Founding Fathers Quote Friday: Liberty

Favorite Founding Father's Quote Day

To preserve [the] independence [of the people,] we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debts as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our callings and our creeds, as the people of England are, our people, like them, must come to labor sixteen hours in the twenty-four, give the earnings of fifteen of these to the government for their debts and daily expenses, and the sixteenth being insufficient to afford us bread, we must live, as they now do, on oatmeal and potatoes, have no time to think, no means of calling the mismanagers to account, but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers.
–Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1816. From The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Memorial Edition (ed. Lipscomb and Bergh), 20 vols., Washington, D.C., 1903-04; 15:39.

I found this quote at Thomas Jefferson on Politics & Government. It is also used in part by this guy. Here is a similar item written to a different correspondent:

No earthly consideration could induce my consent to contract such a debt as England has by her wars for commerce, to reduce our citizens by taxes to such wretchedness, as that laboring sixteen of the twenty-four hours, they are still unable to afford themselves bread, or barely to earn as much oatmeal or potatoes as will keep soul and body together. And all this to feed the avidity of a few millionary merchants and to keep up one thousand ships of war for the protection of their commercial speculations.
–Thomas Jefferson to William H. Crawford, 1816. ME 15:29

Here are the key words for the future of America:  we will “have no time to think, no means of calling the mismanagers to account, but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers,” and “all this to feed the avidity of a few millionary merchants and to keep up one thousand ships of war for the protection of their commercial speculations.”

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2 thoughts on “Founding Fathers Quote Friday: Liberty

  1. Wow! Are you sure these weren’t written within the last couple years? It sure sounds like Jefferson was talking about our current state of affairs, doesn’t it?

    I think Washington counts on us having no time to think and no time to call them to account. Perhaps the Wall St. bailout is a blessing in disguise, as it seems to be motivating more people to speak out.

    I just found a site called congress.org that will forward an individual’s opinion to a whole list of people, including their reps. I’m spreading it around, in the hopes that Washington will have no choice but to sit up and take notice of the uproar they’re creating.

  2. Yikes. That’s just what is happening here in New York State. But hey, since it’s not the government and their pocket-patters who are getting poor, why do they have to worry? Unfortunately, this problem obviously extends beyond New York, but Upstate will probably be the first part of the nation to disappear into the abyss, unless there is a major change. Now, not even working sixteen hours a day will get you through the year. The government essentially forces you to follow in their pernicious example (i. e., stick the hook of debt in your nose), just to survive. But hey man, those socialists are really nice people. Surely we can’t vote against free healthcare! It’s a right guaranteed in the Constitution!

    The price that a nation pays for its rejection of the advice of it’s wise forefathers is high. For America, there is no excuse. We have all the wealth and luxury the world could ever ask for, and we have thousands of years of history behind us to reference to. But we also have many distractions. Like hey dude, who wants to study and think when Oprah’s on?

    Anyway, this is a great quote. Thanks so much for sharing! I’m so glad you could participate!

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