Thomas Jefferson’s ideals and beliefs were derived from a deep regard for life, liberty, and freedom. His concept of individual freedoms strongly disagreed with the notion of a “guided republic” which he believed concentrated a great deal unchecked power among a few people. This could have the potential of a tyrannical government that might suppress personal freedoms of any kind especially those of religion, which Jefferson feels very strongly felt should be protected. After fighting hard to rid America of British domination, Jefferson was determined to create a government that was responsible for and derived its powers from, a free people.
As the writer of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Jefferson is thought by many to be the founder of the Democratic Party. He was foremost among the influential men who believed that laws should be made by those who are to obey them. Thomas Jefferson pushed hard to create a government that would serve and protect all its constituents. A “guided republic” is a form of government where an essentially omnipotent council determines the legislation passed by the legislative body. Though the legislative and executive branches may be elected by the people, their supervising power is not and therefore has the ability to rule in any way they please.
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The council can, and often do, refuse the rights to freedom of press, speech, and religion. They may prevent bills that attempt to revive these powers and, in the same sense, may prohibit people from speaking about ideas that oppose those of the council. This governing group does not hesitate to use violent force to protect its power. At its worst, a “guided republic” is a tyrannical form of government, whose people are denied basic rights to life.
The people in a “guided republic” are not the constituents but the subjects of their government. Thomas Jefferson believed that all Americans should have the “freedom of language and sentiment…as derived from the laws of nature”. In his most famous document, the Declaration of Independence, he stated: “that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain [inherent and] inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.
Jefferson was a strong advocate of a bill of rights within the Constitution. In a letter to James Madison, he says that he “did not like…the omission of a bill of rights providing…for freedom of religion [and for] freedom of the press”.
Jefferson was in favour of religious freedom because it did him “no injury for [his] neighbour to say there are twenty gods or no god”. Jefferson wrote the Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom which essentially stated: “that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion”. He summarizes his feelings in letters to both Elbridge Gerry and Edward Carrington, where he writes that he is “against all violations of the constitution” because “the basis of our governments should be the opinion of the people, [and] the very first object should be to keep that right”. Jefferson wanted a separation of powers within the government in order to prevent one person or group from having a tyrannical hold over the nation.
He believed that “concentrating these [powers] in the same hands [was] precisely the definition of a despotic government”. He knew that a singular governing force had the potential of becoming oppressive over the people because he had witnessed it when every basic colonial right “was…violated by subsequent [British] kings and parliaments”. Against the dogma of a “guided republic”, Jefferson thought “that each branch should be independent of the others…to protect itself from enterprises of force attempted on the by the others” Thomas Jefferson would fervently disagree with the notion of a “guided republic” for a number of reasons.
His strongest underlying sentiment was that “every society must at all times possess within itself the sovereign powers of legislation” or a “legislature to whom [the people] may have delegated sovereign authority” , an idea vehemently opposed by a guiding council. Jefferson did not think that the people should be governed under “a very energetic government [because] it is always oppressive” .
He, instead, believed in a weaker leader who “may offer, but not impose himself” as stated in his Notes on the State of Virginia. In Jefferson’s mind, a “guided republic” was no better than the rule of the British monarchy. His faith in the new American system led him to the conclusion that “the limited powers of the federal government…afford a security which exists in no other instance” , whereas a limit on the power of the government in a supervised democracy does not exist. Thomas Jefferson stood for every right, freedom and practice that a supervised democracy opposed.
Jefferson believed that the American way was the right way. He had faith in the system, which he helped to create, and stood by it until the day he died. The prosperity of Americans under the freedoms that were allowed for by the Constitution of the United States cemented his immense respect for the new republic. Thomas Jefferson was a man of principles who felt strongly about what he believed in. In the final letter of his life, to Roger C. Weightman, he showed immense pride in the fact “that our fellow citizens, after half a century of experience and prosperity, continue to approve the choice we made”. Because of Thomas Jefferson, “the form [of government]…restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man”.
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