we have no interests nor passions different from those of our fellow citizens. we have the same object, the success of representative government. nor are we acting for ourselves alone, but for the whole human race. the event of our experiment is to shew whether man can be trusted with self government. the eyes of suffering humanity are fixed on us with anxiety as their only hope, and on such a theatre & for such a cause we must suppress all smaller passions & local considerations. the leaders of federalism say that man cannot be trusted with his own government.
To David Hall, July 6, 1802
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders let people govern themselves.
Jefferson’s republican supporters in Delaware urged him to dismiss a customs official in Wilmington who had been appointed by a previous federalist administration. Complainers said the office holder was too political in his duties and should be replaced with a loyal republican.
Yet, the offending official had been fully investigated by the court and found innocent.
Jefferson refused to intervene. To do so would be putting himself above the local court. In addition to being wrong, it would play into the hands of his political opponents, who said, “man cannot be trusted with his own government.” Jefferson believed just the opposite, that man was capable of self-government. Local government had acted justly, and he accepted their decision.
“Suffering humanity” around the world was watching the American experiment “as their only hope.” For this experiment to be successful, lesser and local issues, like the complaints lodged with the President, must be suppressed.