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What would turn you into a wolf?

Cherish therefore the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention. Do not be too severe upon their errors, but reclaim them by enlightening them. If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you & I, & Congress & Assemblies, judges & governors shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions; and experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe, and to the general prey of the rich on the poor.
To Edward Carrington, Jan. 16, 1787

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Unrestrained leaders will turn into wolves.
Carrington was a contemporary of Jefferson’s, a fellow Virginian, serving in the Continental Congress in 1787. Jefferson referred earlier in this letter to the “tumults in America,” probably Shays’ Rebellion and the unease that uprising of Massachusetts farmers caused. (That rebellion spurred interest in a more effective national government and influenced the outcome of the Constitutional Convention later that year.)
From 3,500 miles away in France, Jefferson was not troubled by dissent in America. On the contrary, he reaffirmed his faith in the people, provided they were properly educated and given all the necessary information through the newspapers. (This letter also contains his famous phrase, “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”)
Jefferson calmed Carrington and encouraged his faith in a spirited and attentive public. He warned that “once they become inattentive,” all in authority, including himself, would become wolves, devouring the ignorant and uninformed. He saw that pattern in the nations of Europe, where the rich, controlling all the levers of government, preyed on the poor.

“I … express our sincere appreciation for your exceptional presentation …
Your portrayal of Thomas Jefferson was extremely well-received …”

Missouri Association of Mutual Insurance Companies
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This entry was posted in Congress, Education, Human nature, Newspapers, Protecting ourselves and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to What would turn you into a wolf?

  1. Jane Flink says:

    And so it has come to pass . . .

  2. I would change the question to the following…What changed you into a wolf? This happened long ago to most Americans.

    Benjamin Franklin or someone else made this wise observation…

    “When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”

    Frederic Bastiat made these…

    “Sometimes the law defends plunder and participates in it. Sometimes the law places the whole apparatus of judges, police, prisons and gendarmes at the service of the plunderers, and treats the victim — when he defends himself — as a criminal.”

    “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”

    “The state is the great fiction by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else.”

    “When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law.”

    I agree with Jefferson, Franklin (or whoever said that) and Bastiat. The vast majority of Americans were lured into becoming wolves long ago. They just don’t want to think of themselves that way. Their morality is very flexible according to their perceived needs and to what “others think.” Jefferson would see the vast majority of Americans as wolves today. What he was warning about has happened gradually through the growth of government without effective limits. It is too late now and will end badly. Very few see the problem with a government that can’t stop growing and taking resources and liberties from the people simply because it is gradual and they know little or nothing about what has gone before…History! Jefferson wanted people to consider the possibility but too few listened to him.

  3. Sandra says:

    I am a Wolf! I belong to the Wolf clan. You make turning into a wolf sound like a bad thing! haha Wolves are teachers and protectors, so who wouldn’t want to be one? I once read: “The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”

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