I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough… the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.
To Inform Their Discretion
Topic: Justice, Vision, & Leadership
“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of 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 education.”
Thomas Jefferson, born on April 13, 1743, in Shadwell, Colony of Virginia, British America, emerged as a significant figure in the early political landscape of the United States. His intellectual pursuits and commitment to the Enlightenment ideals of democracy, republicanism, and individual rights significantly influenced the nation's trajectory towards independence from Great Britain. As the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson articulated a vision of individual freedoms and egalitarian principles that aimed to serve as the bedrock of the new republic. His political career further evolved as he took on the role of the second vice president of the United States under John Adams from 1797 to 1801, marking his deepening involvement in the nation's governance.
Ascending to the presidency in 1801, Jefferson's tenure as the third president of the United States till 1809 was marked by efforts to establish a government of restraint, aimed at safeguarding the liberties enshrined in the founding documents. During his presidency, the Louisiana Purchase was accomplished, significantly expanding the nation's territory. Yet, his presidency also saw controversies, including the Embargo Act which proved unpopular. Jefferson's philosophical underpinnings, deeply influenced by Epicurean, Stoic and Enlightenment thought, often informed his political decisions and the articulation of a vision for the republic that prioritized individual liberty and a restrained government.
Passing away on July 4, 1826, in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., at the age of 83, Jefferson's legacy continues to be a subject of discussion and analysis. His resting place at Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia, serves as a reminder of his contributions to the formative stages of the United States. Jefferson's life reflects a complex interplay of intellectual vigor, political acumen, and a deep-seated belief in certain philosophical principles. His writings, particularly the Declaration of Independence, continue to serve as fundamental texts underscoring the values upon which the nation was founded, and his presidency marked significant events in the early history of the United States. His influence endures, shaping discussions on individual rights, government's role, and the philosophical underpinnings of the nation's core beliefs.
Letter to William Charles Jarvis
Wilson, Andrew, editor. World Scripture II. Universal Peace Federation, 2011, p. 1056 [Thomas Jefferson, Letter to William Charles Jarvis, Sept. 28, 1820].
Theme: A Vision of America
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