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On This Independence Day, Pragmatic Words from Thomas Jefferson, A Solidarity Democrat [View All]

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berni_mccoy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-04-10 01:58 PM
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On This Independence Day, Pragmatic Words from Thomas Jefferson, A Solidarity Democrat
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I thought on this 4th of July, we might want to reflect on one of the founding father's, Thomas Jefferson's, thoughts on Compromise and Solidarity. As grantcart recently defined:

Solidarity Democrats

Solidarity Democrats feel that history has shown that real change comes when coalitions are built and some degree of party discipline facilitates passing actual legislation. Solidarity Democrats are more willing to make calculations to get 80% of a good bill than to wait and get a much better bill. They strongly support the President because he leads the party but also because in many ways he shares their opinion and approach. Solidarity Democrats have strong principles but feel that interim victories bring us closer to those principles, and are not a sell out. Solidarity Democrats strongest argument is based on the fact that the Senate requires not a super majority but a super-super majority where Senators from the 20 smallest states (and only 20% of the population) can effect a veto on all legislation. Solidarity Democrats therefore are not against compromises, as distasteful as they are, that split the harmony of the Republican Caucus. One big step today can be added on to make a big leap over time.


So, without further adieu, words of one of the first Democrats himself (more at: http://etext.virginia.edu/jefferson/quotations/jeff0750... ) ...


Accepting Differences of Opinion

"We know too well the texture of the human mind, and the slipperiness of human reason, to consider differences of opinion otherwise than differences of form or feature. Integrity of views more than their soundness, is the basis of esteem." --Thomas Jefferson to Elbridge Gerry, 1799. ME 10:85

"I see too many proofs of the imperfection of human reason to entertain wonder or intolerance at any difference of opinion on any subject, and acquiesce in that difference as easily as on a difference of feature or form, experience having long taught me the reasonableness of mutual sacrifices of opinion among those who are to act together for any common object, and the expediency of doing what good we can when we cannot do all we would wish." --Thomas Jefferson to John Randolph, 1803. ME 10:436

"Differing on a particular question from those whom I knew to be of the same political principles with myself, and with whom I generally thought and acted, a consciousness of the fallibility of the human mind and of my own in particular, with a respect for the accumulated judgment of my friends, has induced me to suspect erroneous impressions in myself, to suppose my own opinion wrong, and to act with them on theirs. The want of this spirit of compromise, or of self-distrust, proudly but falsely called independence, is what gives some opponents victories which they could never obtain if these brethren could learn to respect the opinions of their friends more than of their enemies, and prevents many able and honest men from doing all the good they otherwise might do. These considerations... have often quieted my own conscience in voting and acting on the judgment of others against my own... All honest and prudent men should sacrifice a little of self-confidence, and... go with their friends, although they may sometimes think they are going wrong." --Thomas Jefferson to William Duane, 1811. ME 13:50


The Need to Compromise

"A government held together by the bands of reason only, requires much compromise of opinion." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Livingston, 1824. ME 16:25

"On no question can a perfect unanimity be hoped." --Thomas Jefferson: Reply to Inhabitants of Boston, 1808. ME 16:315

"Things even salutary should not be crammed down the throats of dissenting brethren, especially when they may be put into a form to be willingly swallowed." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Livingston, 1824. ME 16:25

"I respect the right of free opinion too much to urge an uneasy pressure of my own opinion on others. Time and advancing science will ripen us all in its course and reconcile all to wholesome and necessary changes." --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1824. FE 10:320

"I see the necessity of sacrificing our opinions sometimes to the opinions of others for the sake of harmony." --Thomas Jefferson to Francis Eppes, 1790. FE 5:194

"It is for the happiness of those united in society to harmonize as much as possible in matters which they must of necessity transact together." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.VIII, 1782. ME 2:120

"People can never agree without some sacrifices." --Thomas Jefferson to Lafayette, 1789. ME 7:334, Papers 15:98

"A great deal of indulgence is necessary to strengthen habits of harmony and fraternity." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Livingston, 1824. ME 16:25

"I will sacrifice everything but principle to procure harmony." --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Adams, 1801. ME 10:251

"Every man cannot have his way in all things. If his opinion prevails at some times, he should acquiesce on seeing that of others preponderate at other times. Without this mutual disposition we are disjointed individuals, but not a society." --Thomas Jefferson to John Dickinson, 1801. FE 8:76

"In general, I think it necessary to give as well as take in a government like ours." --Thomas Jefferson to George Mason, 1790. ME 8:36

"He alone who walks strict and upright, and who, in matters of opinion, will be contented that others should be as free as himself and acquiesce when his opinion is freely overruled, will attain his object in the end." --Thomas Jefferson to Gideon Granger, 1804. ME 11:25


Maintaining Union

"Without union of action and effort in all its parts... no nation can be happy or safe." --Thomas Jefferson to James Sullivan, 1807. ME 11:236

"Union of opinion... gives to a nation the blessing of harmony and the benefit of all its strength." --Thomas Jefferson: 2nd Inaugural, 1805. ME 3:383

"To the principles of union I sacrifice all minor differences of opinion. These, like differences of face, are a law of our nature and should be viewed with the same tolerance." --Thomas Jefferson to William Duane, 1811. ME 13:67

"If to rid ourselves of the present rule of Massachusetts and Connecticut, we break the Union, will the evil stop there? Suppose the New England States alone cut off, will our natures be changed? Are we not men still to the south of that, and with all the passions of men. Immediately we shall see a Pennsylvania and a Virginia party arise in the residuary confederacy, and the public mind will be distracted with the same party spirit. What a game, too, will the one party have in their hands by eternally threatening the other that unless they do so and so, they will join their Northern neighbors. If we reduce our Union to Virginia and North Carolina, immediately the conflict will be established between the representatives of these two States, and they will end by breaking into their simple units. Seeing, therefore, that an association of men who will not quarrel with one another is a thing which never yet existed, from the greatest confederacy of nations down to a town meeting or a vestry, seeing that we must have somebody to quarrel with, I had rather keep our New England associates for that purpose than to see our bickerings transferred to others... A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolved, and the people recovering their true sight, restoring their government to its true principles." --Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor, 1798. ME 10:45

"It might have been made the interest of the western States to remain united with us, by managing their interests honestly and for their own good. But the moment we sacrifice their interests to our own, they will see it better to govern themselves." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1786. ME 6:10

"A reasonable disposition,... sensible that advantages are not all to be on one side, yielding what is just and liberal, is the more certain of obtaining liberality and justice." --Thomas Jefferson to Robert Walsh, 1818. ME 15:176
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