Washington DC

What Would Thomas Jefferson Do?

By David Stockman  |  July 4, 2019

Thomas Jefferson died on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a document he famously authored. The Fourth of July 1826 was even more remarkable because John Adams also passed that day.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams  were friends of revolution, rivals of politics, then friends again, because of ideas. And they carried on a now-famous correspondence in their respective retirements.

Words Of Wisdom From Thomas Jefferson 

Indeed, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, along with Charles Carroll, who together comprised the last three living signors present that auspicious day in Philadelphia, had been invited to attend ceremonies in Washington D.C. marking the anniversary. Former presidents James Madison and James Monroe were also invited to attend.

Though, Thomas Jefferson was in failing health and unable to travel from Monticello for the occasion. But he was able to craft one of the most beautiful statements on liberty outside of the Declaration itself in his letter conveying his regrets.

Writing to the mayor of Washington D.C., Roger C. Weightman, Jefferson amplifies the message he’d articulated half a century earlier. He began emphasizing America’s role as a beacon of self-determination in a rapidly changing world. His words echo through time, as loud today as ever, perhaps never more relevant.

Thomas Jefferson died 10 days after he wrote the following..

Jefferson’s Last “public” letter…

Monticello June 24. 26

Respected Sir

The kind invitation I receive from you on the part of the citizens of the city of Washington, to be present with them at their celebration of the 50th. anniversary of American independance; as one of the surviving signers of an instrument pregnant with our own, and the fate of the world, is most flattering to myself, and heightened by the honorable accompaniment proposed for the comfort of such a journey. it adds sensibly to the sufferings of sickness, to be deprived by it of a personal participation in the rejoicings of that day. but acquiescence is a duty, under circumstances not placed among those we are permitted to controul. I should, indeed, with peculiar delight, have met and exchanged there congratulations personally with the small band, the remnant of that host of worthies, who joined with us on that day, in the bold and doubtful election we were to make for our country, between submission or the sword; and to have enjoyed with them the consolatory fact, that our fellow citizens, after half a century of experience and prosperity, continue to approve the choice we made. may it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings & security of self-government. that form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. all eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. the general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view. the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of god. these are grounds of hope for others. for ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.

I will ask permission here to express the pleasure with which I should have met my ancient neighbors of the City of Washington and of its vicinities, with whom I passed so many years of a pleasing social intercourse; an intercourse which so much relieved the anxieties of the public cares, and left impressions so deeply engraved in my affections, as never to be forgotten. With my regret that ill health forbids me the gratification of an acceptance, be pleased to receive for yourself, and those for whom you write, the assurance of my highest respect and friendly attachments. 

Th. Jefferson

Founding Principles

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David Stockman

David Stockman is the ultimate Washington insider turned iconoclast. He began his career in Washington as a young man and quickly rose through the ranks of the Republican Party to become the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan. After leaving the White House, Stockman had a 20-year career on Wall Street.MORE FROM AUTHOR