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A reminder of America's history

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Posted: Tuesday, July 21, 2009 10:00 pm

On the 50-year anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the two major architects of the birth of a great nation, both presidents of the United States, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died - July 4, 1826.

Abraham Lincoln wrote of Jefferson, who authored our Declaration of Independence, "All honor to Jefferson - to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times."

That abstract truth was "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

In the 1790s Jefferson challenged Hamilton's expansive views of federal power, warning against a mounting federal debt, a growing patronage machine and what he considered dangerous monarchical pretensions. (Sounds like our government today.)

He presided over the first peaceful transition of power in modern history, assuring those he had defeated that they too had rights that the majority was bound to respect. (Attention, Nancy Pelosi.)

His first Inaugural Address reminded his fellow citizens that their happiness and prosperity rested upon a "wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, 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."

Jean Yarbrough, professor of government at Bowdoin College and editor of "The Essential Jefferson," writes, "Jefferson believed that if the people wanted to alter their frame of government, they should do so by constitutional amendment and not by allowing their representatives to construe the powers of government broadly."

She concludes, "In this day and age, when the federal government seems to intrude on every aspect of our daily lives, and people feel powerless over matters of most interest to them, can we doubt that Jefferson was right?"

Phyllis Roche


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