Tag Archives: Self-government
Nor was it uninteresting to the world, that an experiment should be fairly and fully made, Whether freedom of discussion, unaided by power, is not sufficient for the propagation and protection of truth? Whether a government … can be written down by falsehood & defamation [in the newspapers]? the experiment has been tried. you have witnessed the scene. our fellow citizens looked on cool, & collected … when the constitution called them to the decision by suffrage, they pronounced their verdict, honorable to those who had served them, and consolatory [life-affirming, cheerful] to the friend of man, who believes that he may be trusted with the controul of his own affairs.
Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Confident leaders trust their constituents to act wisely.
Thomas Jefferson claimed the world was watching the American “experiment,” whether open discussion without government intervention was all that was needed for truth to triumph over error. In 1804, the citizens, “cool & collected,” made their choice. In re-electing the President and a Republican Congress, they affirmed Jefferson’s leadership for less government, fewer taxes, and more individual freedom, i.e. a man’s “controul of his own affairs.”
“Patrick was an instant hit with all of our attendees.
He held them in the palm of his hand …”
Assistant to the Executive Director, Illinois Association of School Boards
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, go to FoundersArchives.gov. Cut a few words from the letter in the post, paste them into the search box at the top, with beginning and ending quotation marks, and click the GO button. The correct letter … should … come up.
Or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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.