Friday, September 17, 2010

Thomas Jefferson on the Constitution

Wilton Strickland, writing for the Liberty Defense League (quoted in DumpDC), writes some observations on my favorite Founding Father writing about my favorite document. I thought it would be appropriate to share this on Constitution Day.

Thomas Jefferson was in France at the time the Constitution was being ratified. He technically could be called a Federalist to the extent that he favored ratification, in contrast with his fellow Virginians George Mason and Patrick Henry. However, he always stressed that the Constitution provided opportunities for the growth of federal power, which the people must be vigilant to prevent.

Mr. Strickland excerpts some of Mr. Jefferson's writings on the Constitution and the growth of federal government in Jefferson's lifetime. I encourage you to read the article. Here are two quotations I found particularly appropriate:

First, Mr. Jefferson calling for vigilance, and observing that secession might be the only way to preserve the liberties of the people:

[T]he States should be watchful to note every material usurpation on their rights; to denounce them as they occur in the most peremptory terms; to protest against them as wrongs to which our present submission shall be considered, not as acknowledgments or precedents of right, but as a temporary yielding to a lesser evil, until their accumulation shall overweigh that of separation. [Emphasis added]
And on the correct way to interpret the Constitution:

On every question of construction, carry ourselves back to the time when the [C]onstitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.
Let us pray that his observations still have some value, since the Constitution is appearing more and more to be a dead letter to the federal government. If the federal government has in fact rendered the Constitution meaningless, it has broken its compact with the states; which is, as Thomas Jefferson wrote, a sufficient reason for a state to call for secession.

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