What would Jefferson say on this July Fourth?

Consider the following thought experiment as we approach the Fourth of July.  What would Thomas Jefferson say about conditions in America today? 

His eloquence cannot be matched, of course, but one may speculate about his views.  Perhaps he would agree with the following words:

When citizens in a constitutional republic confront threats to their freedoms, duty requires them to enumerate the evils plaguing the land and to restore the blessings of liberty for themselves and their posterity.

Habits of deference nurtured by the passage of time induce caution in reassessing institutions whose leaders are entrusted with the sacred obligation to safeguard and perpetuate our democratic way of life.

But a half century of contempt for the moral foundations of our constitution and the rule of law compels a renewed examination of public and private institutions to prevent further aggressions by officials who are accountable only to themselves.

Accordingly, we hearken to our founders who created a Republic based on self-evident truths, stating that all persons are created equal and “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” that governments are instituted to protect, “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Traducers of these principles have consigned them to historical irrelevance, ignoring that their views also may be dismissed on the same grounds.  But while critics perish, the principles they disdain endure through the ages, granting to all generations justification to restore limits on governmental powers and to check schemes of other institutions determined to destroy our freedoms.

These considerations bring us to our present exposition, for which a clarification of terms is in order.  Names change and circumstances vary, but categories of the political order remain the same.

Hence, “we,” “us,” and, “our” refer to citizens of the United States of America.

“You” are heirs of King George III, and you command hordes of vassals swayed by the casuistry of scribblers and driven by the furies of mobs.

Let the following charges be submitted to the judgments of rational persons:

You have perpetrated lies about our country to generate despair among Americans and prepare us for servitude to your commands.

You have exhumed racism from its Confederate graves to wield as a weapon against millions of Americans with whom you disagree.

You have expunged “the better angels of our nature” and empowered charlatans to corrupt the minds of our youth and render them ignorant and subservient to your will.

You have perpetrated hoaxes against American citizens and officeholders, relegating our democracy to an object of contempt at home and abroad.

You have bestowed a veneer of rectitude on the drivel of America’s death-wish demagogues who exempt themselves from the miseries they plan to inflict on others.

You have arrogated yourself to God-like status by presuming that the order of nature can be cancelled by the stroke of a pen.

You have spun fables of Armageddon to appease fanatics whose claims are debunked by the infallible tests of human experience.

You have divided citizens by race, sex, customs, and beliefs and provoked animosities among us while granting rewards to those who have gained your favor and inflicting punishments upon those who have incurred your wrath.

You have sacrificed generations of Americans to the maw of Moloch.

You have corrupted our language with a witch’s brew of perfidies and absurdities under the rubric of wokeness and other petty tyrannies.

You have waged war against the freedom to express ourselves without fear of incurring retributions fatal to our lives, livelihoods, and dignity.

You have conjured fantasies about those with whom you disagree and attributed to others the malice of your own thoughts, words, and deeds.

You have plundered responsible citizens to pay off profligates who control governments that violate the public trust.

You have waged war against women, treated minorities with contempt, and coddled terrorists in our land.

You have usurped authority from our States and local governments by issuing decrees that take our lands, confiscate our property, and throttle our energies.

You have corrupted our judicial institutions by subordinating our laws and our constitution to the whims of judges, the vengeance of lackeys, and the passions of the times.

You have mocked our faiths and threatened our freedom of religion.

You have demolished our monuments, obliterated our history, and perpetrated falsehoods conjured by those who hate America and plot its destruction.

You have rendered aid and comfort to our adversaries by bowing to dictators, enriching their coffers, and placating their allies.

You have colluded with our country’s enemies, foreign and domestic, to destroy American jobs and reduce citizens to a condition of degradation and dependence.

You have endeavored to disarm citizens to render them helpless against the depredations of thugs inflamed by slogans that incite odium and calumny.

You have destroyed America’s self-sufficiency by forbidding the use of our natural resources and rendering us subservient to the machinations of foreign autocrats.

You have accepted financial bribery from adversaries abroad, corrupting our officeholders and debasing our system of justice.

You have exploited the tragedy of a pandemic to rescind Americans’ civil liberties and civil rights.

You have vilified the guardians of our society and celebrated criminals who ravage our cities.

You have broken laws that secure our borders and permitted the invasion of aliens who endanger our citizens and claim the fruits of our toils.

You shrug when cities far from your homes burn to the ground but burst with theatrical indignation when disorder touches your doorstep.

For too long in a spirit of good will and forbearance have citizens granted tacit consent to those entrusted with their welfare, only to be betrayed by officials whose decisions degenerated from transient errors in judgment to complicit madness by design.

This madness launched a sorcerer’s trove of defamations spewed by your willing executioners, who either do not grasp the evils lurking behind your slogans, which is inexcusable, or do understand the wickedness of your schemes, which is depraved.

Either way, our duties are clear:

We reaffirm our status as a free and independent people whose consent is the foundation of government and the sole justification for its existence.

We pledge allegiance only to governments that honor our consent and remain committed to the moral principles underlying our constitutional order.

We declare our sovereignty to repel functionaries who are dispatched from a distant capitol on the fringe of a vast continent to dictate the details of our lives and treat citizens as conquered subjects.

Sober minds acknowledge that countering a half century of Intolerable Acts requires commensurate efforts to rebuild and defend the last bastion of freedom in the world.

Thus, we embrace the resolve of our founders, who pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to support America’s Declaration of Independence from Tyranny.  Nothing less than this commitment is incumbent on us in these times.

Kurt Voss is a retired Political Science professor who taught courses on American politics and totalitarianism.  He can be reached at KurtVoss@protonmail.com.

Image: New York Public Library, via Picryl / public domain

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