Jeffersonian

2003-04-06

A week or two ago, former (and perhaps future) presidential candidate Gary Hart started a weblog. One of the early comments was as follows:

I was a very low-level volunteer for you in NYC in '84, though I fear that my views have evolved in ways that make supporting a Democrat fairly implausible. (Please prove me wrong. Let there be someone from your side with fiscal and military sense, who addresses real social problems with something other than my checkbook, and whose "liberal" social views involving getting the government out of the morality business. In short, let's see a Libertarian Democrat.)

Amen. Those in the Democratic Party like to say that they're the "party of Jefferson", but unfortunately I see precious little evidence of Jeffersonian principles in their policies. Sure, there is a small group named the Democratic Freedom Caucus, which claims to be the last hope for the Democratic Party. Heck, they even call themselves progressive libertarians. But all too many members and leaders of the Democratic Party would find many of the following words deeply foreign:

About to enter, fellow-citizens, on the exercise of duties which comprehend everything dear and valuable to you, it is proper you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our Government, and consequently those which ought to shape its Administration. I will compress them within the narrowest compass they will bear, stating the general principle, but not all its limitations. Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none; the support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against anti republican tendencies; the preservation of the General Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad; a jealous care of the right of election by the people--a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided; absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism; a well disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace and for the first moments of war, till regulars may relieve them; the supremacy of the civil over the military authority; economy in the public expense, that labor may be lightly burthened; the honest payment of our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith; encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid; the diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.

Now that is true Jeffersonianism. We have now indeed wandered far from this touchstone of American political principles -- so far that it will take a long time to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.

Where have you gone, Thomas Jefferson? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you...


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal