In recent years, it has become commonplace to show disdain for America’s Founding Fathers. Take the case of Thomas Jefferson, who along with Andrew Jackson had his name removed in 2017 by the Louisiana Democratic Party from its annual “Jefferson-Jackson” dinner in favor of the new and improved moniker, “True Blue Gala.”
The decision was made to reflect America’s changing times since both men were former slave owners, thus making their history within the Democratic Party no longer worth mentioning. Though even more astonishing is that Jefferson, and Jackson to a lesser degree, are the two men most responsible for Louisiana’s very existence.
Aside from being a two-term president, Jefferson had a quite distinguished government resume, which included delegate to the colony of Virginia’s House of Burgesses, serving as one of the youngest (age 33) delegates to the Second Continental Congress when he wrote the Declaration of Independence, state legislator and two-time governor of Virginia, member of Congress and major architect in shaping U.S. foreign policy as Minister to France and as America’s first Secretary of State under George Washington. Jefferson also designed his residence at Monticello, as well as the University of Virginia.
According to author Jarrett Stepman, by the time Jefferson reached the White House, he foresaw America as not just a static eastern enclave but as an “empire of liberty” which would extend west. Naturally then, when Jefferson was presented with the opportunity to double the size of the United States, he took advantage of Napoleon’s need to fund his European wars in purchasing more than 800,000 square miles of the American West. Jefferson believed this “Louisiana Purchase” would be a blessing for millions of unborn Americans and a true land of opportunity for generations to come.
While Jefferson has long been considered the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, his detractors have long characterized him as a hypocrite and racist slaveholder, although without any proper historical context. Many have also identified him as having fathered five children belonging to Sally Hemings, a mixed race slave he owned, despite the fact that a significant number of scholars continue to question this conclusion.
In addition, Lathan Watts, of the First Liberty Institute, has written about how a few select words by Jefferson regarding “the wall of separation between church and state” have been used to distort his strong belief that religious freedom was the very foundation of our republic.
Shortly after his election as president in 1802, Jefferson wrote, “Believing with you that religion is a matter between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature ‘would make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise therof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”
This one quotation by Jefferson has been perhaps the most abused from its origin in opposing the exercise of religious liberty and removing it as a traditional aspect of our culture. Watts points to its use through litigation to limit prayer or religious expression in opening local government meetings, interaction between coworkers on the job or from even saying “God” at a retirement ceremony.
Jefferson believed deeply in the divine origin of man’s rights as spelled out in the Declaration of Independence, wherein, “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.”
Although he resisted organized religion, his belief that God is the source of all our rights presents a continued threat to those who favor a secular, coercive government with no limits upon its authority. The words of Jefferson remain as a modern-day barrier to those who would transform American society in every non-traditional form. Therefore, in their eyes, our third president must be destroyed and wiped from the history books.
Thomas Jefferson, although a conflicted slave-owner, was so much more; a farmer, architect, diplomat, author and statesman who firmly believed that religious freedom was the basis for all of our liberties. Contained in his personal seal, Jefferson’s words on the subject continue to ring out loud and clear, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.”
Despite the efforts by those who have made it their mission to erase his memory, Jefferson stands among the greatest of our founders in seeking to protect liberty for all. This July Fourth, that is truly worth remembering.
Mark Figley is a political activist and guest columnist from Elida. His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News. Reach him a firstname.lastname@example.org.