Happy Birthday, Mr. Jefferson
267 years ago today, Thomas Jefferson was born in Shadwell, Virginia, just a hop, skip and a jump from his more famous home built later in his life, Monticello. Long has been the debate over identifying the greatest founder – and it certainly is a debatable topic. As a twice-over graduate of Mr. Jefferson’s University – The University of Virginia – I am almost duty bound to advocate on his behalf. But in truth, the greatness of the founding generation was found in their willingness to stand together against tyranny to build a nation committed to liberty.
One thing is certain – if Mr. Jefferson were alive today, he would no doubt approve greatly of the great American spirit that remains alive and well, while simultaneously fearing that Americans have so allowed government to dominate their lives as risking extinguishment of that flame. Mr. Jefferson wrote famously regarding the fight over creation of a national bank:
I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground: That “all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the people.” To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition.
As we work to stop the explosive growth of government and the corrosion of our deeply held American values, we must remember what the founders sacrificed and risked to give this gift to us. We furthermore must remember, and not run away from, the righteousness of our cause. Again, as Mr. Jefferson wrote:
I know my own principles to be pure and therefore am not ashamed of them. On the contrary, I wish them known and therefore willingly express them to everyone. They are the same I have acted on from the year 1775 to this day, and are the same, I am sure, with those of the great body of the American people. (letter to Samuel Smith, 1798)
Happy Birthday, Mr. Jefferson.