Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Politics by Jefferson: The rights of the whole can be no more than the sum of the rights of the individuals

"What is true of every member of the society, individually, is true of them all collectively; since the rights of the whole can be no more than the sum of the rights of the individuals." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789. ME 7:455, Papers 15:393

"We certainly cannot deny to other nations that principle whereon our government is founded, that every nation has a right to govern itself internally under what forms it pleases, and to change these forms at its own will; and externally to transact business with other nations through whatever organ it chooses, whether that be a King, Convention, Assembly, Committee, President, or whatever it be. The only thing essential is, the will of the nation." --Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Pinckney, 1792. ME 9:7

"With respect to [a foreign nation's] government or policy as concerning themselves or other nations, we wish not to intermeddle in word or deed, and that it be not understood that our government permits itself to entertain either a will or opinion on the subject." --Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Pinckney, 1792. ME 8:369

"Unmeddling with the affairs of other nations, we presume not to prescribe or censure their course, happy could we be permitted to pursue our own in peace, and to employ all our means in improving the condition of our citizens." --Thomas Jefferson to Mme de Stael, 1807. ME 11:282

"The whole body of the nation is the sovereign legislative, judiciary, and executive power for itself. The inconvenience of meeting to exercise these powers in person, and their inaptitude to exercise them, induce them to appoint special organs to declare their legislative will, to judge and to execute it. It is the will of the nation which makes the law obligatory; it is their will which creates or annihilates the organ which is to declare and announce it. They may do it by a single person, as an emperor of Russia (constituting his declarations evidence of their will), or by a few persons, as the aristocracy of Venice, or by a complication of councils, as in our former regal government or our present republican one. The law being law because it is the will of the nation, is not changed by their changing the organ through which they choose to announce their future will; no more than the acts I have done by one attorney lose their obligation by my changing or discontinuing that attorney." --Thomas Jefferson to Edmund Randolph, 1799. ME 10:126

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