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July 5, 2010
Citizens or Subjects?
Not since Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died--both on July 4, 1826--have we had such a stunning development. It took days, sometimes weeks, for Americans then to learn that the two great Signers of the Declaration of Independence had died on the same day--exactly fifty years after that document brought forth a new nation.
Now, we have the discovery of Thomas Jefferson's changing a single word in his draft. Through hyperspectral imaging, the Library of Congress announces that we can clearly discern the word "subjects" expunged by Jefferson's own hand. In its place, he wrote the word "citizens"
The media is all abuzz. Is it a mistake? A goof? A Freudian slip before Freud was born? What is the meaning of all this? Is it simply a Fourth of July coincidence?
No. It is the Great Emendation. It is Jefferson's mentally moving himself and all of us from subjects to citizens. We can see in his own handwriting the progress of his thought and the forming of a new identity for Americans.
Dr. Fenella France of the Library of Congress' Preservation, Research, and Testing Division says she felt a "spine-tingling moment when I was processing data late at night and realized there was a word underneath ‘citizens.'" Compare this spine-tingling with the tingling sensation that went up and down Chris Matthews' leg. Can anyone recall a single line of the Obama speech that thrilled Matthews so?
Could there be a more important time for this message from Jefferson? It is providential. This Year of Decision for the American people all comes down to this: Shall we be subjects or citizens?
ObamaCare does not simply change our health care delivery system; it changes our relationship to the government. Unless ObamaCare is repealed, we will become subjects once again. We will no longer be citizens. Unless this unconstitutional act is repealed, the government will no longer derive its just powers from our consent. Instead, our continued enjoyment of life and liberty, our very pursuit of happiness will depend from this year forward on government's consent.
More than this: The advancing tsunami of debt will engulf us and our posterity. We will no longer be able to make decisions through our elected representatives on taxing and spending. Those decisions will be locked in for us by a profligate Congress and a heedless administration. Discretionary spending--that portion of the federal budget not already committed and commanded by law--will shrink and disappear. Not even hyperspectral imaging will be able to find it.
Jefferson dreaded debt-his own and the country's. He believed passionately that the "dead hand" of the past had no right to rule the lives of future generations.
Thomas Jefferson was never able to enter the Promised Land of freedom for all. Unlike Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and John Adams, he never disentangled himself from slavery. Like Moses, he pointed the way but perished along the path.
Still, Jefferson's words inspired Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. "The principles of Jefferson are the definitions and axioms of free society," said Lincoln. He claimed he never had a political idea that did not come from Jefferson's Declaration of Independence.
We live in perilous times. We can reaffirm what our Founding Fathers taught us and recur to their basic principles, or we can mouth the mindless inanities of "Yes we can" and turn our backs on all that has made America exceptional.
The principles of Thomas Jefferson inspired a slaveholding people to advance into freedom for all. The principles of Barack Obama will lead a free people into bondage.
That is the choice before us this year: Citizens or Subjects?