Tag Archives: Liberty

What does a local library mean for US? Part 1 of 4

[Your letter] informs me of the establishment of the Westward mill library society, of it’s general views & progress. I always hear with pleasure of institutions for the promotion of knolege among my countrymen. the people of every country are the only safe guardians of their own rights, and are the only instruments which can be used for their destruction. and certainly they would never consent to be so used were they not decieved. to avoid this they should be instructed to a certain degree …
To John Wyche, May 19, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders always promote the broad education of their constitutents.
A portion of this letter was excerpted in a 2013 post. Since we are reviewing all of the significant correspondence of Jefferson’s first year of retirement, we will look at the entire letter, broken into four posts.

Wyche wrote at length to Jefferson about the formation of a library in Brunswick County, VA, on the VA/NC border, about 70 miles south of Richmond. Local citizens had adopted a constitution and pledged $10 each to acquire books. He was seeking the retired President’s “patronage.” He did not specify what that might be though financial support might have been a likely goal.

Jefferson opened with why he liked libraries. He supported any institution which promoted knowledge among his countrymen – schools, colleges, academic societies, even churches (to some degree). People were “the only safe guardians of their own rights,” and the only ones who could take them away. Protecting those rights and defeating those who would deny them required an educated citizenry. Libraries furthered that end.

“Your presentation, particularly your response to questions, was most impressive.”
For the American College of Real Estate Lawyers, New Orleans
Mr. Jefferson will impress your audience!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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Teach! Teach! Teach! Teach! Teach!

Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to; convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty.
To James Madison, December 20, 1787

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Confident leaders want well-educated followers.

This was a life-long theme for Jefferson. In his 30’s, he drafted legislation for taxpayer-funded education for boys ­and girls in Virginia. In his 70’s and early 80’s, he lead in the establishment of the University of Virginia. In-between and and for all ages, he promoted the cause of education.
Why? Because literate citizens who knew their history, could apply its lessons to present-day situations, who could understand the actions of their government and hold it accountable were America’s strongest defense against tyranny.
He was confident that the good sense of well-educated “common people” could be trusted.

“The great length that Patrick Lee went to ensure that Mr. Jefferson’s comments
were relevant to today’s officials was excellent.”
Executive Director, Township Officials of Illinois

Mr. Jefferson’s remarks will be relevant to your audience, too,
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739

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Rebellion, liberty, blood & manure!

Where did it [anarchy] ever exist, except in the single instance of Massachusetts? And can history produce an instance of rebellion so honourably conducted? … God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, & always, well informed … what country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them …  The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is its natural manure.
To William S. Smith, Nov. 13, 1787

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Secure leaders recognize that opposition makes you better, stronger.
Jefferson wrote from Paris months after Shay’s Rebellion, a tax and debt revolt in western Massachusetts in late 1786 and early 1787. That rebellion alarmed many (and influenced the outcome of the Constitutional Convention), but Jefferson, an ocean away, didn’t share their concern.
He spoke of a little rebellion now and then as a good thing, even if the people acted in ignorance. He didn’t disapprove of their taking arms against their government. It kept rulers on their toes about the importance of protecting the country’s liberties. The solution was education and forgiveness.
Some use this passage to claim Jefferson espoused a revolution every 20 years, but that’s a misuse of his sentiment. An occasional rebellion, yes, and healthy for the nation. Revolution, not so much.
The next to the last sentence, “The tree of liberty … “ is quoted often. Practically always, the last sentence is omitted. I love that last sentence!

No rebellion, arms, blood OR manure for your audience!
Just practical wisdom and encouragement.

Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739

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We did our part. Now, you do yours.

We have spent the prime of our lives in procuring them the precious blessing of liberty. Let them spend theirs in showing that it is the great parent of science and of virtue; and that a nation will be great in both, always in proportion as it is free.
To Doctor Willard, March 24, 1789

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders understand that freedom is the basis for all other advancements.
Dr. Joseph Willard was the president of Harvard University. Jefferson thanked the University for his honorary degree, and commented on issues in literature, mathematics and chemistry. He wrote about Thomas Paine’s design for an iron bridge and Mr. Rumsey’s for steam powered navigation. He speculated on how much more there was yet to learn, “What a field we have at our doors to signalize ourselves in!”
Jefferson commended Dr. Willard and his institution, “so eminent a seat of science,” for their work in producing young men who would explore such wonders. Then he wrote the sentences above:
1. We gave our best years to procure the “precious blessing of liberty” that allows for such exploration.
2. With this freedom, let your students now labor to develop in both science and virtue.
3. These qualities will flourish only to the degree that freedom flourishes.
4. It is freedom and the advantages that flow from it that truly make a nation great.

Mr. Jefferson will inspire your audience to remain free … and be great!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739

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