From Thomas Jefferson: Writings (Library of America, 1984), pp. 1056–1057 is a January 26, 1799 letter from Jefferson to Edbridge Gerry (inventor of “gerrymandering”) explaining his political philosophy:
“I do then, with sincere zeal, wish an inviolable preservation of our present federal constitution, according to the true sense in which it was adopted by the States, that in which it was advocated by its friends, & not that which its enemies apprehended, who therefore became its enemies; and I am opposed to the monarchising its features by the forms of its administration, with a view to conciliate a first transition to a President & Senate for life, & from that to a hereditary tenure of these offices, & thus to worm out the elective principle. I am for preserving to the States the powers not yielded by them to the Union, & to the legislature of the Union its constitutional share in the division of powers; and I am not for transferring all the powers of the States to the general government, & all those of that government to the Executive branch. I am for a government rigorously frugal & simple, applying all the possible savings of the public revenue to the discharge of the national debt; and not for a multiplication of officers & salaries merely to make partisans, & for increasing, by every device, the public debt, on the principle of its being a public blessing [as Hamilton called it]. I am for relying, for internal defense, on our militia solely, till actual invasion, and for such a naval force as may protect our coasts and harbors from such depredations as we have experienced; and not for a standing army in time of peace, which may overawe the public sentiment, nor for a navy, which, by its own expenses and the eternal wars in which it will implicate us, will grind us with public burthens, & sink us under them. I am for free commerce with all nations; political connections with none; & little or no diplomatic establishment . . . I am for freedom of religion . . . for freedom of the press, & against all violations of the constitution to silence by force & not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their [political] agents . . .
. . . These, my friend, are my principles; they are unquestionably the principles of the great body of our fellow citizens . . .”
They are also almost diametrically opposed to the principles of Hamilton, the intellectual leader of the opposing Federalist Party, which Jefferson defeated in the presidential election in the next year.
cross-posted from the LewRockwell.com blog
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