On February 17, 1801, Thomas Jefferson is elected the third president of the United States. The election constitutes the first peaceful transfer of power from one political party to another in the United States. I coined the phrase ‘Whole Declaration’ to celebrate the legacy of the third US President.
DECLARATION FOR FREEDOM FROM TYRANNY AND UNJUST RULE:
The Declaration of Independence is the most important of all American historical documents. It is one of the great political documents of the West. The Declaration was drafted at the Second Continental Congress while the delegates of the thirteen colonies convened in Philadelphia had decided to proclaim freedom from British rule and wanted to make a formal pronouncement of their rights as people to form a government by choice. The Declaration affirmed the natural rights of man and the doctrine of government by contract. The Declaration gives a detailed enumeration of specific grievances and injustices and contended that the colonies had the right and duty to revolt.
DECLARATION OF NATURAL RIGHTS AND THE RIGHT TO REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT:
Jefferson rarely made speeches, disliked oral disputes, and he preferred pen as the natural means of his expression. He wrote a political pamphlet, “A Summary View of the Rights of British America” (1774), arguing on the basis of natural-rights theory, he claimed: “The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time: The hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.” It was the fact of his commitment to the principles of the Declaration and not the mere fact of literary authorship that makes Jefferson a unique symbol of Independence. Jefferson was clearly inspired by John Locke(1632 – 1704), English philosopher and founder of British School of thought known as ‘Empiricism’. Locke was a leading philosopher of freedom and in his political theory , he maintained that the original state of nature is happy and is characterized by reason and tolerance; all human beings are equal, and free to pursue “life, health, liberty, and possessions.” The state formed by the Social Contract is guided by the natural law which guarantees those natural inalienable rights.
DECLARATION OF FIRM RELIANCE UPON DIVINE PROVIDENCE:
While Jefferson drew upon the English and French Enlightenment as sources for his ideas, and used language to structure his argument to closely parallel the natural rights theories of Locke, he made a great exception. Jefferson substituted the “pursuit of happiness” for “possessions” in the trinity of inalienable natural rights. In this one key aspect, Jefferson used ‘Natural Law’ instead of natural rights theory. Jefferson showed acute awareness of the problem of corruption caused by concentration of wealth, and property in the hands of a few individuals. He emphasized public duty rather than personal choice. He thought that happiness is attainable only by diligent cultivation of civic virtue. The Declaration reads: “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…… And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honour.” Jefferson suggested that man’s pursuit of Happiness and other rights demands a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence. If man finds satisfaction under the protection of Divine Providence, he would not claim the right to disproportionate wealth, income, possessions, and property.
DECLARATION OF FREEDOM FROM UNEMPLOYMENT:
Jefferson had correctly predicted that the Rulers would become corrupt and abuse their power, and the people “will forget themselves, but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights.” Jefferson stated that a representative government would operate successfully only under certain conditions: 1. a wide distribution of property or the availability of a substitute that provided men with decent subsistence honestly earned, 2. an educated and informed population, and 3. laws and institutions designed to compensate for the diminution of public virtue that was sure to come when the crises of the revolution were over. While he was the Secretary of State( from September 1789), Jefferson came to distrust the proposals and the motives of the Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton. Jefferson thought Hamilton’s financial programs were both unwise and unconstitutional and felt that the financial policy was flowing “from principles adverse to liberty.” He had openly expressed his disagreement in opposing Hamilton’s policies for they exceeded the powers delegated to the Federal Government by the Constitution, they were contrary to the interests of the majority of the people, and that they represent a threat to public institutions. Eventually, Jefferson resigned on December 31, 1793 for he was dissatisfied with issues like the bill incorporating a “Bank of the United States.” Jefferson’s plan for comprehensive reform of the laws and institutions of Virginia included an effort to secure abolition of the laws in order to discourage concentration of property in the hands of a few great landowners. He believed that property was among the natural rights to which man was born and that it meant the right to a decent means of subsistence. “Whenever there is in any country, uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labor and live on.” Jefferson held that a representative government cannot flourish in conditions of extreme poverty or complete economic dependence. Jefferson as the US President reduced internal taxes, the military budget was cut, and made plans to extinguish the public debt. Simplicity, and frugality became the hallmarks of Jefferson’s administration.
DECLARATION OF INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM:
Jefferson authored the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom which had initially faced very stiff opposition. The Statute constituted a complete break with the traditional relationship between Church and State. Freedom of Mind and Freedom of Conscience to let people form their own opinions without favor or fear is a great accomplishment of his life. Jefferson’s bill on religious liberty reads: “that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions on matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.” The Bill got passed in 1786 by James Madison and Jefferson thanked him and sent him a letter which reads: “The reason of man may be trusted with the formation of his own opinions.”
DECLARATION OF FREEDOM FROM IGNORANCE:
Jefferson’s comprehensive plan for a representative government had included a plan for the educational system. Ignorant people could not make rational, and responsible decisions about public affairs. Education provides an opportunity to the development of talents and capabilities suited for public office. However, he had cautioned that educational opportunity must not be identified with economic privileges. I want to know as to what our students and educators think about the extreme concentration of wealth in the hands of a few people in this country.
DECLARATION OF FREEDOM FROM VANITY:
Jefferson died on July 04, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of the Declaration of Independence. He had directed us to remember only three achievements in his public life that symbolize his quest for true human freedom. Unfortunately his predictions about people who govern and people who get governed have come true.
DECLARATION OF FREEDOM FROM INEQUALITY:
This should not come as a big surprise to read about gross inequalities in the distribution of wealth within the United States. The suspicions of Thomas Jefferson have come true. The rulers have become corrupt, and the people are only concerned about increasing their personal wealth. Education is not a tool for informed public opinion, and it simply serves the greed to satisfy the desire for economic privilege. There are no laws and there are no institutions to compensate for the diminution of public virtue. The government no longer represents an institution created by social contract. The government is following financial policies that eroded the liberty, freedom, and equality of the people. The clearest evidence for the loss of Freedom is the phenomenal increase of national and private indebtedness and the dependence upon foreign capital to run the daily operations of the government. Freedom is at peril in the United States and I am afraid that ‘The Declaration of Independence’ would be a mere historical document worthy of its being exhibited in a museum.
Rudra Narasimham. Rebbapragada,
Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.,