Happy Birthday, Mr. Jefferson

America’s Third President was born 265 years ago today.

Since there isn’t anything to write about Jefferson that hasn’t already been said, it seems appropriate to let his words speak for themselves from the text of the two written documents that he was most proud of throughout his life.

First, from the Virginia Statute For Religious Freedom:

[Sec. 1] Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as it was in his Almighty power to do; that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time; that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor, whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporary rewards, which proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind; that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with his fellow-citizens he has a natural right; that it tends only to corrupt the principles of that religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it; that though indeed these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion, and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own; that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order; and finally, that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them:

[Sec. 2] Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

And secondly, of course, from the Declaration of Independence:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new guards for their future security

  • oilnwater

    but he was a slave owner. by your ultra-sensitive rationale as evidenced this POTUS cycle, wouldn’t that make TJ a scumbag in your eyes?
    to put this simple matter in perspective, a man like you in the 1700’s would have utterly trounced and denounced TJ’s name repeatedly. how do you justify celebrating everything about TJ now, considering your vehement treatment of someone who didn’t even own slaves today?

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis

    Like most men of his time, Jefferson was a man of contradictions and even he recognized that slavery was an abomination that the South was trapped in.

    Unlike certain former Republican candidates for President, though, he was a crucial part of the intellectual foundation of not only the Revolution, but also the movement that eventually, thankfully, brought that abomination to the end.

    And he was a competent administrator to boot.

  • oilnwater


  • http://www.orderhotlunch.com Jeff Molby

    Like most men of his time

    And every other time….

  • http://poppychop.net/ Nitroadict

    First off, it’s entirely childish and 2-Dimenionsal to think that just because Jefferson owned slaves, it invalidates everything he accomplished.

    Slavery was and shall always be wrong (especially since we now have wage & credit-slavery across the country, but that’s a bit of a tangent), and from what I remember, they had a looming war with Britain, and sadly, since they did not have an actual solution to the problem of slavery (and it was viewed as a problem, at least in the North, AFAIK), they figured, “well winning a war against our main oppressor & hopefully winning to become a sovereign nation” was more important, and that slavery could be dealt with later.

    It was a partial-compromise. Was it a good choice to put slavery on the back burner? Probably not, and I don’t think many agree with it, but would they just have abandoned all of their work for a new country simply because, despite their acclaimed brilliance, their knowledge had a limit to coming up with solutions? I suppose people could go back and forth with that though, in a parallel to the chicken-or-the-egg…

    But I guess nothing can prevent people from pretending to know the answers to difficult dilemmas that have since passed into history.

    I myself honestly don’t know an answer, and it would seem futile regardless, as I’m not sure if Jefferson suddenly decided to drop this silly declaration of independence thing because he was a hypocrite and owned slaves, that this country would be here as it is now.

    Then again, we’re not doing so well now, so perhaps this could be a call to arms for people to get their crystal balls out and have fun with the many worlds theory.

    I am thankful for Mr.Jefferson’s work though. Happy Birthday; contradictions & accomplishments all.

  • http://www.tfsternsrantings.blogspot.com T F Stern

    Thomas never have had my English teacher to instruct him on the use of run-on sentences. While I agree in point, he could have said the same thing with fewer words.

    Joseph Smith said the same thing, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” Articles of Faith

  • http://poppychop.net/ Nitroadict

    Well, as Tarantino said, great artists steal, they don’t do homages.

    Although I agree with the run-on sentences. However, I would’ve divvied the lines of text a bit (when posting), and put sentences at certain places for easier reading (with a polite note at the end regarding such edits).

  • oilnwater

    we’re talking about immortalized TJ owning slaves to someone whose delicate sensibilities were crushed about some newsletter with racist remarks. owning…slaves. owning….slaves… vs. newsletter. think about it. hey ultimately it’s whatever. it’s certainly mental gymnastics to gloss this over after lamenting a newsletter. quite 2-D.

  • http://poppychop.net/ Nitroadict

    Good job at assuming, I wasn’t immortalizing the owning of slaves at all, it’s simply a fact that that cannot be ignored, just like Jefferon’s participation in the creation of the country cannot be ignored. Try again.

  • http://poppychop.net/ Nitroadict


  • oilnwater

    there’s no need to ‘try again.’ it’s already point, set, match buddy.

  • http://poppychop.net/ Nitroadict

    I’m sure for morons, who like to ignore what people actually say, and put words in others mouth, are cheering with their coach after drinking their Gatorade. After all, it’s what plants crave. Perhaps this site isn’t a big enough stadium for you anymore?

  • oilnwater

    idk dickhead, but since you’re this hardup for me so far, i will at this time compare you to an obese drunk wastrel at a UFC match who really wants to get in the ring after watching a fight, but instead gets a couple incisors knocked out in the parking lot.

  • http://poppychop.net/ Nitroadict

    Well that was less than intelligent. Happy Trolling!

  • oilnwater

    yeah and why would you expect anything else after begging for a visceral fracas after:

    “First off, it’s entirely childish and 2-Dimenionsal to think that just because Jefferson owned slaves, it invalidates everything he accomplished.”

    if you want to think you can jump into an argument with names and derision, and not expect some of the same in return, it’s your delusion. i’m never deluded when i myself do the same thing. i expect it, and i don’t pretend to be shocked like a passive-aggressive faggot named Nitroadict. at any rate, you can fuck right off now, asshole.

  • http://poppychop.net/ Nitroadict

    I find it curious that you are personalizing my previous post so much, when it was really just an opinion.

    I had no delusions into thinking I could jump into an argument, say “blah blah blah”, and not expect someone to disagree with me, nor did I have an motivation or expectation for no one to reply to me, and essentially, making it seem I was correct, due to lack of objection or “the same in return”.

    I also didn’t tell you to “fuck off”, in response, either. Perhaps it is who you don’t like people giving you “the same in return”?

    No, I think I’ll stick around. I rather like the posts here, and the occasional productive conversations that pop up. This one excluded, of course.

  • http://poppychop.net/ Nitroadict

    it is you who don’t like…*

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    Let’s try to keep things civil here, kids.

  • oilnwater

    sorry, forum.

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis

    My, even after 2 1/2 centuries the Sage of Monticello continues to inspire controversy ;)