Just how patriotic was Jefferson? 

Some old guy with combed back gray hair pontificating from government halls about how government can solve all of our problems?

Nope.

In fact, when Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence he was still in his early 30s and was anything but “the establishment.”

He was brash, some might have said irreverent, outspoken, and believed in a smaller, less meddlesome government that knew its place.

He put the rights of the individual above the rights of the state.

You might say his thinking was revolutionary (okay, we know that was just way too obvious, way too easy, and pretty unavoidable).

Though a visionary, Jefferson would have never envisioned a government that is the nation’s largest employer and that holds more secrets than the Vatican.

He thought it was imperative that government be closely scrutinized and even criticized.

Jefferson, arguably one of the world’s most prolific letter writers, wrote in a missive to George Washington, ”No government ought to be without censors, and where the press is free, no one ever will. If virtuous, it need not fear the fair operation of attack and defense. Nature has given to man no other means of sifting out the truth whether in religion, law or politics. I think it as honorable to the government neither to know nor notice its sycophants or censors, as it would be undignified and criminal to pamper the former and persecute the latter.”

When our generation decries the abuses of big government, protests the tax code or simply asks exactly what it is that makes someone a criminal or enemy of the state for exposing government surveillance of private citizens,  we are following in the finest traditions of the founding fathers.

Aren’t we?

Big government politicians may want to suggest that when we question government, criticize government or petition government for a redress of our grievances that we are somehow being unpatriotic or un-American, but in reality nothing could be patriotic or more truly American.

In fact, scrutinizing government is exactly what Jefferson said must be done to preserve the Republic.

By James Zachary

Transparency Project of Georgia

 

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