own democracy."

Not quite. The Articles of Confederation did not establish a democracy nor did the Constitution of the United States. In fact, you won't find the word "democracy" in any of our founding documents. The United States did not revert to democracy--to the tyranny of the majority as the Founders called it--until the early 20th century and the establishment of a national income tax, a national bank, and the direct election of senators.

After the constitutional convention, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin, "Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?"

Franklin replied, "A Republic, if you can keep it."

Unfortunately, we couldn't.

__________________________________________

By what twisted logic did you come to the conclusion we lost the republic?

Posted by: kchses1 | July 2, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

"Such a find may not seem like a big deal to you but to a historian, it’s huge."

No, it's not.

It was a "brain fart." Jefferson probably intended the word citizens when he inadvertently wrote "subjects." There was a definite attempt to avoid the legal terms associated with the British Empire. At that point, they were subjects of his majesty; by writing the Declaration, Jefferson intended for the subjects of the king to have a new legal standing and thus to be citizens of a new entity. It may have been John Adams who pointed out the error, as Adams, as well as his contemporaries were all well-versed in the legalese of British Common Law.

Posted by: AnAmericanLion | July 2, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Jefferson had it right the first time.

Posted by: slim2 | July 2, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

You are correct! I was going on faulty memory. David Herbert Donald it is. Interestingly enough, Sumner was Lincoln's main foreign relations advisor while a Senator and Lincoln was in the Whitehouse. Donald's book is a fascinating read on how Lincoln got to both the emancipation proclamation as a Republican, opposed by the Democrats, and how he suspended Habeas Corpus and outraged both parties. For military buffs the tortuous route to victory at Gettysburg which turned the civil war is also interesting.

Posted by: rogernebel | July 2, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

They actually saw these as separate countries, except for the constitution which provided limted powers to a central government. Either we return to their original intent, or face the samPosted by: bc2ret | July 2, 2010 3:23 PM

--

Garbage.

"there is no room for a doubt, that whatever concerns the general interests of learning, of agriculture, of manufactures, and of commerce, are within the sphere of the national councils as far as regards an application of money."

Alexander Hamilton, 1791

Posted by: twm1 | July 2, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

giantsequoia has it absolutely right. We do not live in a democracy. In fact the founders had great disdain for democracies, all of which have failed. We live in a republic of 50 soverign states. They actually saw these as separate countries, except for the constitution which provided limted powers to a central government. Either we return to their original intent, or face the same demise as other, fallen empires!

Posted by: bc2ret | July 2, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

###############################

Under the Articles of Confederation, they were independent nations. This arrangement failed miserably, which is why they wrote the constitution.

The colonies now became states within ONE nation. Stop trying to rewrite history to fit your ideology.

Posted by: maggots | July 2, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

The United States did not revert to democracy--to the tyranny of the majority as the Founders called it--...

Posted by: giantsequoia | July 2, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

**************************************

None of the "Founding Fathers" ever said "tyranny of the majority". It first appears in "Democracy in America" by Alexis de Tocqueville in 1835.

Posted by: maggots | July 2, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

An even more fascinating event surrounding Jefferson is taking place today - the christians running the schools in Texas are trying to write him out of our history.

Jefferson was accused by his political enemies of the day of being an atheist ... apparently the texas christians believe this.

Posted by: barferio | July 2, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

One of the real stories about the founding fathers had to do with the Constitution: the issue of slavery. Because those who were drafting it could not get support of the Southern states' delegates if they included language abolishing slavery, they included the three-fifths compromise: counting slaves as votes for the white populations in the South, but not as human beings. Jefferson, a slave owner himself, was complicit in this compromise. One of the low points in the nation's history. Of course, it led to the Civil War.

Posted by: dudh

----------------------------

This is a pretty skewed, cynical reading of the three-fifths compromise, and it misses the intent and effect of it.

Even before the Constitution, the Declaration made a shift from early drafts to the final version by declaring the rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" instead of "life, liberty and property." Why this change? Because Southern slave owners would use that language of property to affirm their right to hold slaves, whereas pursuit of happiness more universally extended to slaves as well.

Of course, Southerners would not agree to the original provision in the Declaration condemning George's continued permissiveness of slavery, and so that stronger language was struck.

When the Constitutional Convention came around, Southern slave owners were relishing the chance to gain power in the House by counting their slaves in apportionment, while also not giving those slaves freedom or the right to vote. Northern abolitionists threw down a calculated gambit: Either give slaves freedom and rights, or else you can't count them for the purpose of apportionment. This was not a denial of their humanity, but an affirmation of it. Would it have been better to count slaves fully as population, even though they could not vote, and even though Southerners would control those House seats to perpetuate slavery? Absolutely not.

Southerners refused to agree to this, but Northerners still forced a compromise, limiting the South's influence in the House by only allowing three-fifths of the slaves to be counted. This left slave states in a dilemma. They could keep slavery and lose House representation, or else they could end it and gain one or two representatives.

Anti-slave advocates were in a bind because the Constitution would have failed without Southern support, and the three-fifths compromise was the best way to punish slave states that would still pass ratification. In fact, it was one of the strongest anti-slavery statements in any of the founding documents, and the compromise limited Southern power for decades following.

Posted by: blert | July 2, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Just a minute, giantsequoia. The founders did establish a national bank-- ask Alexander Hamilton. And are you promoting the idea of having the state legislatures again appoint senators? That was not a good idea the first time around, it seems.

Have some more tea and think about it.

Posted by: olbadger | July 2, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

How interesting. Now, rumor has it that Obama and Kagan have a version of the Constitution with the Bill Of Rights crossed out....

Posted by: mibrooks27 | July 2, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Under the Articles of Confederation, they were independent nations. This arrangement failed miserably, which is why they wrote the constitution.

The colonies now became states within ONE nation. Stop trying to rewrite history to fit your ideology.

Posted by: maggots

-----------------------

One nation, yes, but a central government with extremely limited powers, with all other powers reserved to sovereign states who, when joining under the Constitution explicitly reserved the right to withdraw if they felt that the arrangement was not working out. The states were still considered sovereign in most of their powers, with the federal government only allowed power over states in a select few areas.

This isn't rewriting history...it's what actually happened. The centralized, expansive federal government that you champion today was unrecognizable in the first 80 or 90 years of the country. In fact, the expansion of federal powers really only took off around the turn of the last century. Lincoln laid a precedent for expansive federal powers, but it was really only the start of the 20th century that saw these powers and the size of government grow significantly.

Posted by: blert | July 2, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

An even more fascinating event surrounding Jefferson is taking place today - the christians running the schools in Texas are trying to write him out of our history.

Jefferson was accused by his political enemies of the day of being an atheist ... apparently the texas christians believe this.

Posted by: barferio

---------------------------------

This is absolute poppycock that is circulated in liberal blogs, but that doesn't reflect the Texas standards at all. Jefferson is still very much in the history curriculum. He got shifted out of a single minor section dealing with the influence of world political thinkers on the American revolution. Jefferson isn't really a "world" figure in this context since he is an American, and so he didn't entirely fit in the context of Locke, Hobbes, Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Rousseau. Jefferson's own influence as an American is still very present in Texas history books, plus the committee added a few non-Enlightenment figures (Blackstone, Calvin, and Aquinas) to give a broadened sense of how different figures and ideas mixed into the thoughts of the Founders.

The idea that Jefferson has been pushed out is overstated and absurd. He hasn't been. If anything, the scope of the history has been expanded.

Posted by: blert | July 2, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Just a minute, giantsequoia. The founders did establish a national bank-- ask Alexander Hamilton. And are you promoting the idea of having the state legislatures again appoint senators? That was not a good idea the first time around, it seems.

Have some more tea and think about it.

Posted by: olbadger

----------------------------

Yep, there was a national bank, but not in the founding documents. Hamilton pushed one through in 1791, and its charter was renewed and expanded five years later. Jefferson and others bitterly opposed the national bank, though, and Jackson finally put an end to it.

National banks returned, in a way, with the Civil War, but hundreds and hundreds of banks were "national banks," and so there was no single central bank. The return to a single central bank only happened with the creation of the Fed.


As for the direct election of senators, the main reason for moving away from state legislatures appointing senators was that the process had become so rife with corruption. Given the current state of campaign finance, though, it is hard to say that direct election is any less corrupt, so we really haven't gained all that much in the process. To the contrary, we've lost an important protection of federalism, which is that state governments have direct voices in Washington. Senators were meant to be the representatives of state governments, while the House was meant to be representatives of the people. Now, senators are little more than super-representatives, and states have lost their voice in Washington.

If you want to see why the federal government began to expand in size so quickly in the 20th century, and why the federal government has gained so many new powers over states, and why federal mandates on states are accepted, look back to the initiation of direct election of senators. That move shifted considerable power to Washington, and state legislatures have been largely helpless to oppose the federal will ever since.

Posted by: blert | July 2, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

"...but citizens of their own democracy."

Not quite. The Articles of Confederation did not establish a democracy nor did the Constitution of the United States. In fact, you won't find the word "democracy" in any of our founding documents. ...

Posted by: giantsequoia

And when was the last time you heard a POTUS say "The US is spreading Republics throughout the world."

The common usage is that Democratic Republics are referred to as Democracies.

Posted by: James10 | July 2, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

A Republic is a FORM of democracy, we have laways been both a Republic and a Democracy. Democracy describes the origin and authority of power, republic describes the means of implementing it.

And furthermore, the Civil War proved the failings of the states rights doctrine as defined even in the founder's Constitution. Lost Causers talk of the North's industrial advantage because they need to overlook the truth, that the North's biggest advantage was it's unified command and ability through it's political system to coordinate the resources and create a grand strategy. This is what led Jefferson Davis to lament that on the tombstone of the Confederacy should be written: Died of a Theory, because States' Rights killed the confederacy. America could never have grown into a world power without those innovations, which why it is also ironic that our rise to prominence in the world comes during the same years that conservatives mourn the innovations in the system. Not that one causes another necessarily, but often it sets the necessary conditions.

Posted by: kreuz_missile | July 2, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

None of the "Founding Fathers" ever said "tyranny of the majority". It first appears in "Democracy in America" by Alexis de Tocqueville in 1835.

------------------------------------------

Ironic, too, that you'd use a line from what many consider the best source of implementation of the Constitution and our Republic in the early years - DEMOCRACY in America. More signs the terms are not mutually exclusive.

Posted by: kreuz_missile | July 2, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

@dudh: You write that Jefferson was "complicit" in the compromise at the Constitutional Convention that provided for the continuation of slavery and the counting of slaves as three-fifths of a person.

Except that Jefferson was in Paris the entire time. He played no role whatsoever at the Constitutional Convention.

Posted by: Meridian1 | July 2, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

we the plebians...

Posted by: Geopolitics101 | July 2, 2010 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Amazing news. We should be able to reasonably reconstruct the Declaration of Independence showing Jefferson's changes over the 17 days he took to write the document (similar to showing changes in word processing documents). The changes made over this brief period would really serve to highlight Jefferson's genius and provide illumination into his evolution.

Posted by: kirtu | July 2, 2010 6:23 PM | Report abuse

A republic is a nation with a government not headed by an hereditary monarchy. Giantsequoia claims the U.S. isn't a republic anymore -- I wonder who he thinks is our hereditary monarch.

Posted by: phillipica | July 2, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

"...but citizens of their own democracy."

Not quite. The Articles of Confederation did not establish a democracy nor did the Constitution of the United States. In fact, you won't find the word "democracy" in any of our founding documents. The United States did not revert to democracy--to the tyranny of the majority as the Founders called it--until the early 20th century and the establishment of a national income tax, a national bank, and the direct election of senators.

After the constitutional convention, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin, "Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?"

Franklin replied, "A Republic, if you can keep it."

Unfortunately, we couldn't.

__________________________________________

By what twisted logic did you come to the conclusion we lost the republic?

Posted by: kchses1 | July 2, 2010 3:27 PM
==========================================
Read the original Constitution, in particular the enumerated powers clause.

Those powers not specifically granted the Federal Government reside with the states. The powers specifically granted the Federal government were very short indeed.

FDR and the socialists element of the country defeated this clause through the interstate commerce clause. They "found" that almost all activity in some comes under the purview of that clause thus extending Federal power over nearly all activity.

See the case of the chicken farmer in the mid-west. He wanted to grow grain specifically to feed his own chickens. The FDR courts held that as the chickens would eventually (and potentially) be sold throughout other states the Feds could prevent the farmer from growing the grain.

The government we now have is not the government of the original Constitution nor the government envisioned by the founders.

The logic is not twisted it is straight. But down feel bad; you were educated in a publicly funded school so you could be taught Federal Government good state government bad.

Posted by: krankyman | July 2, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

This is, again, why the Confederacy struck the General Welfare provision out of their rewrite of the Constitution, one of only three substantive changes. They lost, and America had a new birth of freedom as a result. Stop trying to re-fight the Civil War. The World has changed, America's role in it has changed.

The nature of Commerce has changed. I'll concede that when the founders wrote the interstate commerce clause, they may have meant it more limited, but interstate commerce was also limited in a pre-industrial merchantilist system - as the system changed and interstate commerce became first more normal, then the default, the Constitution should have been amended to limit the government as required if that is what people truly desired. They did not. It granted the power to regulate that commerce to the Feds. If you don't like it, don't feel bad, work to amend it yourself rather than hope for activist conservative judges to write it for you.

Posted by: kreuz_missile | July 2, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

In an interesting coincidence, the same technology is revealing David Livingstone's Journals and Letters from Central Africa: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19119-dear-diary-i-am-sick-to-death-david-livingstone.html

Posted by: Mike113 | July 2, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Small government = third world country.

Posted by: abetterfuture | July 2, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

As interesting as this is, I trust no one seriously thinks that a man who was intellectually and completely committed to separating from his king used the word as anything other than a mental 'typo', a habit of years of writing. As many of us do with errors in our own writing, he probably didn't even see it however many times he read it. A second pair of eyes caught the word and Jefferson probably said something like "Good Lord", and amended it.

Posted by: JPMcC | July 2, 2010 7:49 PM | Report abuse


http://www.shoes2.us/


Air jordan(1-24)shoes $33
UGG BOOT $50
Nike shox(R4,NZ,OZ,TL1,TL2,TL3) $35
Handbags(Coach lv fendi d&g) $35
Tshirts (Polo ,ed hardy,lacoste) $16
Jean(True Religion,ed hardy,coogi) $30
Sunglasses(Oakey,coach,gucci,Armaini) $16
New era cap $15

Bikini (Ed hardy,polo) $25
free shipping

http://www.shoes2.us/

Posted by: tradeshoes09 | July 2, 2010 8:02 PM | Report abuse

share a site with you: http://www.shoes2.us/

Posted by: tradeshoes09 | July 2, 2010 8:05 PM | Report abuse

OK.

And what's the point?

Posted by: coqui44 | July 2, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

FDR and the socialists element of the country defeated this clause through the interstate commerce clause.The government we now have is not the government of the original Constitution nor the government envisioned by the founders.Posted by: krankyman | July 2, 2010 6:32 PM


--

Wrong. Your interpretation of the enumerated powers doctrine was rejected in McCullouch v Maryland which included a famous opinion opinion by John Marshall. The case was decided in 1819. Folks should really read this landmark case which has defined the issue ever since it was decided before they make statements which show their ignorance of basic constitutional law in the US.

Posted by: twm1 | July 2, 2010 8:56 PM | Report abuse

The author doesn't make it clear here, but I've read elsewhere that Jefferson actually smeared out the word "subject" before the ink even had the chance to dry. It's certainly an interesting discovery, but this was nothing more than a "brain fart," as one commenter said.

Posted by: cec7q | July 2, 2010 9:47 PM | Report abuse

(Moses standing on a mountain)

I bring you the fifteen...(oops...crash)...the ten, TEN commandments!


Maybe we are missing a few things about those times back in the day...

Posted by: 20yrskinfan | July 2, 2010 9:56 PM | Report abuse

"The United States did not revert to democracy--to the tyranny of the majority as the Founders called it--until the early 20th century and the establishment of a national income tax, a national bank, and the direct election of senators."

Please strike "tyranny of the majority" and replace with "elective despotism".

See: "An elective despotism was not the government we fought for, but one which should not only be founded on true free principles, but in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among general bodies of magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits without being effectually checked and restrained by the others." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XIII, 1782. ME 2:163

Posted by: giantsequoia | July 2, 2010 10:18 PM | Report abuse

There are worse document drafts running around. I wonder what would happen if the Committee of Style members who were drafting the Constitution those September nights in 1787 had decided that the Preamble should say "General defense and Common Welfare" instead of what Maddison insisted on in Article I, Section 8:1, powers of the congress: Common Defense and General Welfare. Does that change the entire covenant inherent in the constitution?

Posted by: arjay1 | July 2, 2010 10:28 PM | Report abuse

Also see the writer of the Constitution, Madison: "A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will be felt by a majority, and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party. Hence it is, that democracies have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths."

Posted by: giantsequoia | July 2, 2010 10:32 PM | Report abuse

Also see the writer of the Constitution, Madison: "A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction
Posted by: giantsequoia | July 2, 2010 10:32 PM |
--

This quote from Federalist # 10 leaves out important parts of Madison's statement and is therefore disingenuous. Madison said: "a pure democracy, by which I mean, a society consisting of a small number of citizens who assemble and administer the government in person..." In other words, he's speaking about direct democracy with no representatives whatsoever. He also says that a system of representatives has its own problems and is not a cure-all: "Men of factious tempers and local prejudices or of sinister designs may by intrigue, by corruption or by other means, first obtain the suffrages and then betray the interests of the people."

If you quote someone like Madison, you could at least quote it honestly rather than fraudulently doctoring the quote to suit your own idiosyncratic interpretation creating a willfully dishonest picture of what Madison actually said.

Posted by: twm1 | July 2, 2010 10:54 PM | Report abuse

"The full experiment of a government democratical, but representative, was and is still reserved for us. The idea... has been carried by us more or less into all our legislative and executive departments; but it has not yet, by any of us, been pushed into all the ramifications of the system, so far as to leave no authority existing not responsible to the people; whose rights, however, to the exercise and fruits of their own industry can never be protected against the selfishness of rulers not subject to their control at short periods... My most earnest wish is to see the republican element of popular control pushed to the maximum of its practicable exercise. I shall then believe that our government may be pure and perpetual." --Thomas Jefferson to Isaac H. Tiffany, 1816. ME 15:65

Posted by: shadwell1 | July 2, 2010 10:55 PM | Report abuse

The link to the Jefferson to Tiffany quote:

http://etext.virginia.edu/jefferson/quotations/jeff0600.htm

Posted by: shadwell1 | July 2, 2010 11:03 PM | Report abuse

"Divide the counties into wards of such size that every citizen can attend when called on and act in person. ... [this way the activities of government] will have it done better, and by making every citizen an acting member of the government and in the offices nearest and most interesting to him, will attach him by his strongest feelings to the independence of his country and its republican constitution.These wards, called townships in New England, are the vital principle of their governments, and have proved themselves the wisest invention ever devised by the wit of man for the perfect exercise of self-government and for its preservation."

Thomas Jefferson, 1816

Posted by: twm1 | July 2, 2010 11:10 PM | Report abuse

Jefferson was a wealthy aristocrat whose wish it was to see an aristocracy of wealthy farmers, upper class Englishmen like himself who owned plenty of land and were educated in the cream of the cream - never mind that his rich, aristocratic family owned "slaves," who were not human beings - run the country. All these aristocrats like Jefferson could, you know, debate the issues in the beautiful buildings of each state called legislatures, and arrive at laws - between gentlemen, of course. Then along came guys like Andy Jackson, no saint and a destroyer of Cherokee culture, but no aristcrat, and the Civil War.

Posted by: dudh | July 2, 2010 11:36 PM | Report abuse

Jefferson was a wealthy aristocrat whose wish it was to see an aristocracy of wealthy farmers, upper class Englishmen like himself who owned plenty of land and were educated in the cream of the cream ... - run the country.

--

I defy you to identify any statement by Jefferson in which he ever advocates anything like this. You are right that he inherited a plantation which included slaves. The rest is wrong.

Posted by: twm1 | July 2, 2010 11:44 PM | Report abuse

Jefferson was an agrarian, twm 1. Look it up. Jeff was an aristocrat who not only inherited slaves, but kept them, employed them, and whether by force or good will, slept with them. Do more homework. The truth shall make you free.

Posted by: dudh | July 3, 2010 12:26 AM | Report abuse

Jefferson was an agrarian, twm 1. Look it up. Jeff was an aristocrat who not only inherited slaves, but kept them, employed them, and whether by force or good will, slept with them. Do more homework. The truth shall make you free.

Posted by: dudh | July 3, 2010 12:26 AM

--Jefferson was a wealthy aristocrat whose wish it was to see an aristocracy of wealthy farmers, upper class Englishmen like himself who owned plenty of land and were educated in the cream of the cream ...run the country.

This is the claim at issue. How about taking your own advise, doing some research and providing us with statements by Jefferson to document this claim. You won't because you can't. The fact that Jefferson was a slave owner is not at issue.

In 1816 Jefferson said this: "...a government is republican in proportion as every member composing it has his equal voice in the direction of its concerns... and let us bring to the test of this canon every branch of out government... Try by this, as tally, every provision of our Constitution, and see if it hangs directly on the will of the people."

There is no way that statements like this can yield to your elitist spin.

Posted by: twm1 | July 3, 2010 12:46 AM | Report abuse

Jefferson also spoke on numerous occasions of the "natural aristocracy of man" that he and many of the other founders believed would arise in the system they had created. The goal was an aristocracy of merit, not of inheritance. This is why the prospect of Andrew Jackson being elected scared both Jefferson and Adams so much. It is not directly stated anywhere that would be a white, agrarian landowner class, but i think it fair to say that is what many of them had in mind. He was also a believer that the Constitution should regularly be thrown out and rewritted, sometimes citing 19 years, others citing 40 years, as he believed the dead have no right to govern the living and that the living have all the knowledge of their predecessors plus those gained through current experiences, leading to their ability (in his mind) to produce a superior document.

In truth, Jefferson was a complex individual who went through a long process of evolution of his political thought, which is why almost anyone can pull a quotation from him at a given period and spin it as "This is what Jefferson wanted." He was the small government libertarian who coined the phrase Separation of Church and State while using Deistic writing throughout his texts, who believed in strict interpretation of the Constitution until presented with the opportunity to double the size of the United States, etc. He believed himself to be the intellectual leader of a new global revolution, but couldn't stomack the radical liberalism of many of his contemporaries like the hard left Thomas Paine (Who, likewise, when he got to France saw them pushing too far). This is why I detest notions like Constitutional Originalism, because simply put, even the guys who wrote these documents changed their opinions of them, figuring out any one of their individual spin is tough enough, much less a body as intellectually diverse as both the Second Continental Congress (DoI) and the Constitutional Convention were. The documents that each produced were intentionally vague to allow for the compromises to take place to pass them, leaving for us to implement them or amend them as the world required.

http://www.tncrimlaw.com/civil_bible/natural_aristocracy.htm

Posted by: kreuz_missile | July 3, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

I believe the three-fifths compromise also had to do with taxes... The South wanted to count slaves as people for the sake of votes, but as property for the sake of, well, owning them. The North wanted the South to pay taxes for the slaves that they considered property, so the 3/5 applied both to taxation and representation.

Posted by: sarahee | July 4, 2010 1:26 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company