Tag Archives: National Debt

We must subdue the debt, or it will subdue us!

I consider the fortunes of our republic as depending, in an eminent degree, on the extinguishment of the public debt, before we engage in any war. because, that done, we shall have revenue enough to improve our country in peace, & defend it in war, without recurring either to new1 taxes or loans, but if the debt shall2 once more be swelled to a formidable size, it’s entire discharge will be despaired of, and we shall be committed to the English career of debt, corruption & rottenness, closing with revolution.
To Albert Gallatin, October 11, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Far-sighted leaders know growing debt is a ticking time bomb.
Swiss-born Gallatin (1761-1849) was Jefferson’s Secretary of the Treasury for eight years, and he was filling the same role for President Madison. Jefferson had utmost confidence in Gallatin’s skill, crediting him with bringing the nation’s indecipherable financing from opaque under Presidents Washington and Adams to transparent in his administration.

The former President thought America would stand or fall according to its national debt. If it were paid off, the resulting surplus could be used for internal improvements in peace time or defense if war came, without more borrowing or increased taxes. However, if the debt were allowed to grow to the point where paying it off was impossible, we would become like the British. There, perpetual debt led to “corruption & rottenness,” and the inevitable result would be “revolution.”

Curiously, Jefferson didn’t apply the same rigor to his own finances. His personal debt grew throughout his life to the point where it was unmanageable.

“Your portrayal … was captivating in every respect…
The feedback from our conferees has been overwhelmingly favorable …”
Executive Director, Missouri Safety Council
Mr. Jefferson will captivate your audience!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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Jefferson’s “State of the Union” in 1805? Part 2

Turning from these unpleasant views of violence and wrong, I congratulate you on the liberation of our fellow-citizens who were stranded on the coast of Tripoli and made prisoners of war …
With Tunis some misunderstandings have arisen not yet sufficiently explained …
The law providing for a naval peace establishment … Congress will perhaps consider whether the best limitation on the Executive [President’s] discretion [is to limit the number of seamen or the number of vessels] …
Our Indian neighbors are advancing, many of them with spirit, and others beginning to engage in the pursuits of agriculture and household manufacture … from time to time to dispose of parts of their surplus and waste lands …
The receipts at the Treasury during the year … which , with [the surplus] … have enabled us after meeting other demands to pay nearly two millions of the debt contracted under the British treaty  … upward of four millions of principle of the public debt and four millions of interest. These payments, with those which had been made in three years and a half preceding, have extinguished of the funded debt nearly eighteen millions of principle.
Fifth Annual Message to Congress, December 3, 1805

 Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders keep everyone informed.
These excerpts summarize the second half of Jefferson’s fifth “State of the Union” report, the one corresponding to President Obama’s address in January.
1. There’s good news to report from north Africa. Tripoli pirates have been dealt with, and those in Tunis appear to be moving toward settlement. (Terrorists in north Africa. Sound familiar?)
2. He asked clarification from Congress on his authority for ships vs. sailors. (The President is asking, rather than assuming or taking.)
3. Some Indians were actively oppositional while others were coming to an agricultural life and making portions of their lands available for settlement.
4. The government was continuing to run a surplus, reducing the national debt by $18 million in 3 ½ years. (Imagine that!)
He concluded by noting his re-election and pledging his best efforts for the nation and every possible cooperation with the Congress. (He enjoyed an enviable Presidential position of having his party control sizable majorities in both houses.)

“Our attendees raved about Mr. Jefferson and the words of wisdom he had to offer them.”
County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania
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