Smucker (2010) noted that Jefferson has been described as a man of extra ordinary wide-ranging interests and accomplishments. He identified three basic principles suggested by Jefferson as; the democratic process, the freedom of religion and finally public education. This paper will in discussing Thomas Jefferson seek to illustrate his principles and examine whether or not he was committed to them. In addition, the paper will also seeks to examine the picture of the government as constructed by Jefferson as well as presenting an argument on the critics that he was consistently inconsistent and whether this was good or bad.
According to Smucker (2010), the major principles promoted by Jefferson were those of democracy, religious freedom, and the need for public education. He noted Jefferson’s description of democracy as the consistent of those who are governed. Ellis (2009) observed that Jefferson lobbied for equal justice for all, independence of state governments, and respect for constitution, free and fair election, and majority. On his principle of religious freedom, Jefferson stressed on the need to promote the freedom of worship and the need to separate the religious laws from. Concerning his principle of the need for public education, Jefferson believed there is a great need for the leaders to ensure that knowledge is diffused to the people.
Whether Jefferson was committed to his Principles
Flanagan (2005) agrees that Jefferson was committed to his principles. According to him, Jefferson is still known by the majority of the Americans as the personality behind the writing of the declaration of independence. Ellis (2009) identifies another work that demonstrates Jefferson’s committed to his principles as the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 which was his way of responding to the Alien and Sedition Act. He strongly opposed this act because it gave the president the authority to deport any resident alien provided the person was considered by the president to be a threat to peace and safety of the Americans.
The act had also criminalized any kind of speech which was viewed as being capable of defaming the Congress. This act therefore limited both the democratic rights of the people as well as the public education; principles which Jefferson had stood for (Thomas & Sally, 2010). His commitment to his principles was also demonstrated when he offered to sell his own personal library to enable the government replace the materials burned by the British during the war that had occurred in 1812. This, he believed, promote public education. He also authored the Virginia’s Statute which was meant to promote religious freedom and he is the father of the University of Virginia. Jefferson also wanted slavery abolished. His work resulted into the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 which outlawed of slavery in the territories (Monticello Organization, 2012).
Jefferson’s Construct of the Government
Ellis (2009) noted that Jefferson underscores the need for a Government which governs less. He reported that Jefferson hade defined good government as that which is formed by the will of the people and exists to promote the same people’s happiness and prosperity. Jefferson also argued that a government should promote equality and ensure freedom all its citizens. To him, the administration of the Government should be based on liberty, honor, truth, and probity. Additionally, Jefferson claimed that any constitution guiding the functioning of the government should be based on such elements as morality, compassion, and generosity. He saw the need to hold ethics and religion as supplements of the law in the government. Jefferson also rooted for an arrangement that gives the state governments supremacy over the federal governments arguing that this is the best way of allowing the individual citizens of the states to enjoy their democratic rights through separation of powers.
The Accusation of being Consistently Inconsistent
With the various reasons raised to justify the accusations against Jefferson as being consistently inconsistent, I agree that this was bad of someone of his status. Such reasons have clearly demonstrated clear tests of Jefferson’s commitments to his principles. A good example is his support for the freedom of press which was put into test in 1802. This was when James Callender publically reported that Jefferersson had taken one of the slaves and kept her as his concubine. He was then tempted to limit the freedom of the press, an action which met great objection Smucker (2010). Jefferson also claimed in his draft resolutions that the states governments were supreme to the federal government and that they had the right to nullify federal laws and acts that were perceived to be against the provisions of the constitution.
Jefferson was also accused of not being committed to his principle of democracy. His accusers produced evidences showing that he encouraged his supporters such as James Monroe to counter the Federalists publicly by writing negative articles about them (Thomas and Sally, 2010). Finally, his actions during the time of his presidency also contradicted his principle of the need for religious freedom. It is reported that he was an extreme non-believer who openly practiced atheism. In addition, he was one once heard stating in his speech that no law shall be made to respect the establishment of free of religion (The Charter of Freedom, 2010).
Even though some of the contributions of Thomas Jefferson are still controversial, it is widely accepted that he is still very significant in the world’s history. Considered in totality, Jefferson realized great accomplishments. Of special contribution is his various writings and conception of democracy which have since remained inspirational not only in America but also in the rest of the world.