THOMAS JEFFERSON AND I are both from Charlottesville, so that would make us natural allies -- or perhaps rivals. I really admire the guy, though I think that if we had ever argued about anything for long, I am not sure a discussion would have ever broken out.
Thomas Jefferson had the chutzpa to make up his own version of the Gospels -- excising the miraculous. Once, in a Barnes & Nobles bookstore, I looked through a copy of the rumored work -- a bowdlerized version of Jesus' life and teachings. Hey, but that's ol' Thom. Religiously, Jefferson was a precursor to the most modern of religions: "I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know."
Like the most interesting among us, Jefferson was a tangle of contradictions. So, I present to you, in the interest of free speech, Jefferson with no comments but his own, for the thoughtful among you to meditate upon in the light of modern times.
I own that I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive.
That government is best which governs the least.
The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.
When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.
Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.
Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.
The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.
Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.
The republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at . . . war with the rights of mankind.
Though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail . . . to be rightful . . . the minority [must] possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.
A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51 percent of the people may take away the rights of the other 49.
Nothing is unchangeable but the inherent and unalienable rights of man.
Errors of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.
To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.
It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.
On Religion and Religious Liberty
Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.
I never will, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others.
Some Jeffersonian Prophecies
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.
If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.
If God is just, I tremble for my country.
Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have.
Gary D. Gaddy really was born in Charlottesville, which may shortly be known as the birthplace of Gary D. Gaddy.
A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday May 28, 2009.
Copyright 2009 Gary D. Gaddy