Author Topic: Thomas Jefferson  (Read 3277 times)

Offline zewazir

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Re: Thomas Jefferson
« Reply #15 on: December 17, 2014, 10:46:22 PM »
Sorry, I had just read the following from Tomas Jefferson (a founding father who I admire very much):

" Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence and deem them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched.  They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment." Letter to H. Tompkinson 1816.

And,

"I am certainly no advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions.  I think moderate imperfections had better be born with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them and find practical means of correcting their ill effects.  But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind.  And as that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manner and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times.  We might as well require a man to wear still the coat fitted to him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."  Letter to H. Tompkinson 1816

Could he be calling it a living document?
Nope.  Thomas Jefferson did believe that when flaws in the Constitution are discovered, or when changes in society cause difficulties with following the Constitution as written, then society needs to not be fearful of changing it as needed. For instance, Jefferson was a strong supporter of changing the Constitution away from the original design which put the second-place presidential candidate in the vice president's seat. He, himself, was one who suffered the difficulties of a vice president who did not support the policies of the president.

But the "living document" philosophy is nothing less than justification to change the meaning of the Constitution without bothering with the amendment process. IOW, "living document" is simply an excuse to ignore what it does say in favor of what they want it to say.  That is in direct opposition to the very intent of having a constitution at all. And Jefferson was very much in favor of making sure the government stayed within its boundaries, because he believed in keeping the federal government as weak as possible while allowing it to perform its basic duties.

There is a marked difference between advocating the willingness to amend the Constitution when the need arises, and advocating ignoring its strictures by redefining what they mean.

Offline Solar

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Re: Thomas Jefferson
« Reply #16 on: December 18, 2014, 06:00:18 AM »
Nope.  Thomas Jefferson did believe that when flaws in the Constitution are discovered, or when changes in society cause difficulties with following the Constitution as written, then society needs to not be fearful of changing it as needed. For instance, Jefferson was a strong supporter of changing the Constitution away from the original design which put the second-place presidential candidate in the vice president's seat. He, himself, was one who suffered the difficulties of a vice president who did not support the policies of the president.

But the "living document" philosophy is nothing less than justification to change the meaning of the Constitution without bothering with the amendment process. IOW, "living document" is simply an excuse to ignore what it does say in favor of what they want it to say.  That is in direct opposition to the very intent of having a constitution at all. And Jefferson was very much in favor of making sure the government stayed within its boundaries, because he believed in keeping the federal government as weak as possible while allowing it to perform its basic duties.

There is a marked difference between advocating the willingness to amend the Constitution when the need arises, and advocating ignoring its strictures by redefining what they mean.
Correct. To adhere to the belief that our Founding Documents are alive, is to submit the Bill of Rights for scrutiny.
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Offline AlfredDrake

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Re: Thomas Jefferson
« Reply #17 on: December 18, 2014, 06:08:16 AM »
Nope.  Thomas Jefferson did believe that when flaws in the Constitution are discovered, or when changes in society cause difficulties with following the Constitution as written, then society needs to not be fearful of changing it as needed. For instance, Jefferson was a strong supporter of changing the Constitution away from the original design which put the second-place presidential candidate in the vice president's seat. He, himself, was one who suffered the difficulties of a vice president who did not support the policies of the president.

But the "living document" philosophy is nothing less than justification to change the meaning of the Constitution without bothering with the amendment process. IOW, "living document" is simply an excuse to ignore what it does say in favor of what they want it to say.  That is in direct opposition to the very intent of having a constitution at all. And Jefferson was very much in favor of making sure the government stayed within its boundaries, because he believed in keeping the federal government as weak as possible while allowing it to perform its basic duties.

There is a marked difference between advocating the willingness to amend the Constitution when the need arises, and advocating ignoring its strictures by redefining what they mean.

Perhaps "living document" is too loaded with meaning which I didn't intend.  Is "flexible" better?

Offline walkstall

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Re: Thomas Jefferson
« Reply #18 on: December 18, 2014, 08:31:26 AM »
Perhaps "living document" is too loaded with meaning which I didn't intend.  Is "flexible" better?

Only by the amendment process.
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Offline AlfredDrake

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Re: Thomas Jefferson
« Reply #19 on: December 18, 2014, 10:09:28 AM »
Correct. To adhere to the belief that our Founding Documents are alive, is to submit the Bill of Rights for scrutiny.

" Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence and deem them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched.  They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment." Letter to H. Tompkinson 1816.

OK, I'm not advocating the repeal of the Bill of Rights.  But doesn't Jefferson imply here that everything should be subjected to scrutiny and not just accepted because it was written by wise men from a different age?  That's the way I read this.  Do you have a different take?

Offline Solar

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Re: Thomas Jefferson
« Reply #20 on: December 18, 2014, 11:29:11 AM »
" Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence and deem them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched.  They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment." Letter to H. Tompkinson 1816.

OK, I'm not advocating the repeal of the Bill of Rights.  But doesn't Jefferson imply here that everything should be subjected to scrutiny and not just accepted because it was written by wise men from a different age?  That's the way I read this.  Do you have a different take?
Post a link if you want a reply.
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Offline AlfredDrake

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Re: Thomas Jefferson
« Reply #21 on: December 18, 2014, 12:33:56 PM »
Post a link if you want a reply.

This link was already posted but the post has disappeared.  Anyway, here it is again:

http://www.thefederalistpapers.org/founders/thomas-jefferson-quotes




Offline Solar

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Re: Thomas Jefferson
« Reply #22 on: December 18, 2014, 12:48:12 PM »
" Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence and deem them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched.  They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment." Letter to H. Tompkinson 1816.

OK, I'm not advocating the repeal of the Bill of Rights.  But doesn't Jefferson imply here that everything should be subjected to scrutiny and not just accepted because it was written by wise men from a different age?  That's the way I read this.  Do you have a different take?
Maybe if you understood what he meant by history, you might have a better grasp of what Jefferson was referring to.

"Jefferson was also a strong advocate of Presidential term limits, and saw their lack as a serious weakness in the Constitution. However, most people saw the precedent which Washington set of a voluntary two-term limit as adequate; and Jefferson "concluded that amendment of the Constitution to correct this flaw would have to wait until 'inferior characters' succeeded Washington in that high office and 'awakened us to the danger which his [Washington's] merit has led us into." This finally did happen, a century and a half later."
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Online supsalemgr

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Re: Thomas Jefferson
« Reply #23 on: December 18, 2014, 01:18:39 PM »
Maybe if you understood what he meant by history, you might have a better grasp of what Jefferson was referring to.

"Jefferson was also a strong advocate of Presidential term limits, and saw their lack as a serious weakness in the Constitution. However, most people saw the precedent which Washington set of a voluntary two-term limit as adequate; and Jefferson "concluded that amendment of the Constitution to correct this flaw would have to wait until 'inferior characters' succeeded Washington in that high office and 'awakened us to the danger which his [Washington's] merit has led us into." This finally did happen, a century and a half later."

Jefferson was brilliant he had insight of 225+ years later that we would have liberals and Rino's.
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Offline Solar

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Re: Thomas Jefferson
« Reply #24 on: December 18, 2014, 01:37:42 PM »
Jefferson was brilliant he had insight of 225+ years later that we would have liberals and Rino's.
No doubt an amazing mind, one the Nation has not experienced since.
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Offline AlfredDrake

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Re: Thomas Jefferson
« Reply #25 on: December 18, 2014, 01:59:29 PM »
Maybe if you understood what he meant by history, you might have a better grasp of what Jefferson was referring to.

"Jefferson was also a strong advocate of Presidential term limits, and saw their lack as a serious weakness in the Constitution. However, most people saw the precedent which Washington set of a voluntary two-term limit as adequate; and Jefferson "concluded that amendment of the Constitution to correct this flaw would have to wait until 'inferior characters' succeeded Washington in that high office and 'awakened us to the danger which his [Washington's] merit has led us into." This finally did happen, a century and a half later."

Are you quoting someone here or are these your own words?  Are you implying that Jefferson was only referring to term limits when he wrote this?  If so, I'd like to know how you know he wasn't speaking in a general sense.

Offline Solar

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Re: Thomas Jefferson
« Reply #26 on: December 18, 2014, 02:43:53 PM »
Are you quoting someone here or are these your own words?  Are you implying that Jefferson was only referring to term limits when he wrote this?  If so, I'd like to know how you know he wasn't speaking in a general sense.
It''s pretty obvious what he was saying.

http://www.mcgath.com/consttht.html
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Offline AlfredDrake

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Re: Thomas Jefferson
« Reply #27 on: December 18, 2014, 03:46:10 PM »
It''s pretty obvious what he was saying.

http://www.mcgath.com/consttht.html

It looks like an interesting book.  It appears he was also in favor of an amendment to allow the US to purchase more land, but gave it up as impractical.  I'm still not convinced that the quote I gave wasn't meant to apply in general, since he was writing in 1816.  Here's the whole quote from the same link I gave you earlier.

"Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence and deem them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. I knew that age well; I belonged to it and labored with it. It deserved well of its country. It was very like the present but without the experience of the present; and forty years of experience in government is worth a century of book-reading; and this they would say themselves were they to rise from the dead."  – Letter to H. Tompkinson , 12 July 1816

This sounds to me like he's saying that times change and that experience gives insight into issues of an earlier time that could not be fully understood without 40 years of retrospection.  So while the writers of the constitution were wise, they could not foresee all eventualities. Therefore, one should not treat the document with too much reverence, but be willing to allow for changes as times change.  (Note that reverence is his word not mine.)

Offline Solar

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Re: Thomas Jefferson
« Reply #28 on: December 18, 2014, 04:23:57 PM »
It looks like an interesting book.  It appears he was also in favor of an amendment to allow the US to purchase more land, but gave it up as impractical.  I'm still not convinced that the quote I gave wasn't meant to apply in general, since he was writing in 1816.  Here's the whole quote from the same link I gave you earlier.

"Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence and deem them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. I knew that age well; I belonged to it and labored with it. It deserved well of its country. It was very like the present but without the experience of the present; and forty years of experience in government is worth a century of book-reading; and this they would say themselves were they to rise from the dead."  – Letter to H. Tompkinson , 12 July 1816

This sounds to me like he's saying that times change and that experience gives insight into issues of an earlier time that could not be fully understood without 40 years of retrospection.  So while the writers of the constitution were wise, they could not foresee all eventualities. Therefore, one should not treat the document with too much reverence, but be willing to allow for changes as times change.  (Note that reverence is his word not mine.)
It was the anti-federalists that didn't want an amendment process, but it was the States that refused to sign on unless there was an amendment process as well as a Bill guaranteeing basic human rights, hence the Bill of Rights.
Jefferson was a Federalists.

Whether the amendment process was a good idea or not is up for debate, especially considering the damage done to our Constitution over the centuries, such as voting rights re: land ownership and a vested interest as a taxpayer.

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Offline AlfredDrake

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Re: Thomas Jefferson
« Reply #29 on: December 18, 2014, 05:37:34 PM »
It was the anti-federalists that didn't want an amendment process, but it was the States that refused to sign on unless there was an amendment process as well as a Bill guaranteeing basic human rights, hence the Bill of Rights.
Jefferson was a Federalists.

Whether the amendment process was a good idea or not is up for debate, especially considering the damage done to our Constitution over the centuries, such as voting rights re: land ownership and a vested interest as a taxpayer.

I assume you meant to say that Jefferson was an anti-Federalist.


"You say that I have been dished up to you as an antifederalist, and ask me if it be just. My opinion was never worthy enough of notice to merit citing; but since you ask it I will tell it you. I am not a Federalist, because I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all. Therefore I protest to you I am not of the party of federalists. But I am much farther from that than of the Antifederalists."  – Letter to Francis Hopkinson 13 Mar 1789
http://www.thefederalistpapers.org/founders/thomas-jefferson-quotes

I particularly relate to the part about "thinking for myself".

 

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