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Thursday
August 13th, 2020
L&T Opinions Page

thomas jeffersonThomas Jefferson, Third President of the United States of America

 

EDITOR’S NOTE — The following is an excerpt of Thomas Jefferson’s inaugural speech in 1801. It has been written in contemporary use of the English language.

There are some in the world who will not understand our free exchange of opinions and ideas and will seek to only allow one train of thought or another, not understanding that we are free to write and to speak what we think.

We will, of course, unite under the will of law and the common good.

While the majority will always prevail, the majority’s will must always be reasonable, and the minority will always possess their equal rights protected by the law. To violate the principle of the minority would be oppression.

We can then unite with one heart and one mind with harmony and affection in the belief of liberty. Without it, only dread exists.

Much like we banished religious intolerance under which mankind bled and suffered, we have to treat political intolerance as equally despotic and wicked and just as capable of bloody persecution.

Throughout history, man has also been sent to slaughter for the want of political liberty by others who sought to divide opinions, claiming some to be dangerous and others acceptable.

We know that every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We are brothers in this call of liberty even if we align ourselves with by different political names. We are all Republicans and we are all Federalists.

Anyone who seeks to dissolve the Union or change its republican form of government, let them stand alone where reason has a chance to combat that view.

Some believe that a government with its power residing in the people would be too weak and unworthy of the noble experiment, and they would abandon this government which has thus far kept us free in favor of another form which would be more focused on its own preservation than in the liberty of its own people.

I reject that notion.

I believe this to be the strongest government on earth.

I believe that every man would be prepared to sacrifice to protect this form of government and would meet any invasion of public order as his own personal concern.

Some also believe man cannot be trusted to govern himself. I would say if he could not govern himself, how can he be trusted to govern others? Have we found angels in the form of kings and dictators to govern man instead? We will let history answer that question.

And now as I take the office of the presidency in an effort to accomplish what is dear and valuable to you, it is necessary that I should explain to you what I believe is the essential purpose of government and the expectation I will have for those who serve in this Administration.

They will be given the narrowest compass and work within the limitations of the Constitution.

No matter a person’s religious or political views, justice will be extended to all.

We will seek to maintain peace and trade with all nations, but we will maintain our neutrality among them.

We will support state governments as the most competent at handling the concerns within our borders and the best guardians against efforts to undermine our republic.

The federal government, under the guidance of the Constitution, will be the cornerstone for peace at home and safety abroad.

We will protect the right of elections by the people as the best means to correct the abuses that were dismantled in the Revolution as the most peaceful form that will allow us to avoid the sword.

While majority will always rule, it is vital in a republic that this is not to be ruled by force which is the beginning of despotism, nor should the views and rights of the minority be ignored.

To keep the peace and protect against the first waves of war we will support the right of the people to bear arms until an army can be raised, and that the government does not maintain standing armies as to usurp this precious power of the people with whom the ultimate power and protection of the home and community resides.

We will be thrifty with government expense so that the workers in our nation are not overly burdened, and we will be diligent in paying off our national debts.

We will encourage and promote our nation’s agriculture and the subsequent markets and commerce created by it.

We will keep the public informed of our actions.

The bright constellation which guides our steps are the principles of freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedoms provided for fair and speedy trials by impartial juries. These were attained through the wisdom of our sages and the blood of our heroes. They should be the creed of our political faith and taught in every school for every generation.

We should never wander from these principles either in a misunderstanding of our freedoms or in times of panic.

If ever a moment shall arise, the remedy is to retrace our steps to find our way back to the path of our republic, and that path alone will lead us to peace, liberty and safety.

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