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Jefferson, Thomas (1743–1826) and his revolutionary idea

Stacy Warner Maddern


The revolution considered by Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) was one that sought to encourage rebellion against government as a virtuous right of the people. “The spirit of resistance to government,” Jefferson wrote, “is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all.” While Jefferson was aware that rebellion would often lead to bloodshed and the loss of life, he was willing to accept it as a sacrifice for the preservation of liberty. “The tree of liberty,” he wrote, “must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” The United States, according to Jefferson, was not removed from revolution beyond its own achievement of independence from England. In fact, it would be even more in need of revolutionary thought in order to maintain such status. Jefferson held that all future generations in the United States should not be bound by any current constitution framed by their elders, in his case the original framers for which he played a part. Instead, Jefferson suggested: “Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force and not of right.” On this point Jefferson determines that the existence of law and order be properly defined by that generation which for the most part ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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