Tag Archives: Consent of the governed
I have safely received the copy of your history of the American revolution … it is a happy circumstance for our country that it’s fortunes interest the eloquent writers of your country and through them find their way to the notice of the world … inasmuch as to they presented to mankind the first example in Modern times of a people asserting succesfully the right of self government, and establishing that government among themselves by common consent.
To Jean Chas, September 3, 1801
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Visionary leaders cling to founding principles.
Chas was a French journalist who sent his book to Jefferson months before. The President thanked him and expressed his appreciation for skilled foreign writers who documented America’s victory 20 years earlier. It wasn’t for vanity but for the example and hope it presented to other nations.
That example presented the only modern occurrence of two fundamental truths about America:
1. Its citizens had the right to govern themselves.
2. Its government functioned only with the consent of the governed.
These were still radical ideas in a time when other nations were ruled at will by kings, nobles and dictators. Jefferson believed America’s example was destined to adopted eventually by other nations, and writers like Chas furthered that end.