Tag Archives: Inaugural Address

We cut government w-a-y back. Taxes, too. Part 1

At home, fellow-citizens …  the suppression of unnecessary offices, of useless establishments and expences, enabled us to discontinue our internal taxes. these covering our land with officers, & opening our doors to their intrusions, had already begun that process of domiciliary vexation, which, once entered, is scarcely to be restrained from reaching successively every article of property & produce.
Thomas Jefferson’s Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders sometimes do LESS, not MORE.
The President reported to the Congress on progress made during his first term. After a paragraph devoted to pursuing open and friendly relations with all like-minded nations, he turned his attention to domestic affairs.

Previous administrations had expanded the role of government and the taxes necessary to support it. Jefferson took the opposite position during his first four years, cutting unnecessary offices, expenses, and taxes . No longer were there “internal taxes,” ones levied by the government on its own citizens. Gone as well were the tax collectors interfering with citizens’ personal lives, or “domiciliary vexation.”  If those practices were not curtailed, the government’s appetite would eventually tax “every article of property & produce,” i.e. everything you own and everything you make.

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How do we regard other nations?

In the transaction of your foreign affairs, we have endeavored to cultivate the friendship of all nations … we have done them justice on all occasions … cherished mutual interests & intercourse on fair & equal terms. we are firmly convinced and we act on that conviction, that with nations, as with individuals, our interests, soundly calculated, will ever be found inseparable from our moral duties. and history bears witness to the fact, that a just nation is trusted on it’s word …
Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Just leaders value honest relationships with other leaders.
Jefferson’s first inaugural address was forward-looking, the aspirations that would guide his administration. This report, four years later, would be an assessment of their progress toward those goals.

He began with foreign affairs, affirming the nation’s commitment to friendship with all and fairness in its dealings. He said there could be no difference between moral duties and actual performance. That rule applied both to individuals and nations. A nation which was just, like an individual who was just, could be counted on to do what they said they would do.

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What do laborers need on Labor Day?

…  with all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow-citizens — a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities [happiness].
Thomas Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Laborers need a hands-off government.
Jefferson saw the election of 1800 as the second American revolution. The voters rejected an activist national government and the taxes necessary to support it. They also rejected a fondness toward England and any possibility of a constitutional monarchy.

Jefferson’s inaugural address outlined the major principles which would guide his administration. He tried to bridge the gap between the political parties with this, “We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists,”

Jefferson proposed a government which was wise, frugal, and intervened only to keep people from harming one another. Beyond that, government should let its citizens self-regulate for their own “industry and improvement.” Free to prosper in this way, government should not tax away what Americans labored to produce.

There were a number of taxes in 1801. Four years later, in his Second Inaugural Address, Jefferson would boast about the elimination of that burden when he asked “…what farmer, what mechanic, what laborer, ever sees a tax-gatherer of the United States?”

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in the persona of Thomas Jefferson [for our Leadership Conference].
There could not have been a better choice.”

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