What Thomas Jefferson Thought…

“…be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12: 2, KJV)

What and how a person thinks is all-important. What an individual produces is a direct result of what is going on in his or her mind, whether the result is audible, tangible, or eventful. Even a habit is a product of what we have already done based on something we have already thought (decided).

So perhaps you can see why the Apostle Paul would’ve issued the above instruction.

And which is why I marvel at a Thomas Jefferson, a man who was primarily an ideologist (Max Lerner, Thomas Jefferson : America’s Philosopher-King), being such a major player in our national beginnings. I marvel at a God who placed such a man in such a place at a time when ideas were THE most crucial element in the ongoing development and continued existence of this young nation. (You cannot tell me, not now, not ever, that God was not involved to the hilt in bringing forth this country, in sustaining it, and in being the Source of its liberty.)

Okay, before I launch into preaching mode, or get side-tracked again by current events…..back to Jefferson and his ideas. (And, uh…I probably will end up in preaching mode anyway…).

“It was not inevitable that upon liberation from English domination America should become a self-governing republic. (Edward Dumbauld, Introduction, Jefferson: His Political Writings). George Washington had similar concerns. In his ‘Advice to the United States’, written at the end of the Revolutionary War, then General Washington wrote, “…yet it appears to me there is an option still left to the United States of America…whether they will be respectable and prosperous, or contemptible and miserable as a nation; this is the time of their political probation…it is yet to be decided, whether the Revolution must ultimately be considered as a blessing or a curse.” (Harrison & Gilbert, George Washington : In His Own Words ) Now, today, it’s easy to automatically assume that, once the battles ended, once Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, the colonies were home free. Troubles over, right? But actually, a whole new series of potentially devastating troubles awaited, possible scenarios that needed to be skillfully avoided. An effective system of government needed to be developed.

While reading along these lines, I came across a list of types of government that have existed throughout the course of history. Thirty-eight, to be exact. (According to my list…) And some of ’em had sub-categories. Some I had never heard of, and a couple I wasn’t even sure how to pronounce! Others intrigued me – for instance, when I have time, I’d like to learn a bit more about ‘minarchism/night watchman’. How does a night watchman constitute a form of government? But I digress…

Americans were looking to establish the best and most perfect form of government possible. We still seek that today in that, though already established, the people and their government continue, daily, to operate within those forms and systems, yet adjusting, honing, and fine-tuning when so judged to be necessary. Far, far more than perhaps most Americans know, we owe these forms and systems to Thomas Jefferson and his ideas. The more I learn about him, the more I am stunned to my core as I see just how much we owe…

Though later in his life, Jefferson expressed in a letter his enduring belief that the equal rights and happiness of each individual are the only legitimate reasons for government. He believed that the main object of scientific study, as well, was the freedom and happiness of man. In contrast to these beliefs, while serving as the American ambassador to France earlier in his career, he saw in Europe a polar opposite, serving only to strengthen his convictions concerning rightful government. In a letter to George Washington, Jefferson wrote: “I was much an enemy to monarchies before I came to Europe. I am ten thousand times more so, since I have seen what they are.” (Edward Dumbauld, Thomas Jefferson : American Tourist ). Embedded in Jefferson was his passion for freedom, and seeing European ” governments of force” , “…nations of eternal war…energies expended in the destruction of the…lives of their people” served to ensure that such passion was embedded forever. (Dumbauld)

It would have been within the realm of possibility that another monarchy might arise. It was not guaranteed that a democratic form of government would develop. And even though a single governing body, rather than many separate entities, may have been formed, the resulting structure may not necessarily have been based on the will of the people. According to Edward Dumbauld, editor of The Political Writings of Thomas Jefferson, it is because of Jefferson’s influence that American today is not ” an autocratic or tyrannical national government”. It is because of Jefferson’s influence, in large part, that today, over two hundred years later, Americans still reap the blessings and the fruit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in a land where its government is, as the closing words of the Gettysburg Address resound, “of the people, by the people, for the people.”


Thank you for stopping by, and please return for my next post, in which I’ll hopefully continue to show how Thomas Jefferson’s thinking helped shape our system of government. And, since I never entered ‘preaching mode’ after all, maybe a bit of that, too…



2 responses to “What Thomas Jefferson Thought…

  1. Nice post! It goes to show how the period of the American Revolution and after was critical to how our form of government was set up. The Founding Fathers, like Thomas Jefferson, really set the foundation for the country in terms of our political heritage. I like how you pointed out that the young country could have developed other forms of government. A democratic form of government wasn’t guaranteed. I guess that’s something that we taken for granted today.

  2. Thanks, Rebecca…the more I look into this area, the more detailed and almost overwhelming it gets. How amazing that mere mortals could conceive of such intricate ins-and-outs, and make provisions for them all, for future generations as well. I continue to stand in awe…

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