The French Group
The change which came over political thought in America in consequence adequately revealed in the writings of two men, quite dissimilar in antecedents and training, but alike in fundamental purpose Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson. Both were speculative thinkers, profoundly in sympathy with French revolutionary ideals: but the former was detached from local patriotisms and national interests, a delegate at large in the cause of human rights, concerned with spreading the gospel of freedom in all lands; the latter remained wholly American, and while a keenly interested spectator of the French upheaval, he was primarily concerned to discover principles that would apply to native conditions and further the cause of American democracy. Paine therefore became the popular disseminator of the philosophy of republicanism, and Jefferson, the practical statesman embodying it in political programs. Warm friends, their influence became closely interwoven during the years when agrarian democracy was gathering its strength to strike down the rule of Federalism.
No more striking figure emerges from the times than the figure of the Thetford Quaker. English in birth and rearing, in middle life Paine came to embody the republican spirit of the American revolution; and that spirit he made it his after business to carry overseas and spread among the discontented of all lands. He was the first modernn internationalist, at home wherever rights were to be won or wrongs- corrected. "My country is the world,"he asserted proudly, "to do good, my religion." Throughout his later life he was a fearless skirmisher on the outposts of democracy -another "Free born John" Lilburne, seeking to complete the great work begun and thwarted in an earlier century; and his is career remains a stirring record of a time when revolution threatened to sweep away the power and privilege of all kings and aristocracies. Naturally his- zeal cost him dear in reputation. The passions- of all who feared the loss of sinecures gathered about his head,and he became the victim of an odium theologicum et politicum, without parallel in our history. The Tories hunted him in packs, and their execration and vituperation outran all decency. In London clubs it became the fashion for gentlemen to wear TP nails in their boot-heels to witness how they trampled on his base principles. He was proscribed and banished, and his books burnt by the hangman. He was regarded as worse than a common felon and outlaw, because more dangerous. In America gentlemen echoed the common detestation-to be a Paine-hater was a badge of respectability. "The filthy Tom Paine," John Adams called him, and the phrase stuck like a burr to his reputation. But "reason, like time," as Paine remarked "will make its own way,"and the years are bringing a larger measure of Justice to him.
Like Hamilton, Paine was an alien, but endowed with a heritage quite unlike that of the brilliant boy from the West Indies. When he landed in Philadelphia in the second week in December, 1774, he was in his thirty-seventh year, and had seemingly made ship- wreck of his life.1 He had been schooled in misfortune and was marked as a social inefficient. A broken staymaker and tobacconist, he had twice been removed from the office of petty exciseman for what today would be called unionizing activity. He had separated from his wife, and his mean and petty environment seemed to offer no hope of a decent living. One stroke of good fortune had come to him, when as a delegate from his union on some business with Parliament, he made the acquaintance of Franklin, who was taken with "those wonderful eyes of his," and advised America as a likely place for getting on. So provided with little more than Franklin's letter of introduction, lie set sail for new worlds, cherishing theun militantt plan of setting up in Philadelphia a seminary of polite learning for young ladies. But the times proved unpropitious for such a venture. He found himself in a world hesitating fearfully on the brink of revolution, the electric atmosphere of which he found strangely congenial. He at once threw himself wholeheartedly the colonial dispute quickly seized the main points, mastered the arguments, and thirteen months after his arrival published Common Sense, a pamphlet that was to spread his name and fame throughout America.
The amazing influence of Common Sense on a public opinion long befogged by legal quibble flowed from its direct and skillful appeal to material interests. For the first time in a tedious, inconsequential debate, it was openly asserted that governmental policies rest on economic foundations; that the question of American independence was only a question of expediency, and must be determined in the light of economic advantage. Government is no more than a utility, and that policy which was most likely to secure freedom and security "with the least expense and greatest benefit," must be preferred. The point at issue before the American people, therefore, was whether a more useful arrangement would result from continuing the old connection with England, or from setting up for themselves; and it must be decided, not in the court room or council chambers, but in the countinghouse and market place, in the field and shop, wherever plain Americans were making a living. Let the common people consult their own needs, and determine the case without regard to legal or constitutional precedents. It was a simple matter to be judged in the light of common sense and their particular interests.
To further clear thinking on this fundamental matter Paine commented on the economic consequences to America of the English connection. Throughout colonial history, he asserted with some disregard to fact, dependence had resulted in disadvantage to America; England had systematically exploited the colonies and hampered development. Whatever prosperity had been won heretofore, had been won in spite of English hostility and interference; the peculiar economic position of the colonies had proved their best reliance in the past, and would prove still more advantageous in the future, if America were free from jealous, paternal restrictions. What reason was there to expect generous treatment from a power that had never shown generosity in past dealings? How skillful was the appeal to colonial self-interest is revealed in such passages as these:
But Paine well knew that self-interest may be so clouded by prejudice as not to see the way its nose is pointing. Though the colonial talked of his grievances, he remained colonial in psychology, held in unconscious subjection to English traditions. He was in the clutch of outworn loyalties-loyalty to the crown and loyalty to the British constitution; and to this difficult problem Paine addressed himself with great skill. To a republican, as Paine seems to have been from his landing in America, the odium whichGeorge IIII bad incurred was a heaven-sent opportunity.
But Paine well knew that self-interest may be so clouded by prejudice as not to see the way its nose is pointing. Though the colonial talked of his grievances, he remained colonial in psychology, held in unconscious subjection to English traditions. He was in the clutch of outworn loyalties-loyalty to the crown and loyalty to the British constitution; and to this difficult problem Paine ad dressed himself with great skill. To a republican, as Paine seems to have been from his landing in America, the odium which George III bad incurred was a heaven-sent opportunity.
In order to strike at the monarchical principle, it was only necessary to point out that the folly of the King was the best commentary upon the foolishness of hereditary monarchy. The boldness and audacity of Paine's attack on the king-principle must have added greatly to the popularity of Common Sense along the frontier. It was the first clear, far-carrying appeal for republicanism addressed to American ears. How successful it was, how ruthlessly it stripped away the divinity that doth hedge a king, laying bare the stupidity of the king-cult, is suggested by the remarkable change in the de towards monarchy brought American attitude that a few months brought about. After the appearance of Common Sense, middle and lower class Americans shed their colonial loyalties like a last year's garment, and thenceforth they regarded thepretensionss of kings as little better than flummery. King George's disgraced exciseman had his revenge; be had thrust his royal master out of the colonial affection and destroyed the monarchical principle in America.
A more difficult task remained, that of instituting "an inquiry into the constitutional errors of the English form of government," in order to prove what gains would result if America took herself out of the English system. Here Paine faced, single-handed, a solid phalanx of lawyers. He was the first pamphleteer to question the excellence of a constitution that was proclaimed by American Tories as the wonder of the world and the envy of other nations. In the acrimonious disputes between 1765 and 1775, this was the single point on which all professed to agree. A vast deal of laudation had been uttered; innumerable legal pamphlets had been written; and no colonial had the temerity to question the adequacy of the British constitution to colonial needs. And now came this republican, with penetrating comment on its origin and working, to disturb the common complacency by pointing out how ill fitted it was to answer the needs of America. It was a telling attack, made with skill and shrewd insight; and it had a great part in arousing a bitter antagonism to the English system in the minds of the American yeomanry.
Paine was not a constitutional historian, but he had a keen eye for realities. The fundamental fallacy of the English system, he asserted, lay in the so-called "mixt aristocracy," which was presumed to gather the wisdom of the realm in council with the king, but which was no more than a convenient arrangement for dividing the spoils of feudal barons against the king. It presumed to speak for the common people, but the rights of the people were thus recognized only to be thwarted by the old tyrannies. The "Republican materials, in the persons of the Commons, on whose virtue depends the freedom of England," were held in check by the "remains of aristocratical tyranny in the person of the Peers," and further restrained by the "remains of Monarchical tyranny in the person of the King." From the play of these elements arose the system of checks and balances which placed control in the hands of landed property. It was based on the assumption that "the King is not to be trusted without being looked after," and that "the Commons, by being appointed for that purpose, are either wiser or more worthy of confidence than the Crown." But in spite of the supposed balance "the provision is unequal to the task," for the Crown, as the dispenser of places and pensions, is more than a match for Commons in the game of politics.
The will of the king is as much the law of the land in Britain as in France, with this difference, that instead of proceeding directly from his mouth, it is handed to the people under the formidable shape of an act of parliament. For the fate of Charles the First hath only made kings more subtle-not more just.
This was but the beginning of a long assault on the British constitution which was to engage him much in after life. Common Sense was a pronouncement of the new philosophy of republicanism that was taking firm hold of the American mind, and which the French Revolution was to spread so widely. It was a notable contribution, of which Paine to the end of his life was justly proud.
As he came to America almost casualty, with no conscious revolutionary intent, so in the critical year 1787 he returned to Europe with the peaceful intention of perfecting an iron bridge on which he was engaged. True to his Quaker breeding he was more interested in the arts of peace than of war, but again circumstance was too much for him. Before he had completed his bridge, delegates from France came to invite him to a seat in the National Assembly. A new day was rising there; the constitution of a freer order was being constructed, and so competent a workman could not be spared. In the thick of that eager world of constitution-making, Paine finally clarified his political philosophy and gave it wide currency. He became the pamphleteer of revolution to the English-speaking world, to Philadelphia and New York equally with London. Yet he was never an extremist; he was rather than a Jacobin, and when the Girondists were overthrown and a dictatorship set up, he remained a constitutionalist. By the Jacobin radicals he came to be regarded as a reactionary from his willingness to retain monarchy in France; but Paine was a practical Englishman with a shrewd judgment of what was politically possible, and he refused to out run reasonable expectations of accomplishment.
It was the simplicity and clarity of his political philosophy that made its appeal so widely effective. His thinking turned on the two fundamental questions, the source of government and the purpose for which it is instituted among men; and, the major premise on -which he reared his logic was the thesis that sovereignty inheres in the majority will. At the basis of his philosophy was the natural-rights theory, but given a fresh significance and vitality by the assertion of the doctrine of continuous reaffirmation ofthe soof thecompact. Instead of deriving the sovereign state from a fictitious compact, presumably entered into in a remote past, he derived it-as Roger Williams had done a century and half before-from a continuous compact reaffirmed by each generation. With the birth of each individual appear fresh rights which no pre-contract can justly circumscribe or nullify; ancestral arrangements are valid only to the extent that they are acceptable to the living. Hence it follows, first, that the general body of the people may at any time remake the fundamental law, and bring it into accord with present desire; and second, that there can be no law superior to this popular will expressed through the majority. His most celebrated dictum-"That which a nation chuses to do it has a right to do"-a dictum that aroused a bitterer hostility than any other of his pronouncements-was the logical expression of his republicanism that differentiated between the sovereign people and their agency, the government; and this in turn he justified by a celebrated saying out of Swift, "Government is a plain thing, and fitted to the capacity of many beads." Like Jefferson, he would not have government kept from the people, the agent domineer over the principal.
The purpose of government Paine discovered in the Benthamite-being results from the principle of expediency. If a diffused well policies of government, such government is justified; but if the taxlevietax leviested unsocial ways, unjust impositions are levied,if exploitation or tyranny results, such government is not justified.
The agent has cheated the principal, and must be called to account. The final test of every government Paine found in its concern for the " res publica, the public affairs, or the public good"; any government that "does not make the res publica its whole and sole object, is not a good government." In its most obvious phase, concern for the res publica means concern for the national economy, and this in turn conditions the taxes that shall be levied and the ends for which they shall be spent-whether upon the arts of peace or war. A beneficent government has no need of standing armies and navies, or an inquisitorial police; it is established in the hearts of the people and rests securely on the common good will. It is the injustice of government that creates armies to defend the earnings of injustice. But every wise government will respect its limitations. As a child of the eighteenth century, Paine hated the leviathan state as a monster created by a minority to serve the ends of tyranny. The political state he accepted as a present necessity, but he would not have its prestige magnified and the temptation to tyranny increased by the cult of nationalism. "Government is no farther necessary," he believed, "than to supply the few cases to which society and civilization are not conveniently competent." At best it is an artificial thing.
Formal government makes but a small part of civilized life; and when even the best that human wisdom can devise is established) it is a thing more in name and idea than in fact. . . . The more perfect civilization is, the less occasion has it for government, because the more does it regulate its own affairs, and govern itself. . . . All the great laws of society are laws of nature. 2
The maturest elaboration of Paine's political philosophy is found in The Rights of Man. This extraordinary work, the most influential English contribution to the revolutionary movement, was an examination of the English constitution in the light of what Paine held were the true source and ends of government. It is a brilliant reply to Burke, who rested his interpretation of the English costitutconstitutionlegal ground of the common law of contract. Following the Revolution of 1688, Burke had argued, the English people through their legal representatives, entered into a solemn contract, binding "themselves, their heirs, and posterities for " to certain express terms; and neither in law nor in equity ever, were they, of whatever generation, free to change those terms except by the consent of both parties to the contract. This was an elaboration of the theory of government tacitly held by the Old Whigs, which derived government from a perpetual civil contract as opposed to the radical doctrine of a revocable social contract; and in attacking it Paine allied himself with such thinkers as Price, Priestley, Franklin and Rousseau. 3
He pointed out the absurdity of carrying over the law of private property into the high realm of political principle--to -to seek to impose the dead past upon the living sovereignty. If sovereignty inhered in the English, people in 1688, it must inhere in the English people in 1793, unless it had been violently wrested from them; no parchment terms of another age can bind that sovereignty other than voluntarily. Over against Burke's theory of a single, static contract, Paine setthe dset thee of the reaffirmation of natural rights. Any generation as the generation of 1688-is competent to deal with its affairs as it sees fit, butcannobut cannotaway the rights of those unborn, such a contract on the face of it is null and void.
Every age and generation must be free to act for itself in all cases as the ages and generations which preceded it. The vanity and presumption of governing beyond the grave is the most ridiculous and insolent of all tyrannies. . . . Every generation is, and must be, competent to all the purposes which its occasions require. It is the living, and not the dead, that are to be accommodated. 4
Burke's defense fares even worse when the argument is examined in the light of expediency. Illogical as the English system must appear to the political philosopher, can it plead the justification that it works; that it does well the things it is paid to do; that it makes the res publica its main concern? The reply to such questions, Paine believed, should be sought in the condition of the national economy; more particularly by an examination of the account-books of the exchequer. The English people paid annually seventeen millons millionsg for the maintenance of government, and what did they get in return? Nine millions of the total went interest on old wars, which in the budget was known as the funded debt, eight millions the larger part was to pay funded debt spent in new wars and sinecure pensions; whereas the real needs of England-the true res publica shamelessly neglected. The English people got little for their money except new debts to justify new taxes. The poor were even taxed for the benefit of the great. Thus my Lord Onslow, who was particularly zealous in the business of proscribing Paine as "the common enemy of us all," drew four thousand pounds from the royal chest in sinecures, which made him "the principal pauper of the neighbourbood, and occasioning a greater expense than the poor, the aged, and the infirm, for ten miles around." 5 Government on the hereditary principle of Burke did not appear to advantage in the light of such facts.
The injustice of aristocratic government, Paine believed, was fast bringing it to its "rotting time" in England. "The opinions of men with respect to government are changing fast in all countries; the enormous expense of governments has provoked thepeoplthe peoplek, by making them feel." Englishmen must soon throw aside the outworn monarchical system and set up a republic. Economics was on the side of revolution. The great work of revising fundamental laws was the pressing business of the time. If this could be done peacefully, by means of a national convention, it were well; if not, it would come by means of an uprising of the people. It was no lawyer's business to be determined by the law of private property, but a practical matter of determining the real will of the nation and putting it into execution. The judgment of the people must be recorded, and the judgment of the people could be had only through an adequate system of representation based on free publicity. "I do not believe that the people of England have ever been fairly and candidly dealt by," Paine declared. Henceforth they must be taken into full confidence. There must be no more arcana imperii-" Nations can have no secrets; and the secrets of courts, like those of individuals, are always their defects."6
One of the great advantages of the American Revolution has been, that it has led to a discovery of the principles, and laid open the imposition of governments. All the revolutions till then had worked within the atmosphere of a court, and never on the grand floor of a nation. The parties were always of the class of courtiers. . . . In all cases they took care to represent government as a thing made up of mysteries, which only themselves understood; and they hid from the understanding of the nation the only thing that was beneficial to know, namely, That government is nothing more than a national association acting on the principles of a society.7
For the follies of government the people pay the bill-it was this elementary lesson in public economics that Paine sought to impress upon the popular mind; and they would still be cheated and plundered by gentlemen who prospered in cozening, until they took matters into their own hands. He had no fear of popular government. He believed in the essential fairness of men and their capacity to deal wisely with the problems of society if the necessary information were set before them. "As far as my experience in public life extends, I have ever observed that the great mass of people are always just, both in their intentions and their object; but the true method of attaining such purpose does not always appear at once," 8 he argued before the French Assembly; and thewordsthe words his settled conviction. Those who fear the people usually have very good reasons. Heretofore politics had been jealously guarded from free discussion; but now that the common people were coining to understand that government is justified only by its measure of service, the beginning of a new age was at hand.
The ripest product of Paine's speculations on the relation of government to the individual, is 4grarianagrarian, a work too little known to modern readers. It is a slender--t-ra-ct, written in the winter Of 1795-96, although not published till a year later; and it was an answer to a sermon by Watson, Bishop of Llandaff,9 entitled The Wisdom Wisdomdness of God in having made both Rich and Poor. In this remarkable essay, Paine advanced from political to social theory, pushing his thought into the unexplored realm of economic justice. The prime impulse of his speculation is found in the contrast between the augmenting poverty of Europe and the ideal of equality; a contrast which in France had lately produced a proletarian revolt under Babeuf, and which in England was harshly aggravated by the brutal inclosure movement of the last forty years of the eighteenth century. The question which he considers lies at the heart of our social problem, namely, whether civilization is competent to cure the disease of poverty which cverywh eeverywhereisseminates?
The question emerged naturally from the development of Paine's thinking. It was implied in his major principle of the res publica, and the solution must lie in the problem of the relation of government to social well-being. But in prescribing means to end, he parted company from Babeuf.10 The latter was a Communist who approached the problem from the point of view of the proletarian who had been disappointed of the promised equality; whereas Paine, like Jefferson, was essentially a Physiocratic agrarian. His long residence in America had confirmed him in the belief that land monopoly was the root of economic inequality; and his observations of the evictions then going on in England, uprooting the peasants and sending them to industrial centers to become wage-workers, strengthened his conviction. The land problem must be solved if civilization were to be worth its cost, and the technique of the solution, he believed, must be worked out by the state. With his usual directness Paine went to the heart of the problem:
The first principle of civilization ought to have been, and ought still to be, that the condition of every person born into the world, after a state of civilization commences, ought not to be worse than if he had been born before that period. But the fact is, that the condition of millions, in every country in Europe, is far worse than if they had been born before civilization began, or had been born among the Indians of North America at the present day.11
It is not charity but a right, not bounty but justice, that I am pleading for. The present state of civilization is as odious as it is unjust. It is absolutely the opposite of what it should be. 12 The contrast of affluence and wretchedness..........is like dead and, livmg bodlivinghained together.13
It is the practice of what has unjustly obtained the name of civilization . . . to make some provision for persons becoming poor and wretched only at the time they become so. Would it not, even as a matter of economy, be far better to adopt means to prevent their becoming poor? 14
The crux of the problem, Paine proceeds to point out, lies in the principle of private property; whether property rights are sacredly individual-as Locke had asserted-or are limited by social needs. In reply to this I searching question Paine laid down the principle of social values, a theory curiously modern and profoundly suggestive, which makes Agrarian justice read like a chapter out of Progress and Poverty. The principle is so broad, as Paine states it, that it applies equally to a capitalistic and an agrarian order.
Personal property is the effect of sociely; societys impossible for an individual to acquire personal property without the aid of society, as it is for him to make land originally. . . . All accumulation, therefore, of personal property, beyond what a man's own hands produce, is derived to him by living in society; and he owes on every principle of justice, of gratitude, and of civilization, a part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came . . . if we examine the case minutely it will be found that the accumulation of personal property is, in many instances, the effect of paying too little for the labor that produced it; and the consequence of which is, that the working hand perishes in old age, and the employer abounds in affluence. It is, perhaps, impossible to proportion exactly the price of labor to the profits it produces; and it will also be said, as an apology for the injustice, that were a workman to receive an increase of wages daily he would not save it against old , nor be much better for it in the interim. Make, then, society the treasurer to guard it for him in a common fund; for it is no reason, that because he might not make a good use of it for himself, another should take it.15
It is the value of the improvement only, and not of the earth itself, that, is individual property. _ Every proprietor, therefore, of cultivated land, owes to the community a ground-rent . . . for the land which he holds; and it is from this ground-rent that the fund proposed in this plan is to issue."16
Having thus pointed out an equitable source of social incometheincome theg to society what society has created-Paine proposed to deal with the problem of poverty by means of a ten per cent inheritance tax to provide a fund for the endowment of the young and the pensioning of the old. It was an early form of the state insurance idea. In his own thinking Paine doubtless went much farther than this, but the practical difficulty of separating the social moiety from the private right inclined him to favor an inheritance tax as the simplest and best plan; that it would lead to greater things as the social intelligence quickened, he very likely believed. To bring men to realize that society is responsible for poverty, and that its total eradication must be regarded as the first object of civilization, was his prime purpose. He was seeking to awaken the social conscience of his generation--a generation sorely in need of idealism to offset its love of profits. Agrarian Justice was a contribution to the slowly developing humanitarian sentiment and it made appeal to minds already aroused by the revolutionary movement. The republican clubs that were springing up in England and America reflected the new social thought, and the most radical became the most humanitarian. As early as 1791, in an address signed by Horne Tooke, one of Paine's English lieutenants, it was declared:
We are oppressed with a heavy national debt, a burthen of taxes, an expensive administration of government, beyond those of any people in the world. We have also a very numerous poor; and we hold that the moral obligation of providing for old age, helpless infancy, and poverty, is far superior to that of supplying the invented wants of courtly extravagance, ambition, and intrigue.17
The more critically one follows the thought of Paine the more evident it becomes that the master passion of his later years was concern for a new social economy. The well being of society became an engrossing interest with him; and his zeal for political revolution was predicated on the belief that popular control of the political state was a necessary preliminary to a juster social economy. Nothing was to be expected from the old aristocratic order. His main attack, therefore, was directed against the monarchical system, but now and then he paused to level a thrust at the rising system of capitalism. If he hated King George and the Tories, he hated the younger Pitt and the imperialists even more. Over against 4grarian jagrarianhould be set his pamphlet entitled The Decline and Fall of the English System of Finance, written in 1796, a skillful attack upon the new funding system. Paine could not foresee, of course, the enormous expansion of credit that was to accompany the industrial revolution, but in his commentary on the quantitative theory of money, and the social consequences of inflation, he unconsciously foretold later conditions. War he regarded as the great waster, the fruitful mother of social misery. With his Quaker training he was dedicated to pacifism, and he spent his life warring against war, and disease, and poverty, and injustice, and ignorance, and unreason; but no other war would he sanction. For those futile wars bred of the ambitions of courts and monarchs, and which for all their cost in blood and money served no social purpose, he would substitute arbitration. "War is the Pharo-table of governments, and nations the dupes of the game," be declared 18 -whereas arbitration is an appeal to reason which alone should adjudicate and determine between nations.
It would be idle to attempt to trace to their sources the major ideas of his philosophy. Probably Paine did not know where he got them. He was not a student like John Adams, familiar with all the political philosophers; rather he was an epitome of a world in revolution. He absorbed ideas like a sponge. He was so wholly a child of his age that the intellectual processes of the age were no other than his own. But he was very much more than an echo; he possessed that rarest of gifts, an original mind. He looked at the world through no eyes than his own. There is a curious remark in an early pamphlet which admirably expresses his method:
When precedent fails to assist us,
we must return to the first principle of thingsfor things foron, and think,
as if we were the first men that thougt."
During his residence abroad Paine habitually thought and spoke of himself as an American. He conceived it to be his mission to disseminate throughout Europe the beneficent principles of the American Revolution; yet nowhere was he hated more virulently than in America. To the animosity which his political principles excited among Federalists was added the detestation of the orthodox for the deism of the 1ge of ReasAge _The ministers outdid the politicians'virulent attack upon his reputation, until the generous "Quaker, the friend of humanity and citizen of the world, was shrunk and distorted into "the infidel Tom Paine." It was a strange reward for a life spent in the service of mankind. Like all idealists he made the mistake of underestimating the defensive .,strength of vested interests, and their skill in arousing the mob prejudice. His thousands of followers among. the disfranchised poor could not protect his reputation against ' the attacks of the " rich and powerful. Although reason may "make its own way," it makes its way with wearisome slowness and at unreasonable cost. How tremendous were the obstacles that liberalism con fronted in post-revolutionary America is revealed with sufficient clearness in the odium visited upon our great republican pamphleteer.
The years following the great defeat were disastrous to the party of agrarian democracy. Under the brilliant leadership of Hamilton the Federalists went forward confidently, gaining daily a firmer grip on the machinery of government, and establishing their principles in far-reaching legislative enactments. Their appeal to the wealthy classes, to those who made themselves audible above the clamor, was electrical. Hamilton was the hero of the hour, and the effusive approval that augmented with every added profit to the money brokers, seemed to indicate that the country was enthusiastically behind the Federalist policy. To what despondency the democrats were reduced is revealed in Maclay's journal, with its caustic comment on political measures and motives. But the tide was already at the turn. The ideas let loose by the French Revolution were running swiftly through America, awakening a militant spirit in the democracy. Antagonism to the aristocratic arrogance of Federalism, and disgust at its coercive measures, were mounting fast. If that inchoate discontent were organized and directed by a skillful leader, it might prove strong enough to thrust the Hamiltonian party from power. To that work Thomas Jefferson devoted himself with immense tact and untiring patience. A master of political strategy, he spun his webs far and wide, quietly awaiting the time when the bumbling Federalist bees should range too carelessly in search of their honey. Accepted at once as the leader of agrarian America, he was to prove in the course of a long life the most original and native of the political leaders of the time.
Despite the mass of comment that has gathered about Jefferson, the full reach and significance of his political philosophy remains too little understood. Uncritical praise and censure have obscured or distorted his purpose, and allied his principles with narrow and temporary ends. Detraction will not let him alone. The hostility of his enemies, as a recent biographer has remarked, has frequently taken "the peculiar form of editing his works or writing his life." 20 For this distortion there is, perhaps, more than usual excuse. Certainly Jefferson is the most elusive of our great political leaders.
Apparently inconsistent, changing his program with the changing times, he seemed to his enemies devoid of principle, a shallow demagogue who incited the mob in order to dupe the people. One of the most bitterly hated and greatly loved men in the day when love and hate were intense, he was the spokesman of the new order at a time of transition from a dependent monarchical state, to an independent republican state. Back of the figure of Jefferson, with his aristocratic head set on a plebeian frame, was the philosophy of a new age and a new people-an age and a people not yet come to the consistency of maturity, but feeling a way through experiment to solid achievement. Far more completely than any other American of his generation he embodied the idealisms of the great revolution-its faith in human nature, its economic individualists conviction that here in America, through the instrumentality of political democracy, the lot of the common man should somehow be made better.
From the distinguished group of contemporary political thinkers Jefferson emerges as the preeminent intellectual, widely read, familiar with ideas, at home in the field of speculation, a critical observer of men and manners. All his life he was a student, and his devotion to his books, running often to fifteen hours a day, recalls the heroic zeal of Puritan scholars. He was trained in the law, but he was too much the intellectual, too curious about all sorts of things, to remain a lawyer. For such a man the appeal of political. speculation was irresistible, and early in life he began a wide reading in ,the political classics that far outweighed Coke and Blackstone in creative influence on his mind. He was equally at home with the English liberals of the seventeenth century and the French liberals of the eighteenth; and if he came eventually to set the French school above the English, it was because he found in the back-to-nature philosophy, with its corollary of an agrarian economics and its emphasis on social wellbeing, a philosophy more consonant with Virginian experience and his own temperament than Locke's philosophy of property. But he was very far from being a narrow French partisan, as has been often charged; rather he judged old-world theory in the light of its applicability to existing American conditions, and restrained his love of speculation by immediate practical considerations. The man of affairs kept a watchful eye on the philosopher in his study.
In the major doctrines of his political philosophy Jefferson was an amalgam of English and French liberalisms, supplemented by the conscious influence of the American frontier. That fusion early took place in his mind. The first bill that he introduced into the Virginia Assembly, at the age of twenty-six, was a bill to permit slave-owners to manumit their slaves; and his first published pamphlet, issued in 1774,21 rejected the legal reasoning of John Dickinson and Daniel Dulaney supporting the parliamentary right to impose external taxation-and took its stand on the doctrine of natural right to local self-government and freedom of trade. When two years later he drafted the Declaration of Independence the fusion was complete. The strong influence of French humanitarianism is revealed in the passage on slavery that was stricken out on the floor of Congress, and more significantly in the change in the familiar phrasing of the several natural rights. Samuel Adams and other followers of Locke had been content with the classical enumeration of life, liberty, and property; but in Jefferson's hands the English doctrine was given a revolutionary shift. The substitution of "pursuit of hg happiness for "proproperty" marks a complete break with the Whiggish doctrine of property rights that Locke had bequeathed to the English middle class, and the substitution of a broader sociological conception; and it was this substitution that gave to the document the note of idealism which was to make its appeal so perennially human and vital. The words were far more than a political gesture to draw popular support: they were an embodiment of Jefferson's deepest convictions. and his total life thenceforward was given over to the work of providing such political machinery for America as should guarantee for all the enjoyment of those inalienable rights. If the fact that he set the pursuit of happiness above abstract property rights is to be taken as proof that Jefferson was an impractical French theorist, the critic may take what comfort he can from his deduction.
That Jefferson was an idealist was singularly fortunate for America; there was need of idealism to leaven the materialistic realism of the times. It was a critical period and he came at the turn of along running tide. He watched the beginnings of the political shift in America from isolated colonial commonwealths to a unitary sovereign state; and his wide reading and close observation had convinced him that the impending change was fraught with momentous issues for the common man. He had meditated much on the social results of the slow oscillations in western civilization between social decentralization and centralization I with their contrasting political and economic structures; and he understood how the movement from simplicity to complexity from freedom to regimentation-creates a psychology and an institutionalism that conducts straight to the leviathan state, controlled by a ruling caste, serving the demands of ex exploitation, heedless of the well-being of the regimented mass This great lesson in social drifts he brought home to America. There had been created here the psychology and institutions of a decentralized society, with a corresponding exaltation of the individual and the breakdown of caste. In the broad spaces of America the old-world coercive state had dwindled to a mere police arrangement for parochial duties; the free citizen refused to be regimented; the several communities insisted on managing their affairs by their own agents. Such was the natural consequence of free economics; but with the turning of the tide would not the drift towards centralization nullify the results of earlier American experience and repeat here the unhappy history of European peoples?
To the philosophic mind of Jefferson, such a question was not academic, but urgent and vital. He had been bred in that older world, he believed passionately in the excellence of its virtues, and his political and social philosophy was determined by that experience. He sprang from a society deep-rooted in an agrarian economy, and he wished to preserve that society. Born on the Virginia frontier, he had never seen a hamlet so large as twenty houses before his eighteenth year; his neighbors and associates were capable and vigorous frontier democrats, who managed the affairs of local government with the same homespun skill that went to their farming. "It is not difficult," remarks an acute critic, "to see how the great principle of Jefferson's life-absolute faith in democracy-came to him. He was the product of the first West in American history; he grew up with men who ruled their country well, who fought the Indians valiantly . . . . Jefferson loved his backwoods neighbors, and he, in turn, was loved by them." 22 This earl conviction of the excellence of the freehold order was confirmed by lager experience; wide observation and much travel convinced him that no other people was so favored by circumstance as the American, or so vigorously self-reliant. That such well-being resulted from a plastic economics, he regarded as self-evident; and from this economic freedom came political freedom. In his European travels he saw everywhere want and wretchedness dwelling in the shadow of the aristocratic state, and he could not dissociate the two. Political tyranny was the out- outward and visible sign of greater tyrannies that rbeingwn to _ the very roots of society; the leviathan state was the convenient instrument through which those tyrannies took their heavy toll of the common well-beine. America was a land of free men; it was exploited neither by an aristocracy nor a plutocracy. Surely there could be no greater or nobler ambition for an American than to assist in preserving his country from the misery that must attend a change from the present happy condition of democratic industry, to the serfdom of the European wage-taker and peasant.
TO a mind imbued with such conceptions the anneal of the Physiocratic theory of social economics would be irresistible The ground was prepared for the sowing of the seeds of the liberal French thought. With its emphasis laid upon agriculture, its doctrine of the ,produit net, its principle of laissez faire, and its social concern, the Physiocratic theory accorded exactly with his familiar experience, and it must have seemed to Jefferson that it was little other than a deduction from the open facts of American life. He had read much in the works of the Physiocratic group, and was intimately acquainted with DuPont de Nemours; and the major principles of the school sank deep into his mind and creatively determined his thinking, with the result that Jeffersonian democracy as it spread through Virginia and west along the froAdam Smithumed a pronounced Physiocratic bias. The sharp struggle between Jefferson and Hamilton must be reckoned, in part at least, a conflict between the rival of Quesnay and, AdamSmith, between an agrarian-and a capitalistic economy. Much as Jefferson feared the ambitions of an aristocracy, he feared quite as much the creation of a proletariat. As he looked into the future he saw great cities rising to breed their Roman mobs, duped and exploited by demagogues, the convenient tools of autocracy; and counting the cost in social well-being, he set his face like flint against the rising capitalism. A free yeomanry he regarded as the backbone of every great people, the producers of the real wealth, the guardians of manly independence; and the number of factory workers measured for him the extent of social disease. It is this', Physiocratic conception that explains his bitter hostility to protective tariffs, national banks, funding manipulations, the machinery of credit, and all the agencies of capitalism which Hamilton was skillfully erecting in America. Not to have hated such things Jefferson must first have emptied his mind of the teachings of experience and the lessons of the social philosophers.
In the Notes on Virginia there is a well-known passage that amplifies his favorite thesis that a sound American economy was an agrarian economy:
The political economists of Europe have established it as a principle, that every State should endeavor to manufacture for itself; and this principle, like many others, we transfer to America . . . . But we have an immensity of land courting the industry of the husbandman. Is it best then that all our citizens should be employed in its improvement, or that one half should be called off from that to exercise manufactures and handicraft arts for the other? Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue. It is the focus in which he keeps alive that sacred fire, which otherwise might escape from the face of the earth. Corruption of morals in the mass of cultivators is a phenomenon of which no age nor natioit ons furnished an example. It is the mark set on those, who not looking up to heaven, to their own soil and industry, as does the husbandman, for their subsistence, depend for iton casualties and caprice of customers. Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition . . . . Generally speaking the proportion which the aggregate of the other classes of citizens bears in any state to that of its husbandmen, is the proportion of its unsound to its healthy parts, and is a good enough barometer whereby to measure its degree of corruption. While we have land to labor then, let us never wish to see our citizens occupied at a work-bench, or twirling a distaff . . . for the general operations of manufacture, let our work-shops remain in Europe. It is better to carry provisions and materials to work-men there, than bring them to the provisions and materials, and with them their manners and principles . . . . The mobs of great cities add just so much to the support of pure government, as sores do to the strength of the human body. It is the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigor. A degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws arid constitution.23
Such was histhe hardships 1782, an attitude identical with Franklin's. Thirty-four years later he had modified his views of industrialism. The bitter experience of the Napoleonic wars, with thehardships and losses visited upon neutral. shipping, had convinced him of the need of domestic manufactures, and he was then deeply interested in improved machinery, new methods, original ventures. "We must now place the manufacturer by the side of the agriculturist," he conceded, or remain in economic dependence. But how much further the country should be industrialized, whether it "shall be proposed to go beyond our own supply" to compete in foreign markets, was not yet clear to him; the problem remained still to be determined whether "the surplus labor" would be "most beneficially employed in the culture of the earth, or in the fabrications of art." 24 In such commentary Jefferson failed to measure the thrust of economic determinism that drives every people to go through with the industrial revolution, once it is begun; but if we recall the primary principle of his political philosophy, that the "care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government," we may perhaps judge what would have been his attitude towards a centralized industrialism. He would have judged its desirability, not by the balance sheet of corporate business, but by the social ledger. As a social economist he could not think in terms of the economic man, nor simplify human beings to labor commodity, nor reduce the social tie to the cash nexus. It is inconceivable that he should have shared Hamilton's satisfaction at the contemplation of women and children-and many of the latter "of tender age"-wasting away in the mills; he was too social-minded for that, too much an idealist, too human in short. Though necessity might force him away from a simple agrarian economy, it does not follow that he would become partisan to a csuspicionlizing industrialism, with control vested in banking credit.
It is a common charge that Jefferson was consumed with suspicion, Jefferson is set down against him as the mark of a mean and ungenerous nature. That in later years he was suspicious of fair spoken advocates and plausible programs was as true of Jeffer son as of Sam Adams; he had learned like the Boston democrat the virtue of the saying, felix qui caucus, and with so much at stake he would practice caution. He feared many things, for he was acutely aware of the incapacity of the heedless majority to defend itself a gains an able and instructed minority As a child of an aristocratic age he fell into the mistake of visualizing that minority in the guise of a landed gentry, rather than in the guise of plutocracy; but in his quick fear of a minority he had all history , as counselor. When he took his seat in Washington's cabinet his suspicions of the Hamiltonian program were quickly aroused. He believed that a monarchy was aimed at, and if that proved unattainable, then a highly centralized state designed to hold in check the democratic tendencies. His line of reasoning may be summarized thus: In consequence of the republican enthusiasm of the early years of the Revolution, democratic reorganization of the several state governments had been successfully achieved. Very great progress towards democracy had been made. Certain legislative acts of agrarian assemblies were now being turned against democracy, to invalidate it as a working system of government. But if agrarian majorities had used their power to enact laws beneficial to their interests, they were only applying a lesson learned from long experience with aristocratic legislatures. Such acts were no serious indictment of the democratic principle, and to make partisan use of them to justify curtailing the powers of the majority, was a betrayal of popular rights. And this, Jefferson believed, was the deliberate purpose of the Federalist leaders. Unable to stem the popular tide in the several commonwealths, the wealthy minority had devised a plan to superimpose upon the sovereign commonwealths a centralized federal government, so hedged about as to lie beyond the reach of local majorities, and hence able to override and nullify the democratic will. Once safely established, this federal government would gather fresh powers into its hands, until there emerged a rigorous machine, modeled after the British system, and as little regardful of the common interests. If this were not the Federalist purpose, why all the praise of the British system as the ripe product of experience, exactly adapted to the political genius of the English race?
In the matter of appeal to past experience, which provided the staple of Federalist argument, Jefferson discovered fresh grounds of fear. The past he looked upon as evil, and the record of experience was a tale of injustice and bitter wrong. He would not have America follow the trodden paths, for whither they led he knew too well. He would countenance no entangling alliances with old-worlcounterpart of systems of statecraft, for such systems would reproduce in America the evils it should be the chief business of America to prevent. There must be erected here no counterpartof the European state; there must be no king, no aristocracy, no plutocracy; but a new democratic organization of government, in which the welfare of the whole people should be the sole concern.
When I left Congress in '76 [he wrote as an old man] it was in the persuasion that our whole code must be revised, adapted to our republican form of government, and now that we had no negatives of Councils, Governors and Kings to restrain us from doing right, that it should be corrected in all its parts with a single eye to reason and the good of those for whose government it was planned. 25
Not past experience but present need should instruct America in drawing the plans of a new system of government and a new code of law.. In analyzing tself aggrandizementan systems Jefferson came to certain conclusions that dominated all his later thinking, and that may be phrased thus: The political state tends inevitably to selfaggrandizement, the logical outcome of which is a political leviathan, too big and too complex for popular control. With sovereign powers vested in the hands. of governmental agents, those agents lie under a constant temptation to corruption and tyranny, and in the end they align the powers of the state on the side of the momen foritious and capable. The greater the power of government, the ampler its revenues, the more energetic its administration,the more dangerous it may become to the rights of menfor where the prize is greatest, men struggle most ruthlessly, and what prize could be greater than the privilege of exploiting society in the name of the state? History knows no objective more tempting to the will to power, than the control of the absolute state. A government adequately socialized, intent solely upon furthering the common well-being, Jefferson would have been unanxious about. But such governments existed only in the dreams of Sir Thomas More and the Utopians; he could discover none such either in the past or present. Everywhere strong governments were little more than efficient tax-machines to support armies and provide subsidies and places for the minority. Against such forces of corruption the people struggle in vain.
If such was the common testimony of old-world experience-and no man who knew the inner workings of government there would deny itpublic debton was there to expect that like causes would work unlike results in America? To what purpose was the talk of strong government encouraged amongst the holders of the publicdebt? To what end had lobbyists for the funding bill invaded the floor of Congress? It was idle to expect in America a nullification of the law, that where power sits within, corruption waits without. The love of power is universal. Most men are potential autocrats, the strong and capable may become actual autocrats. No man is good enough, no group of men, to be trusted with unrestrained powers-in America any more than in Europe. A centralized government in control of the tax-machine, and secure from popular restraint, would undo the results of the Revolutionary War. The movement to consolidate power, Jefferson asserted, was "but Toryism in disguise." "The generalizing and concentrating all cares and powers into one body . . . has destroyed the liberty and the rights of men in every government which has ever existed under the sun."
Our country is too large to have all its affairs directed by a single government. Public servants at such a distance, and from under the eye of their constituents, must, from the circumstance of distance, be unable to administer and overlook all the details necessary for the good government of the citizens; and the same circumstance, by rendering detection impossible to their constituents, will invite the public agents to corruption, plunder and waste."26
The practice of local home rule had grown up in America in response to native conditions; it had resulted from democratic needs; and Jefferson was too thoroughly American, too instinctively democratic, to overlook the significance of local sovereignties in a democratic philosophy. From the sharp contrast between American and European practice he deduced a cardinal principle, namely that good government springs from a common interest in public affairs, and that such common interest is possible only when the field of activities is circumscribed. Set government apart from the people, or above them, and public interest is lost``` in a sense of futility. The danger of an encroaching tyranny by a superimposed sovereignty, is made easy by the public lethal in respect to distant and unfamiliar things, and establishes itself through the psychology of custom. Jefferson was never greatly concerned about stable government; he was very much more concerned about responsive government-that it should faithfully serve the majority will. He made no god of the political state. He had no conventional reverence for established law and order; he inquired rather what sort of law and order he was asked to accept, was it just or unjust. Changing conditions make ancient good uncouth, and established institutions tend to fall into dry-rot, or to become tyrannical. Men are more important than constitutions, and the public well-being is more sacred -than statutes. An occasional revolution, he commented grimly apropos of the hue and cry over Shays's Rebellion, is salutary; if it does not come of itself .it might well be brought about. Progress_ in government results from experiment; and it is easier and safer to experiment on a small scale than on a great. Inertia increases with size, and the more consolidated the government, the more unyielding it becomes. The longest delayed revolutions are the gravest. .
In asserting the principle of the majority will, Jefferson like other democratic thinkers of the time, found himself countered by the argument of abstract justice. Vehement denunciation had greeted Paine's doctrine that what a nation chooses to do, it has a right to do. There can be no rights, it was confidently asserted, superior to the right. The people shay legislate but it -remains to determine the validity of statutes in the light of justice= that which unjust is ipso facto null and void. '
It was Coke's- doctrine of ,Judicial review, set up in America after its repudiation in England and Jefferson's hostility to it was , bitter. As an intellectual he had none of the lawyer's complacency with legal principles, or conceit of the law's sufficiency; and as a democrat he would not yield sovereignty into the hands of the judiciary. He had no veneration for the Common Law of England: it had grown up by slow accretions during centuries of absolutism; how should it be expected to answer the needs of a freer age? It must be purged of outworn elements, imbued with democratic sympathies. The Revolution had been fought in defense of rights that are broader and more human than legal principles; and to hand over those rights to be interpreted away by lawyers, seemed to him moonstruck madness. It was the law of Blackstone rather than of Coke that he feared most-that "elegant" canonization of the malign influences of Tory reaction, and that was so cried up by the smatterers and "ephemeral insects of the law" in America; whereas Coke "was as good a Whig as ever wrote"
Blackstone and Hume have made tories of all England, and are making tories of those young Americans whose native feelings of independence-do not place them above the wily sophistries of a Hume or a Blackstone. These two books, and especially the former [Blackstone], have done more towards the suppression of the liberties of man, than all the million of men in arms of Bonaparte, and the millions of human lives with the sacrifice of which he will stand loaded before the judgment seat of his Maker.27
As Jefferson grew older his fear of judicial encroachment on the popular will became acute but it shifted from distrust of the Common Law to concern over the Supreme Court. A strong and outspoken hatred of the Federal judiciary runs through all his later writings, and he lost no opportunity to popularize the thesis-"It is a misnomer to call a government republican, in which a branch of the supreme power is independent of the nation."
The great object of my fear is the Federal Judiciary. That body, like gravity, ever acting, with noiseless foot, and advance, gaining ground step by step, and holding what it gains, is engulfing insidiously the special governments into the jaws of that which feeds them.28
It is a very dangerous doctrine to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions. It is one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy . . . . The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots.29
As Jefferson watched Chief Justice
John Marshall gathering all things within the purview of the Federal judiciary,
preparing future strongholds by the skillful use of obiter dicta, legislating
by means of judicial interpretation, nullifying the will of the majority,
and with the power of repeal made nugatory by the complexity of the process,
he saw clearly what the outcome would be.-Surely that was no democracy
where judge-made laws warp enforced by bench warrants, mere the sovereign
power day beyond the immediate reach of the popular will. The government
that he desired would not rest on the legal fiction of an abstract justice
above statutes and constitutions, whereof a group of judicial gentlemen
were the repositories and guardians. It would be like Paine's, "a plain
thing, and fitted to the capacity of many heads"; for "where the law of
the majority ceases to be acknowledged, there government ends; the law
of the strongest takes its place."
Granted the truth of Jefferson's
premises that power tends to contract to the hands of a few, and that all
government of the fewis vicious, then democracy is the only form of government
under which an approximation to justice can be realized. A class will serve
class interests. Government by an aristocracy is government in the interest
of the aristocracy. For the staple argument of the Federalists, that gentlemen
of principle and property alone may be intrusted with affairs of state,
Jefferson had a quiet contempt. "I have never observed men's honesty to
increase with their riches," he remarked. On the contrary, he regarded
the "better sort of people" as a chief hindrance to the spread of social
justice. The past had been evil because the past had been exploited by
gentlemen of principle and property. They had kept government away from
the people, and with their secret councils and secret diplomacy they had
plundered the taxpayers and drenched nations in blood. Their selfish rivalries
everywhere exacted a heavy toll of society and left behind a trail of poverty
and wretchedness. The future would be better in the degree that mastery
passed into common hands.
Granted the truth of Jefferson's premises that power tends to contract to the hands of a few, and that all government of the fewis vicious, then democracy is the only form of government under which an approximation to justice can be realized. A class will serve class interests. Government by an aristocracy is government in the interest of the aristocracy. For the staple argument of the Federalists, that gentlemen of principle and property alone may be intrusted with affairs of state, Jefferson had a quiet contempt. "I have never observed men's honesty to increase with their riches," he remarked. On the contrary, he regarded the "better sort of people" as a chief hindrance to the spread of social justice. The past had been evil because the past had been exploited by gentlemen of principle and property. They had kept government away from the people, and with their secret councils and secret diplomacy they had plundered the taxpayers and drenched nations in blood. Their selfish rivalries everywhere exacted a heavy toll of society and left behind a trail of poverty and wretchedness. The future would be better in the degree that mastery passed into common hands.
From the conclusions of his democratic premise he did not shrink. If it were indeed true that the people were beasts, then the democratic government of the future would be a bestial government-and even that might be better than the old arrangement of masters and slaves. But the American people whom Jefferson trusted were very far from beasts; he was convinced that they were honest and well-meaning; and if government were brought close to them, kept responsive to their will, a new and beneficent chapter in human history would open. The populistic laws passed by the legislatures of Rhode Island and New Hampshire, about which such an uproar was raised by fearful creditors, and which were urged as an argument against popular government, gave him no concern. He understood the ways of propaganda, and he never accented judgment of the American people from the mouths of their enemies. The cure for the evils of democracy, he believed, was more democracy. The whole are far less likely to be unjust than the few; and if sovereignty does not rest in the majority will, where shall it lodge?
Hume, the great apostle of toryism, says "the Commons established a principle, which is noble in itself, and seems specious [i. e. pleasing], but is belied by all history and experience, that the people are the origin of all just power." And where else will this degenerate son of science, this traitor to his fellow men, find the origin of just power, if not in the majority of the society? Will it be in the minority? Or in the individual of that minority? 30
The America of Jefferson's day was a simple world, with a simple domestic economy. More than ninety per cent were plain country folk, farmers and villagers, largely freeholders, managing their local affairs in the traditional way. There were no great extremes of poverty and wealth, no closely organized class groups. With its sharp restrictions on suffrage and the prestige accorded the gentry, it was still far from a political democracy; but it was hastening towards a more democratic order. Remote from the cesspools of European diplomacy, and not yet acquainted with imperialism, it had no need for a leviathan state. Economic conditions sanctioned a laissez-faire government, simple and unambitious. In such a world the well-known words of Jefferson's first inaugural address, justified themselves to all who did not seek to use the state for personal advantage.
A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.
In one significant direction he would extend the scope of government -- the encouragement of education. An intelligent people is necessary to a democracy; free schools are a sign of a free society. `Tyranny thrives on ignorance and superstition, and every exploiting group fears popular education. Free himself in thought and action believ in in the unshackled commerce of ideas hating all censorships, Jefferson accounted the founding of the University. of Virginia his largest contribution to the well-being of his native ,commonwealth.
To all who profess faith in the democratic ideal Jefferson is a perennial inspiration. A free soul, he loved freedom enough to deny it to none; an idealist, he believed that the welfare of the whole, and not the prosperity of any group, is the single end of government. He was our first great leader to erect a political philosophy native to the economics and experience of America, as he was the firsteternal hostilityously with the past. His life was dedicated to the service of freedom, and later generations may well recall his words, "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternalhostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." Europe made Jefferson wholly American. From his. studies in France he came to see that where men enjoy free access to the sources of subsistence, government is likely to be simple and honest, and society free and content; but where a policy of preemptor has run its course, the function of government is seduced from it- social purpose to perpetuate the the inequalities which spring from the progressive monopolization of natural resources, with augmenting corruption and injustice. To preserve government in America from such degradation, to keep the natural resources open to all, were the prime desire and object of his life. That such an effort was foredoomed to failure, in presence- of imperious forces that shape society beyond the capacity of political means to change or prevent, cannot detract from the nobility of his ideal, or the inspiration of his life. Among the greater thinkers of the constitutional period Jefferson remains by far the most -vital and suggestive, the one to whom later generations may return most hopefully.