Thomas Jefferson Speaks to YOU,
About the Current Financial Crises and the Federal Bail-Out Plan
The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object.
I, however, place economy among the first and most important republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared.
Our country is now taking so steady a course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit: by consolidation of power first, and then corruption, its necessary consequence.
We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debt, as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our calling and our creeds... [we will] have no time to think, no means of calling our miss-managers to account but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers... And this is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for [ another]... till the bulk of society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery... And the fore-horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.
If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their money, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them , will deprive the people of their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.
The art and mystery of banks... is established on the principle that 'private debts are a public blessing.' That the evidences of those private debts, called bank notes, become active capital, and aliment the whole commerce, manufactures, and agriculture of the United States. Here are a set of people, for instance, who have bestowed on us the great blessing of running in our debt about two hundred millions of dollars, without our knowing who they are, where they are, or what property they have to pay this debt when called on; nay, who have made us so sensible of the blessings of letting them run in our debt, that we have exempted them by law from the repayment of these debts beyond a give proportion (generally estimated at one-third). And to fill up the measure of blessing, instead of paying, they receive an interest on what they owe from those to whom they owe; for all the notes, or evidences of what they owe, which we see in circulation, have been lent to somebody on an interest which is levied again on us through the medium of commerce. And they are so ready still to deal out their liberalities to us, that they are now willing to let themselves run in our debt ninety millions more, on our paying them the same premium of six or eight per cent interest, and on the same legal exemption from the repayment of more than thirty millions of the debt, when it shall be called for.
As the doctrine is that a public debt is a public blessing, so [the chickens of the treasury] think a perpetual one is a perpetual blessing, and therefore wish to make it so large that we can never pay it off.
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' (10th Amendment). To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specifically
drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field
of power, no longer susceptible to any definition. The incorporation of a bank, and the powers
assumed by this bill (chartering the first Bank of the
The system of banking [I] have... ever reprobated. I contemplate it as a blot left in all our [State] Constitutions, which, if not covered, will end in their destruction, which is already hit by the gamblers in corruption, and is sweeping away … the fortunes and morals of our citizens."
"The banks... have the regulation of the safety-valves of our fortunes, and... condense and explode them at their will.
[The] Bank of the
Experience demands that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor.
The system of banking [is] a blot left in all our Constitutions, which, if not covered, will end in their destruction.. Already they have raised up a moneyed aristocracy that has set the Government at defiance. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people to whom it properly belongs.
....I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies, and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity ... is but swindling futurity on a large scale.
Instead of funding issues of paper on the hypothecation of specific redeeming taxes, we are trusting to tricks of jugglers on the cards, to the illusions of banking schemes for the resources of the war, and for the cure of colic to inflations of more wind.
The monopoly of a single bank is certainly an evil. The multiplication of them was intended to cure it; but it multiplied an influence of the same character with the first, and completed the supplanting the precious metals by a paper circulation.
Everything predicted by the enemies of banks, in the beginning, is now coming to pass. We are to be ruined now by the deluge of bank paper. It is cruel that such revolutions in private fortunes should be at the mercy of avaricious adventurers, who, instead of employing their capital, if any they have, in manufactures, commerce, and other useful pursuits, make it an instrument to burden all the interchanges of property with their swindling profits, profits which are the price of no useful industry of theirs.
Certainly no nation ever before abandoned to the avarice and jugglings of private individuals to regulate according to their own interests, the quantum of circulating medium for the nation -- to inflate, by deluges of paper, the nominal prices of property, and then to buy up that property [cheaply], having first withdrawn the floating medium which might endanger a competition in purchase. Yet this is what has been done, and will be done, unless stayed by the protecting hand of the legislature. The evil has been produced by the error of their sanction of this ruinous machinery of banks; and justice, wisdom, duty, all require that they should interpose and arrest it before the schemes of plunder and spoilation desolate the country."
"It is said that our paper is as good as silver, because we may have silver for it at the bank where it issues. This is not true. One, two, or three persons might have it; but a general application would soon exhaust their vaults, and leave a ruinous proportion of their paper in its intrinsic worthless form.
Private fortunes are destroyed by public as well as by private extravagance. And this is the tendency of all human governments.
It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes.
Never spend your money before you have earned it.
In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.
A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.
To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.
Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of the day; but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period, and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers (administrators) too plainly proves a deliberate, systematic plan of reducing us to slavery.
Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms [of government] those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.
It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others
The government that governs best is that which governs least, because its people discipline (regulate) themselves.
The suppression of unnecessary offices, of useless establishments and expenses enabled us to discontinue internal taxes. These covering our land with officers and opening our doors to their intrusions, had already begun that process of domiciliary vexation which, once entered, is scarcely to be restrained from reaching successively every article of produce and property
If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them, they must become happy.
It is neither wealth nor splendor; but tranquility and occupation which give you happiness.
Yes, we did produce a near-perfect republic. But will they keep it? Or will they, in the enjoyment of plenty, lose the memory of freedom? Material abundance without character is the path of destruction.
History, in general, only informs us what bad government is.
My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.
In questions of power, then, let no more be said of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.
The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first.
The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite.
“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be... if we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed”
Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
One man with courage is a majority.
The true theory of our Constitution is surely the wisest and best, that the States are independent as to everything within themselves, and united as to everything respecting foreign affairs. Let the General Government be reduced to foreign concerns only, and let our affairs be disentangled from those of all other nations, except as to commerce, which the merchants will manage the better, the more they are left free to manage for themselves, and our General Government may be reduced to a very simple organization, and a very inexpensive one; a few plain duties to be performed by a few servants.
The concentrating [of powers]
in the same hands is precisely the definition of despotic government. It will be no alleviation that these powers will be
exercised by a plurality of hands, and not by a single one.
To lay taxes to provide for the general welfare of the
Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.
am for a government rigorously frugal
and simple. Were we directed from
The [republic] will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.
Leave no authority existing not responsible to the people.
Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.
It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.
The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
When the government fears the people there is liberty; when the people fear the government there is tyranny.
Fear can only prevail when victims are ignorant of the facts.
Every generation needs a new revolution.
God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty
What country before ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.
The mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.
Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law,' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.
And, finally, that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself; that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.
It is left, therefore, to the juries, if they think the permanent judges are under any bias whatever in any cause, to take on themselves to judge the law as well as the fact. They never exercise this power but when they suspect partiality in the judges, and by the exercise of this power they have been the firmest bulwarks of English liberty.
I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet devised by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.
I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.
On every question of construction [of the Constitution] let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or intended against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.
I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion.
By a declaration of rights, I mean one which shall stipulate freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of commerce against monopolies, trial by juries in all cases, no suspensions of the habeas corpus, no standing armies. These are fetters against doing evil which no honest government should decline.
I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.
Bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.
The privilege of giving or withholding moneys is an important barrier against the undue exertion of prerogative which if left altogether without control may be exercised to our great oppression; and all history shows how efficacious its intercession for redress of grievances and reestablishment of rights, and how improvident would be the surrender of so powerful a mediator.
Laws provide against injury from others, but not from ourselves.
No free man shall ever be de-barred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain their right to keep and bear arms is as a last resort to protect themselves against tyranny in government.
Revenue on the consumption of foreign articles is paid cheerfully by those who can afford to add foreign luxuries to domestic comforts... These contributions enable us to support the current expenses of the government, to fulfil contracts with foreign nations, to extinguish the native right of soil within our limits, to extend those limits, and to apply such a surplus to our public debts, as places at a short day their final redemption. And that redemption once effected, the revenue thereby liberated may, by a just repartition among the states and a corresponding amendment of the Constitution, be applied in time of peace to rivers, canals, roads, arts, manufactures, education, and other great objects within each state.
The collection of taxes... has been as yet only by duties on consumption. As these fall principally on the rich, it is a general desire to make them contribute the whole money we want, if possible. And we have a hope that they will furnish enough for the expenses of government and the interest of our whole public debt, foreign and domestic.
The rich alone use imported articles, and on these alone the whole taxes of the General Government are levied. ... Our revenues liberated by the discharge of the public debt, and its surplus applied to canals, roads, schools, etc., the farmer will see his government supported, his children educated, and the face of his country made a paradise by the contributions of the rich alone, without his being called on to spend a cent from his earnings.
The great mass of the articles on which impost is paid is foreign luxuries, purchased by those only who are rich enough to afford themselves the use of them. Their patriotism would certainly prefer its continuance and application to the great purposes of the public education, roads, rivers, canals, and such other objects of public improvement as it may be thought proper to add to the constitutional enumeration of federal powers.
We are all the more reconciled to the tax on importations, because it falls exclusively on the rich, and with the equal partition of intestate's estates, constitutes the best agrarian law. In fact, the poor man in this country who uses nothing but what is made within his own farm or family, or within the United States, pays not a farthing of tax to the General Government, but on his salt; and should we go into that manufacture as we ought to do, he will pay not one cent.
The expenses of [the elementary] schools should be borne by the inhabitants of the county, every one in proportion to his general tax-rate. This would throw on wealth the education of the poor.
Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.
It is not only vain, but wicked, in a legislature to frame laws in opposition to the laws of nature, and to arm them with the terrors of death. This is truly creating crimes in order to punish them.
The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest.
The several states composing the United States of America are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government; but by a compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States, and of amendments thereto, they constituted a general government for special purposes [and] delegated to that government certain definite powers and when-so-ever the general government assumes un-delegated powers, its acts are un-authoritative, void, and of no force. To this compact each state acceded as a state, and is an integral party, its co-states forming, as to itself, the other party. The government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself, since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution the measure of its powers.
The general [federal] government will tend to monarchy, which will fortify itself from day to day, instead of working its own cures.
The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.
Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites.
If the present Congress errs in too much talking, how can it be otherwise in a body to which the people send one hundred and fifty lawyers, whose trade it is to question everything, yield nothing, and talk by the hour?
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