Tag Archives: Human nature
But the endeavors to enlighten them on the fate which awaits their present course of life, to induce them to exercise their reason, follow it’s dictates, & change their pursuits with the change of circumstances, have powerful obstacles to encounter … the habits of their bodies, prejudices of their minds, ignorance, pride, & the influence of interested & crafty individuals among them, who [fear loss of influence] … these persons inculcate a sanctimonious reverence for the customs of their ancestors; that whatsoever they did must be done through all time … that their duty is to remain as their creator made them, ignorance being safety, and knolege full of danger … they too have their Anti-Philosophists [anti-science, reason and progress] …
Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders understand there are powerful influences against change.
The previous post outlined Thomas Jefferson’s strong support for helping native Americans transition from hunting to agriculture. This post details their difficulty in doing so.
While business-as-usual was not possible for the Indians, they faced formidable challenges to a new way of life. In addition to their own “habits … prejudices … ignorance [&] pride,” some in their midst insisted they must remain as they always had been, with safety in ignorance, fearing danger in knowledge.
In this regard, Jefferson drew a parallel to his own political opposition, “Anti-Philosophists.” Both cultures had to contend with those who only looked backwards and resisted all change.
“It was a great pleasure to have you return the the Old Court for our annual
“Historic Fourth of July Celebration”.”
Superintendent, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, National Park Service
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739
you now see the composition of our public bodies, and how essential system and plan are for conducting our affairs wisely with so bitter a party in opposition to us, who look not at all to what is best for the public, but how they may thwart whatever we propose, tho they should thereby sink their country.
To Caesar Rodney, February 24, 1804
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
All leaders are still creatures of human nature.
Delaware native Rodney (1772 – 1824), namesake of his uncle who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was elected to Congress in 1802. In a letter to the President, Rodney explained that he would not continue in office for personal, political and financial reasons. Jefferson sincerely regretted the loss of his strong supporter. He hoped Rodney would be one to “give cohesion to our rope of sand.” Whether that “rope” was the government or the republican party is not clear.
Note the points Jefferson made in this excerpt:
1. Consider the bitterness of the opposition in the Congress.
2. Their goal was not the public good but to “thwart whatever we propose.”
3. They were unconcerned that their actions imperiled the nation.
My purpose in these posts is to highlight Jefferson’s perspective. Still, I’m reasonably sure the Federalists could have made the same observations about the President and his republican partisans.
Human nature does not change. In 2019, consider how each party makes the same charges against the other, 215 years later.