Tag Archives: Self-government

Can Americans be trusted with their own government?

we have no interests nor passions different from those of our fellow citizens. we have the same object, the success of representative government. nor are we acting for ourselves alone, but for the whole human race. the event of our experiment is to shew whether man can be trusted with self government. the eyes of suffering humanity are fixed on us with anxiety as their only hope, and on such a theatre & for such a cause we must suppress all smaller passions & local considerations. the leaders of federalism say that man cannot be trusted with his own government.
To David Hall, July 6, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders let people govern themselves.
Jefferson’s republican supporters in Delaware urged him to dismiss a customs official in Wilmington who had been appointed by a previous federalist administration. Complainers said the office holder was too political in his duties and should be replaced with a loyal republican.

Yet, the offending official had been fully investigated by the court and found innocent.

Jefferson refused to intervene. To do so would be putting himself above the local court. In addition to being wrong, it would play into the hands of his political opponents, who said, “man cannot be trusted with his own government.” Jefferson believed just the opposite, that man was capable of self-government. Local government had acted justly, and he accepted their decision.

“Suffering humanity” around the world was watching the American experiment “as their only hope.” For this experiment to be successful, lesser and local issues, like the complaints lodged with the President, must be suppressed.

“…the entire banquet hall [was] silent …
everyone, including the hotel banquet staff,
paying rapt attention to your portrayal.”
IT Administrative Coordinator
Forestry Conservation Communications Association
Mr. Jefferson will captivate your audience. (Maybe even the banquet staff, too!)
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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These two things are of supreme importance.

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.

“Your talk was the hit of the day –
everyone was still talking about Thomas Jefferson during the banquet in the evening.”

Central Bank
Thomas Jefferson will be a hit with your audience.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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