Natural manure

My favorite founding father, T.J. A letter he wrote, from France, to William Stephens Smith.

Quotation found on this website.

(emphasis mine)

I do not know whether it is to yourself or Mr. Adams I am to give my thanks for the copy of the new constitution. I beg leave through you to place them where due. It will be yet three weeks before I shall receive them from America. There are very good articles in it: and very bad. I do not know which preponderate. What we have lately read in the history of Holland, in the chapter on the Stadtholder, would have sufficed to set me against a Chief magistrate eligible for a long duration, if I had ever been disposed towards one: and what we have always read of the elections of Polish kings should have forever excluded the idea of one continuable for life. Wonderful is the effect of impudent and persevering lying. The British ministry have so long hired their gazetteers to repeat and model into every form lies about our being in anarchy, that the world has at length believed them, the English nation has believed them, the ministers themselves have come to believe them, and what is more wonderful, we have believed them ourselves. Yet where does this anarchy exist? Where did it ever exist, except in the single instance of Massachusets? And can history produce an instance of a rebellion so honourably conducted? I say nothing of it’s motives. They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. God forbid we should ever be 20. years without such a rebellion. The people can not be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13. states independant 11. years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century and a half for each state. What country ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure. Our Convention has been too much impressed by the insurrection of Massachusets: and in the spur of the moment they are setting up a kite to keep the hen yard in order. I hope in god this article will be rectified before the new constitution is accepted. – Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, Paris, 13 Nov. 1787

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5 Responses to Natural manure

  1. Funny how quoting a Founding Father can probably put you on the “watch” list for the Dept. of Homeland Security.

  2. And if only they would take the time to absorb what they’re reading. LOL It is amazing how government tends to stack itself for its own convenience with power, in ways that tend to make 3 generations beyond feel like everything they’re manipulating is a ‘ fresh idea and situation. ‘ I think today is even more crucial for grandparents and great-grandparents share the history of the world in their times for growing up. At the end of the day, t’s up to us to educate our kids with facts.

  3. taylor says:

    The nation has been lethargic for quite a while now. And when you look at the laws on the books, we are well past the ‘death of public liberty’. When you look at recent gun sales nation wide, it seems like people prioritize this particular freedom. But who is ready to fertilize? What a time in history TJ lived in where he could write so easily an analogy for the shedding of political blood! Who today can ascribe to the imperative you bolded in the quote above, Nate? But, I digress to point out that the ignorance of public he mentions is perhaps the thread of this aged text that has remained most intact today. We must blame the profiteering media (“liberal” and “conservative”) and ourselves for its preservation.

  4. Well put, and I do think the ignorance is well-preserved. It’s interesting that he doesn’t really see that as a major problem when it comes to people seeking their liberty; remaining silent within ignorance seems to him a much greater crime than the ignorance itself. That one might need a little more sussing out… Because surely great enough ignorance can lead to the wrong kind of revolution?

  5. friendmouse says:

    Yes, times change and methods change. But the truth does not change. Did Jefferson speak the truth about the need for “Natural Manure?” Maybe; maybe not. But to this observer, the Liberty Tree is looking fairly ragged and stressed and in need of something to give it a boost lest it become uprooted by some building, swirling wind created by blusters coming from the left and the right. If not fertilizer, then perhaps it just needs more direct sunlight; the filters need to be gotten rid of. And that is easier said than done.

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