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Tue Apr 4, 2017, 10:25 PM

What Was Jefferson REALLY Trying To Say?


There's an abbreviated (edited) version of this quote at the Jefferson Memorial in DC... here's the full quote:

"I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." - Jefferson to H. Tompkinson (AKA Samuel Kercheval), July 12, 1816

https://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/quotations-jefferson-memorial

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Reply What Was Jefferson REALLY Trying To Say? (Original post)
eniwetok Apr 2017 OP
Warpy Apr 2017 #1
eniwetok Apr 2017 #3
elleng Apr 2017 #2
eniwetok Apr 2017 #6
MedusaX Apr 2017 #4
eniwetok Apr 2017 #5

Response to eniwetok (Original post)

Tue Apr 4, 2017, 10:30 PM

1. I think he saw us becoming better educated and making individual and common progress

that would invariably lead to making better decisions about government down the line as long as we steered clear of reactionaries who wanted to stop progress entirely and radicals who wanted to give it too much of a hard push.

He didn't realize how slowly evolution happens and that we're the same dumb people muddling through our lives and that education could be killed off by a bunch of rich guys who didn't want any back talk dumbing it down year after year.

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Response to Warpy (Reply #1)

Tue Apr 4, 2017, 10:41 PM

3. It's consistent with the Declaration Of Independence....


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, 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, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.


Jefferson was in France when the Constitution was written... but by 1816 when he wrote that letter I wonder if he already suspected it was virtually reformproof.

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Response to eniwetok (Original post)

Tue Apr 4, 2017, 10:35 PM

2. 'institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times.

We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."'

NO 'originalism.'

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Response to elleng (Reply #2)

Wed Apr 5, 2017, 07:41 AM

6. Originalism isn't our problem....

Originalism like Textualism are doctrines the Right uses to justify their bastardization of the Constitution. For example Bork and Scalia wanted to find a way to limit social rights they didn't want the People to have... like same sex relationships and marriage. Clearly the federal government was given no power in this area and therefore these were individual rights maintained by the People... and protected by the Ninth. But the Ninth's phrasing was its weakness. It read

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.


instead of a more clear statement protecting rights from the Rights Of Man (French 1789)

4. Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law.

5. Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society. Nothing may be prevented which is not forbidden by law, and no one may be forced to do anything not provided for by law.


Bork and Scalia claimed we could not know what those unenumerated rights were (Bork's ink blot) and therefore we must assume government DOES have the power to limit those rights and instead of being seen as natural rights... they must be CREATED legislatively.

Dems have never really pushed back against this argument any more than they have against the Right's bastardization of the Second to negate the militia clause in Heller. So if we're to believe Heller then it seems Congress now DOES have the power to disarm state militias (National Guards) when the Second was created to PROTECT state militias. Several states REQUESTED such an amendment as a condition of ratification... including VA... where Madison signed on...

That each state respectively shall have the power to provide for organizing, arming and disciplining its own militia, whensoever Congress shall omit or neglect to provide for the same. That the militia shall not be subject to martial law, except when in actual service in time of war, invasion or rebellion, and when not in the actual service of the United States, shall be subject only to such fines, penalties and punishments as shall be directed or inflicted by the laws of its own state.

https://www.usconstitution.net/rat_va.html





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Response to eniwetok (Original post)

Tue Apr 4, 2017, 11:52 PM

4. Constitutional Law is the foundation upon which our society is built

And iits imperfections are actually a source of strength .... as they provide the flexiblity necessary to consistently support the society as it evolves over time.
The laws themselves should not be modified in response to changes in society.....
which is not to imply that the laws should remain rigid thereby restricting a society's ability to progress.

Rather, as society experiences change it will be necessary to adjust the understanding of how the existing laws should apply relative to the new circumstances.


IOW... don't change the rules... just figure out the best way to apply the rules to the new situation in order to achieve a just outcome.

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Response to MedusaX (Reply #4)

Wed Apr 5, 2017, 12:20 AM

5. I'm not sure I agree

"Constitutional Law is the foundation upon which our society is built... And iits imperfections are actually a source of strength .... as they provide the flexiblity necessary to consistently support the society as it evolves over time."

Here's where I think you've got Jefferson wrong... he seems to believe we can work around minor imperfections... presumably for some social stability BUT... even if those institutions are imperfect they MUST... (Jefferson uses this term TWICE) keep pace with the times. He never seems to say we must endure the imperfect for all time for the sake of social stability. And in this sense he's seems to hold the same opinion he did in 36 years before in the Declaration of Independence.

"I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."

From the DoI:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.


The question is whether we've all become more disposed to suffer under a system that seems incapable of producing morally legitimate government based on democratic principles.

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