Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thomas Jefferson against the Constitution

Still think there's a "social contract" and the Constitution is binding on people who didn't sign it and were born long after its signers were all dead?
Can one generation bind another, and all others, in succession forever? I think not. The Creator has made the earth for the living, not the dead. Rights and powers can only belong to persons, not to things, not to mere matter, unendowed with will. The dead are not even things. The particles of matter which composed their bodies, make part now of the bodies of other animals, vegetables, or minerals, of a thousand forms. To what then are attached the rights and powers they held while in the form of men? A generation may bind itself as long as its majority continues in life; when that has disappeared, another majority is in place, holds all the rights and powers their predecessors once held, and may change their laws and institutions to suit themselves. Nothing then is unchangeable but the inherent and unalienable rights of man.
– Thomas Jefferson, letter to Maj. John Cartwright, June 5, 1824 (source)
Of course, I adamantly disagree with his assertion that "a generation may bind itself", since that authority belongs only to individuals, not "the collective", but he can't be right about everything.



  1. I never realized that. It shows that even brilliant people can be mistaken.

  2. Looks like he understood the unmistakable principle that humans will always govern themselves in some shape or form. Regardless of constitutions or government structure.

    1. Yep. Governing yourself is a great thing to do. Governing others- well, that's where evil creeps in. Because that's where aggression and theft always seem to be justified "for the common good" or some other BS.