August 16, 1996

An interview with Thomas Jefferson

By Steve Scroggins

 Steve Scroggins - photo by bank surveillance cameras, provided courtesy of a US Postal Service bulletin board.

I've sought the wisdom of the dead for years, however, with revelations that the First Lady does, too, I'm now willing to share my supernatural experiences. A recent interview with Thomas Jefferson yielded the following:

SS: Mr. Jefferson, a conservative movement is afoot to restrain and reverse excessive government growth. What are your thoughts on government spending?

TJ: "The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest."

SS: By that, do you mean that government should live within its means, stop borrowing from the labors of our children, and stop buying votes with monies taken forcibly from taxpayers?

TJ: "What more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow citizens--a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, 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. If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them, they must become happy. "

SS: Well said, but many among us think that government should do more. They want the government to take responsibility for their welfare and happiness.

TJ: "I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive."

SS: True. While this fundamental is argued among us, many grow frustrated by the debate, begrudge the "gridlock" and some call their opponents "extremists" when they oppose continued expansion of government largess.

TJ: "If virtuous, the government need not fear the fair operation of attack and defense. Nature has given to man no other means of sifting the truth, either in religion, law, or politics. Men of energy of character must have enemies; because there are two sides to every question, and taking one with decision, and acting on it with effect, those who take the other will of course be hostile in proportion as they feel that effect."

SS: Regarding the Constitution, we currently ignore much of it and grow government to suit the desires of the Supreme Court. Your thoughts?

TJ: "Though written constitutions may be violated in moments of passion or delusion, yet they furnish a text to which those who are watchful may again rally and recall the people. They fix, too, for the people the principles of their political creed."

SS: If only the courts thought words could be fixed in meaning. We have many among us who advocate ignoring the text written by you dead guys and constructing their own meaning in the Constitution; they call the Constitution a "living document."

TJ: "The Constitution, on this hypothesis, is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist into any form they please. Experience [has] shown that, even under the best forms [of government], those entrusted with power have, in time and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny."

SS: What say you on limited terms for the judiciary?

TJ: "I am for responsibilities at short periods, seeing neither reason nor safety in making public functionaries independent of the nation for life, or even for long terms of years. In truth, man is not made to be trusted for life if secured against all liability to account."

SS: An obscure columnist I know well once wrote that "The true enemy of our republic is ignorance and its partner, apathy." Your thoughts?

TJ: "Lethargy is the forerunner of death to the public liberty."

Thomas Jefferson actually wrote the quoted attributions above in similar contexts. Rather than seances or other black magic, my interview was conducted via the Internet at these sites:

http://pages.prodigy.com/J/E/S/jefferson_quotes/ and http://www.mit.edu:8001/activities/libertarians/ask-thomas-jefferson/jefferson.html.

Copyright 1997 Steve Scroggins - All rights reserved.

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