The man I’m speaking of is Mr. Thomas Jefferson, a man who was an ambassador, governor, president, father, husband, gardener, bibliophile, lawyer, architect, fighter of human rights and a slave owner. Any one of these aspects pursued in this day and age would be a lifelong commitment. Well, except for the slave holder part. I still have a tough time with that.
Maybe the charm of Mr. Jefferson comes to me in the fact that he was the first person I ever heard of that like me, he did not have a middle name. Then, upon further research his accomplishments in life were breath taking to me.
You see, back before all the internet and ready informational access, if a person wanted information you had to go to a library and search through the books or the encyclopedias to garner any knowledge. I did that, both at my school and at the public library. I soon found myself surrounded with so much information that my pre-teen brain felt as if it would explode. This however did not detract from what I wanted to learn about this mystery man who latterly lived on a mountain top.
I learned a lot and I’m still learning, his letters to his friends, confidants, advisors and family are legion. One could get lost for years in those letters. Letters so well written that when one reads them, one can almost feel as if they are sitting in the small letter writing room in Monticello listening to Mr. Jefferson’s quill make slow, precise scratches against heavy vellum as the hand crafted ink is slowly transferred to its dry, yearning fibers.
So here today, I’m going to post the five quotes that have been posted inside the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in the Tidal Basin in our nation’s capital.
Happy Birthday Mr. Jefferson, thank you for enriching my life even after yours has passed.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights governments are instituted among men. We solemnly publish and declare that these colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent states... And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of diving providence, we mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.
I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.
God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of god? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that god is just. That his justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between master and slave is despotism. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free. Establish the law for educating the common people. This is the business of the state to effect and on a general plan.
Almighty God hath created the mind free...All attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens...are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion...No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship or ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion. I know but one code of morality for men whether acting singly or collectively.
I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man