Founding Fathers Blog

Jefferson Had “The Wolf by the Ears”

July 19th, 2010

I over heard a comment the other day by someone denigrating the Founding Fathers as just being a bunch of rich, white slaveowners. As I reflected on this unsympathetic comment, I was struck by how misunderstood Thomas Jefferson and his stand on slavery is by the current generation.

In our current politically correct environment, I believe it’s difficult for any of us Americans, hyphenated or not, to understand Jefferson’s predicament.

Jefferson’s feelings regarding slavery are well documented, if misunderstood. Included in his first draft of The Declaration of Independence is a strong chastisement against King George III for bringing slavery to the colonies. Jefferson blamed slavery on the King of England.

This section dealing with slavery was removed from the final draft in order to allow the slave states to accede to its ratification.

Jefferson also wrote about slavery in his book “Notes on Virginia.” He concluded his statement of feelings with the following words: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

In his later years, six years before his death he decried his situation as a slave holder. His words seem strangely prophetic: “We have the wolf by the ears: and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.”

Some slaves were granted their freedom while Jefferson was alive with disastrous results. Withoug adequate education and preparation a slave’s freedom often resulted in reliance on alcohol, homeless conditions and even suicide.

It would take a war between the States to put an end to the life of this wolf. To Jefferson’s credit he at least tried to cage this wolf during his lifetime.

“What is a Wise and Frugal Government, Thomas Jefferson?”

April 15th, 2010

On this tax day, April 15, 2010, I think it is interesting to note what our Third U.S. President said in his inaugural speech, in 1801.

“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.”

Then after two years in office, Jefferson spoke of his achievements: “At home, fellow citizens, you best know whether we have done well or ill. The suppression of unnecessary offices, of useless establishments and expenses, enabled us to discontinue our internal taxes . . . . The remaining revenue, on the consumption of foreign articles, is paid cheerfully by those who can afford to add foreign luxuries to domestic comforts . . . . It may be the pleasure and pride of an American to ask, what farmer, what mechanic, what laborer ever sees a tax-gatherer of the United States?”

The American people approved his policies:  “Internal taxes were reduced; the military budget was cut; the Alien and Sedition Acts were permitted to lapse; and plans were made to extinguish the public debt. Simplicity and frugality became the hallmarks of Jefferson’s administration. The Lousiana Purchase (1803) capped his achievements. . . . The Purchase was received with popular enthusiasm. In the election of 1804, Jefferson swept every state except two–Connecticut and Delaware. . . . The following year, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which the president had dispatched to explore the Louisiana Territory, returned triumphantly after crossing the continent.” (As quoted in Founding Fathers–Uncommon Heroes, Allen, Steven W., page 167.)

Were the Founding Fathers Christian?

April 5th, 2010

Thinking about Easter today, I was contemplating on some of the pictures people have today about the Founding Fathers. Some people hold to the teachings they now receive in school that the Founding Fathers were not Christians. That they were either unbelievers, athiests, or Deists. Such people should read some of their own words. Words of the Founders of this Nation. Here are just a select few.

George Washington was a Christian, attending services as often as he could. He was a vestryman and a Church warden, and supported the Church with generous financial offerings. He often acknowledged the protection by hand of Providence in his life. He was often seen in prayer, especially at Valley Forge. He said: “I was in hopes (that the present age) would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination (to add to) the peace of society.”

And he forcefully stated in his Farewell Address: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensible supports.”

“I too have made a wee little book . . . which I call ‘The Philosophy of Jesus.’ . . . It is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists, who call me infidel, and themselves Christians . . . .”   and

“The genuine and simple religion of Jesus will one day be restored; such as it was preached and practised by Himself.” and

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights     . . .”   –Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson’s friend, and erstwhile antagonist, John Adams, wrote a letter on his 2nd night in the White House, which included these words now engraved on a mantle in the house: “I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house, and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.”

“I wish I could leave you my most cherished possession, my faith in Jesus Christ. For with Him you have everything and without Him you have nothing.” and

“It cannot be emphasized to strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists but by  Christians, not on religion but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” –Patrick Henry.

Benjamin Franklin created what he called his Plan for Arriving at Moral Perfection. His plan listed 13 character traits he planned to work on throughout his life, until he reached perfection. His thirteenth character trait was called “Humility: Imitate Jesus. . .” He also wrote for himself an interesting epitaph showing his belief in the Resurrection and the real meaning of Easter:  “The body of B. Franklin, printer (like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out and stripped of lettering and gilding), lies here food for worms. But the work shall not be lost; for it will (as he believed) appear once more in a new and more elegant edition, revised and corrected by the Author.”

Benjamin Franklin recommends “Air Baths” to Avoid the Flu

March 16th, 2010

Benjamin Franklin had a habit of engaging in a daily “air bath.” He regarded this as a novel method to avoid cold, flu, and even smallpox. He wrote in 1768: “I have found it . . . agreeable to my constitution to bathe in another element. I mean cold air.”

Ben would arise every morning, and sit in his chamber without any clothes on whatever. He would throw open the room’s windows, even in cold weather, and enjoy the fresh air for a half hour or even an hour, depending on the season. During this time he would either read or write.

“This practice,” he said, “is not in the lease painful, but on the contrary, agreeable.” He considered it one reason he seldom suffered from colds or influenza.

Ben frequently recommended this practice to other people, but his advice seemed to fall on deaf ears. It was one of the reasons, though, that others, such as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson would seldom travel with or share a room with Doctor Franklin.

Thomas Jefferson: The Law Gave Him a View of the “Dark Side.”

March 11th, 2010

Peter Jefferson left this dying declaration regarding his son, Tom: “. . . Tom should receive a thorough classical education.” And Peter died when Tom was only 14, but he left him sufficient funds for such an education.  And then some.

At age 16, Tom dedided he should apply for entrance into the College of William and Mary at Williamsburg, Virginia. Just a few weeks before his 17th birthday he received the results of his entrance examinations. His outstanding results allowed Tom to be admitted into an advanced class in the school of philosophy. Tom would reside in Williamsburg for the next 7 years.

Tom had earlier struck up a friendship with Patrick Henry. It was probably Patrick’s enthusiastic boast that he had been admitted to the bar after studying for only 5 weeks, that convinced Tom to study law. Tom’s mentor became the well established lawyer, George Wythe. George later became the first law professor at the new law school at the College of William and Mary, and in 1776 was a signer of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.

In a day when most law students studied law for a year, or less, as in the case of Patrick Henry, Tom studied diligently for five years before asking to be examined. Shortly before his 24th birthday, Tom was examined for admission to the bar. He was found to be superbly prepared. He became very successful at his craft, to the surprise of some of his more seasoned collegues at the bar.

To an inquiry about Tom’s performance as a courtroom lawyer, one gentleman replied: “It is hard to tell because he always took the right side.”

Tom learned there were drawbacks to the practice of law. He was able to collect only about one-third of the fees which he earned. He soon began to require at least partial payments in advance for his legal representation.

Although he loved the law, lawsuits over land and property rights must have become tiresome to Jefferson’s brilliant mind. He said: “I was bred to the law, and that gave me a view to the dark side of humanity. Then I read poetry to qualify it with a gaze upon its bright side.”

His poetry presents itself in his most masterful document, The Declaration of Independence.

« Previous Page
Powered by WordPress Design by allmp3links