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An inscription inside the Jefferon memorial says: --- God who gave us life gave us Liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between master and slave is depotism. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free establish the law for educating the common people. This is the business of the state to effect and on a general plan. ---- Would Jefferson have said that? He was a slave owner himself.
The official story is that the inscription is taken from Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia, with the last two sentences being from a letter to George Washington. A manuscript.
The quote isn't some black-and-white assertion against slavery. Thomas Jefferson had complex and evolving relationships with slaves. He owned lots of them (inherited some 135 of them), had a romantic relationship with one of them after his wife died (including kids), waived various fees, and was the key politician who banned importation of new slaves and then slavery itself in numerous states.
It's just wrong to assume that a politician in the late 18th century should have behaved and acted like a radical social justice warrior in the 21st century. There is no contradiction between Jefferson's life and the inscription and Jefferson was an amazing politician and president who has improved the U.S. society dramatically.
Jefferson Monument (Louisville, Kentucky)
The monument to Thomas Jefferson was created in 1899 by Sir Moses Ezekiel. It was commissioned as one of two sculptures for the exterior of the Jefferson County Courthouse the other statue honors Louis XIV. 
The Jefferson statue was presented to the city of Louisville by the Bernheim Brothers, two wealthy, public-spirited businessmen of the city, in November 1901. It was unveiled at ceremonies that included addresses by former Governor of Kentucky William O'Connell Bradley and Mayor Charles P. Weaver. It stands on Jefferson street in front of the Jefferson County Court House, the architecture of the later forming an effective background. 
The status of Jefferson is in bronze, 9 feet (2.7 m) high, and represents him at the age of 33 presenting the Declaration of Independence to the First Congress. The subject is well conceived and executed with power and artistic taste. An original feature is the bronze pedestal, which represents the famous Liberty Bell, the height being 9 feet (2.7 m) with a diameter of nearly 10 feet (3.0 m). On the outside of this bell at four equidistant points are modeled figures, representing Liberty, Equality, Justice and the Brotherhood of Man. The statue symbolizing Liberty shows the Goddess of Liberty starting forward bursting the chains from her arms. She occupies the front of the pedestal and the flowing drapery and vigorous motion of the figure are incisively portrayed. Justice, with bandaged eyes, is shown with drawn sword in one and hand and scales in the other. Equality is typified in female form, represented in the act of casting from her the law of primo-geniture, and treading under foot the Stamp Act. 
The lower part of the monument is of dark Quincy granite from the Quincy Granite Quarries in Quincy, Massachusetts, all parts highly polished, the die block being 10 square feet (0.93 m 2 ) and 5 feet (1.5 m) high resting on steps or bases laid in sections, the lowest of which is 19 feet (5.8 m) square. The whole is 25 feet (7.6 m) high. Clarke & Loomis of Louisville were the constructing architects, and the bronze was cast in Berlin, Germany. The sculptor is Sir Moses Ezekiel, who designed the granite pedestal and executed the models for statuary at his studio in Rome. 
A smaller replica of the monument stands at the University of Virginia. 
Blame Jefferson for the Confederate Flag
The Confederate flag debate has lately included the problematical Robert E. Lee. But Lee is not our real problem regarding slavery’s legacy. Thomas Jefferson is.
Library of Congress
As the call to remove the Confederate flag from its official position in states across the South gathers momentum, the question that remains is, How far should this process go?
New York Times columnist David Brooks has responded to that question by observing that we now have a Robert E. Lee problem.
Brooks is, unfortunately, only half right. Lee, who led the South’s armies in the Civil War, should be distinguished from a racial extremist like Confederate general and slave trader Nathan Bedford Forrest, who became the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. But as the recent exchange between CNN’s Legal View host Ashley Banfield and CNN news anchor Don Lemon shows, Lee is not our hardest problem when it comes to dealing with the South’s slave legacy.
Our hardest problem is Thomas Jefferson, who kept slaves, had children by one of them, and as his biographer Fawn Brodie notes, freed only five of his slaves in his will. As C. Vann Woodward observed of Jefferson in his classic study, The Burden of Southern History, “After all, it fell [to] the lot of one Southerner from Virginia to define America.”
On the eve of the Civil War Lincoln summed up the Jefferson he revered in an 1859 letter in which he wrote, “All honor to Jefferson—to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times.”
But the Jefferson whom Lincoln admired and the nation honors in Washington with a memorial was far from consistent in his views on slavery and race.
In his 1785 Notes on Virginia Jefferson had no doubt that in their reasoning the slaves were “much inferior” to whites. “Never yet could I find that a black had uttered a thought above the level of plain narration,” he writes in an entry in which the racism is unmistakable.
To his credit, Jefferson did not fool himself into believing that white-black differences justified slavery. “Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever,” Jefferson observes later in Notes on Virginia when he thinks of slaves and their masters.
What Jefferson would not do, though, was risk his personal comfort as a slave owner or his status as a politician to demand the end of slavery.
“You know that nobody wishes more ardently to see an abolition not only of the trade but of the condition of slavery,” Jefferson writes to Jean Pierre Brissot de Warville, a French friend, in 1788. But in the same letter he defends his reticence on the subject by observing that “those whom I serve having never yet been able to give their voice against this practice, it is decent for me to avoid too public a demonstration of my wishes to see it abolished.”
Decades later, with the country more deeply torn by the slavery question, Jefferson was still cautious, even though his fears had increased. Freeing the slaves scared him more than keeping them in bondage.
In 1820, the year of the Missouri Compromise, which admitted Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state, Jefferson still would not call for the end of slavery. In a figure of speech that likens the slaves to wild animals, he writes, “But as it is, we have the wolf by the ears, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.”
These contradictions in Jefferson are understandably not part of his memorial in the Capital. Only his inspiring thoughts appear in the quotations engraved on the Jefferson Memorial walls. When on April 13, 1943, the 200th anniversary of Jefferson’s birth, President Franklin Roosevelt dedicated the Jefferson Memorial, he remarked, “Today in the midst of a great war for freedom, we dedicate a shrine to freedom.” Like Lincoln, Roosevelt focused only on the side of Jefferson that inspired him.
In the midst of World War II, with D-Day more than a year way, FDR could not be expected to do better. But today we can. The only question is how we go about it. Jefferson famously referred to the slavery question sounding “a fire-bell in the night.” The murders in Charleston have become our racial fire bell.
Jefferson's Attitudes Toward Slavery
Thomas Jefferson wrote that &ldquoall men are created equal,&rdquo and yet enslaved more than six-hundred people over the course of his life. Although he made some legislative attempts against slavery and at times bemoaned its existence, he also profited directly from the institution of slavery and wrote that he suspected black people to be inferior to white people in his Notes on the State of Virginia.
Throughout his entire life, Thomas Jefferson was publicly a consistent opponent of slavery. Calling it a &ldquomoral depravity&rdquo1 and a &ldquohideous blot,&rdquo2 he believed that slavery presented the greatest threat to the survival of the new American nation.3 Jefferson also thought that slavery was contrary to the laws of nature, which decreed that everyone had a right to personal liberty.4 These views were radical in a world where unfree labor was the norm.
At the time of the American Revolution, Jefferson was actively involved in legislation that he hoped would result in slavery&rsquos abolition.5 In 1778, he drafted a Virginia law that prohibited the importation of enslaved Africans.6 In 1784, he proposed an ordinance that would ban slavery in the Northwest territories.7 But Jefferson always maintained that the decision to emancipate slaves would have to be part of a democratic process abolition would be stymied until slaveowners consented to free their human property together in a large-scale act of emancipation. To Jefferson, it was anti-democratic and contrary to the principles of the American Revolution for the federal government to enact abolition or for only a few planters to free their slaves.8
Although Jefferson continued to advocate for abolition, the reality was that slavery was becoming more entrenched. The slave population in Virginia skyrocketed from 292,627 in 1790 to 469,757 in 1830. Jefferson had assumed that the abolition of the slave trade would weaken slavery and hasten its end. Instead, slavery became more widespread and profitable. In an attempt to erode Virginians&rsquo support for slavery, he discouraged the cultivation of crops heavily dependent on slave labor&mdashspecifically tobacco&mdashand encouraged the introduction of crops that needed little or no slave labor&mdashwheat, sugar maples, short-grained rice, olive trees, and wine grapes.9 But by the 1800s, Virginia&rsquos most valuable commodity and export was neither crops nor land, but slaves.
Jefferson&rsquos belief in the necessity of ending slavery never changed. From the mid-1770s until his death, he advocated the same plan of gradual emancipation. First, the transatlantic slave trade would be abolished.10 Second, slaveowners would &ldquoimprove&rdquo slavery&rsquos most violent features, by bettering (Jefferson used the term &ldquoameliorating&rdquo) living conditions and moderating physical punishment.11 Third, all born into slavery after a certain date would be declared free, followed by total abolition.12 Like others of his day, he supported the removal of newly freed slaves from the United States.13 The unintended effect of Jefferson&rsquos plan was that his goal of &ldquoimproving&rdquo slavery as a step towards ending it was used as an argument for its perpetuation. Pro-slavery advocates after Jefferson&rsquos death argued that if slavery could be &ldquoimproved,&rdquo abolition was unnecessary.
Jefferson&rsquos belief in the necessity of abolition was intertwined with his racial beliefs. He thought that white Americans and enslaved blacks constituted two &ldquoseparate nations&rdquo who could not live together peacefully in the same country.14 Jefferson&rsquos belief that blacks were racially inferior and &ldquoas incapable as children,&rdquo15 coupled with slaves&rsquo presumed resentment of their former owners, made their removal from the United States an integral part of Jefferson&rsquos emancipation scheme. Influenced by the Haitian Revolution and an aborted rebellion in Virginia in 1800, Jefferson believed that American slaves&rsquo deportation&mdashwhether to Africa or the West Indies&mdashwas an essential followup to emancipation.16
Jefferson wrote that maintaining slavery was like holding &ldquoa wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go.&rdquo17 He thought that his cherished federal union, the world&rsquos first democratic experiment, would be destroyed by slavery. To emancipate slaves on American soil, Jefferson thought, would result in a large-scale race war that would be as brutal and deadly as the slave revolt in Haiti in 1791. But he also believed that to keep slaves in bondage, with part of America in favor of abolition and part of America in favor of perpetuating slavery, could only result in a civil war that would destroy the union. Jefferson&rsquos latter prediction was correct: in 1861, the contest over slavery sparked a bloody civil war and the creation of two nations&mdashUnion and Confederacy&mdashin the place of one.
Jefferson Belongs to Us All—Leave His Memorial Alone | Opinion
Earlier this week, The New York Times published an opinion piece by Lucian K. Truscott IV, a direct descendant of Thomas Jefferson, advocating the removal of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. He says that his ancestor was nothing more than a scoundrel and a hypocrite.
"The memorial is a shrine to a man who, during his lifetime, owned more than 600 slaves and had at least six children with one of them, Sally Hemings. It's a shrine to a man who famously wrote that 'all men are created equal' in the Declaration of Independence that founded this nation&mdashand yet never did much to make those words come true."
It is worth noting that Mr. Truscott does not call for Monticello&mdashMr. Jefferson's home and the place where his sins were actually committed&mdashto be torn down. He seems to have lovely childhood memories of the place. Rest assured, the Truscott family sacred ground is to be preserved. Instead, Mr. Truscott focuses his ire on the public monument to his ancestor.
Sadly for Mr. Truscott, I am also a direct descendant of Thomas Jefferson. Not by blood, of course. My ancestors were scattered across Eastern Europe in 1776.
But the Declaration of Independence is part of my moral genealogy. Yours, too, I'd imagine. If you believe, as I do, that all men are created equal and endowed by God with rights that cannot be taken away, then you, too, are a descendant of Thomas Jefferson. If you believe that people institute governments to protect their rights and that government only has power over us insofar as we consent to it, then you, too are a descendant of Thomas Jefferson.
Insofar as he gifted to us the greatest defense of human liberty in history, we are all direct descendants of Jefferson. But don't take my word for it.
In July of 1858, just days after Independence Day, U.S. Senate candidate Abraham Lincoln made his way to Chicago to attend and answer a speech by his opponent. It would be more than a month before Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas would meet in Ottawa, Illinois for the first installment of their now-famous debates series. In his speech, Lincoln addressed at length the issue of slavery in America and its tendrils&mdashpopular sovereignty, the Lecompton Constitution, the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision and more.
In that speech, Lincoln noted that perhaps half of the Americans who had recently celebrated Independence Day were not born of people who had lived in America at the time of the Founding. "If," he says, "they look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none."
"But when they look through that old Declaration of Independence, they find that those old men say that 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,' and then they feel that that moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration, and so they are."
"And so they are." And so we are.
That Mr. Truscott chooses to treat with contempt and dishonor the proud coincidence of his blood relation to Thomas Jefferson is his problem. Perhaps he should petition the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and the relevant authorities to demolish Monticello. I would oppose him in that, too, but it would at least be consistent with his feelings about his ancestor.
The Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., however, is a monument to neither Jefferson's personal behavior nor his moral failings. It is not a Jefferson family site. It is a monument to his ideas&mdashideas which founded the United States with the kind of moral infrastructure that would allow Frederick Douglass to hold them up as a mirror, some 75 years later, and implore us to live up to our stated principles. Ideas used by Lincoln to call for the end of slavery, using Jefferson's words nearly a century after they were published. Ideas cited by Martin Luther King Jr., another century hence, to call for payment of Jefferson's "promissory note." Ideas and words used by movements for freedom and self-government the world over for centuries. If that doesn't deserve commemoration in bronze and marble, what does?
Thomas Jefferson doesn't belong to his now-very distant relatives. He belongs to every American&mdashindeed every human being&mdashwho holds to the self-evident moral principle of universal human equality. It's a shame some of his descendants can't be proud of that. But I am.
Jonathan Greenberg is the director of freedom initiatives at the Jack Miller Family Foundation.
Is this inscription in the Jefferson memorial consistent with Jefferson's views? - History
WORLD FUTURE FUND
THOMAS JEFFERSON QUOTES
ON CHRISTIANITY AND RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE
At times, the Christian right has sought to rewrite history by posthumously converting Thomas Jefferson into a Christian. Throughout his life, however, Jefferson strenuously denied that he held orthodox Christian beliefs or that he desired the mixing of politics and religion in government. Instead, Jefferson's religious philosophy centered on 18th century concepts of natural law. Jefferson placed significant value on the ability of human beings to use reason to understand their world. In fact, Jefferson was so opposed to mysticism that he removed from his bible any account of the miracles that Jesus is alleged to have performed. The resulting Jefferson Bible, contained only those precepts that Jefferson believed were integral to the moral philosophy of Jesus Christ.
The quotes from Jefferson collected on this page do not represent the sum total of all his statements on religion. They make clear, however, that Jefferson carefully considered and then rejected basing his philosophy of liberty on any combination of religion and politics. To Jefferson, liberty and democracy could only be maintained via the separation of church and state, even in public education.
Only part of the quote below is on the wall of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC. It was inscribed out of context in 1939. Jefferson indeed wrote "I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." Most people think he was referring to George III. Instead, he was responding to attacks made on him in pamphlets distributed by clergy in Philadelphia during the presidential election of 1800. These pamphlets accused Jefferson of being unfit to become President because he did not hold Christian beliefs.
"The clergy . believe that any portion of power confided to me [as President] will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion."
Source: Letter of Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Benjamin Rush, Sept. 23, 1800.
"The first settlers in this country were emigrants from England, of the English church, just at a point of time when it was flushed with complete victory over the religious of all other persuasions. Possessed, as they became, of the powers of making, administering, and executing the laws, they showed equal intolerance in this country with their Presbyterian brethren, who had emigrated to the northern government. The poor Quakers were flying from persecution in England. They cast their eyes on these new countries as asylums of civil and religious freedom but they found them free only for the reigning sect."
"Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth."
"In 1769, I became a member of the legislature by the choice of the county in which I live, & continued in that until it was closed by the revolution. I made one effort in that body for the permission of the emancipation of slaves, which was rejected: and indeed, during the regal government, nothing liberal could expect success. Our minds were circumscribed within narrow limits by an habitual belief that it was our duty to be subordinate to the mother country in all matters of government, to direct all our labors in subservience to her interests, and even to observe a bigoted intolerance for all religions but hers."
Source: Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography.
"I have never conceived that having been in public life required me to belie my sentiments, or to conceal them. Opinion and the just maintenance of it shall never be a crime in my view, nor bring injury on the individual. I never will by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance. I never had an opinion in politics or religion which I was afraid to own a reserve on these subjects might have procured me more esteem from some people, but less from myself."
"I had no idea, however, that in Pennsylvania, the cradle of toleration and freedom of religion, it [fanaticism] could have arisen to the height you describe. This must be owing to the growth of Presbyterianism. The blasphemy of the five points of Calvin, and the impossibility of defending them, render their advocates impatient of reasoning, irritable, and prone to denunciation".
Source: Letter of Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Cooper, November 2, 1822 in Works , Vol. IV, p. 358.
"The present state of our laws on the subject of religion is this. The convention of May 1776, in their declaration of rights, declared it to be a truth, and a natural right, that the exercise of religion should be free. . By our own act of assembly of 1705, c. 30, if a person brought up in the Christian religion denies the being of a God, or the Trinity, or asserts there are more Gods than one, or denies the Christian religion to be true, or the scriptures to be of divine authority, he is punishable on the first offence by incapacity to hold any office or employment ecclesiastical, civil, or military on the second by disability to sue, to take any gift or legacy, to be guardian, executor, or administrator, and by three years imprisonment, without bail. A father's right to the custody of his own children being founded in law on his right of guardianship, this being taken away, they may of course be severed from him, and put, by the authority of a court, into more orthodox hands. This is a summary view of that religious slavery, under which a people have been willing to remain, who have lavished their lives and fortunes for the establishment of their civil freedom."
Source: Thomas Jefferson, "Religion" in Notes on the State of Virginia (1782), pp. 283-284.
"Religion is well supported of various kinds, indeed, but all good enough all sufficient to preserve peace and order: or if a sect arises, whose tenets would subvert morals, good sense has fair play, and reasons and laughs it out of doors, without suffering the state to be troubled with it. They do not hang more malefactors than we do. They (i.e. Pennsylvania and New York) are not more disturbed with religious dissensions. On the contrary, their harmony is unparalleled, and can be ascribed to nothing but their unbounded tolerance, because there is no other circumstance in which they differ from every nation on earth. They have made the happy discovery, that the way to silence religious disputes, is to take no notice of them. Let us too give this experiment fair play, and get rid, while we may, of those tyrannical laws."
Source: Thomas Jefferson, "Religion" in Notes on the State of Virginia (1782), p. 287.
"Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting "Jesus Christ," so that it would read "A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion" the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.
"Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law."
Source: Letter of Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814.
"Question with boldness even the existence of a god because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear."
Source: Letter of Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787.
"To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, god, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no god, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise: but I believe I am supported in my creed of materialism by Locke, Tracy, and Stewart. At what age of the Christian church this heresy of immaterialism, this masked atheism, crept in, I do not know. But heresy it certainly is."
Source: Letter of Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, Aug. 15, 1820.
"Man once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind."
Source: Letter of Thomas Jefferson to James Smith, 1822.
"And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors."
Source: Letter of Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, April 11, 1823.
"I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent."
Source: Letter of Thomas Jefferson to Francis Hopkinson, March 13, 1789.
"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."
Source: Letter of Thomas Jefferson to Roger C. Weightman, June 24, 1826. This was the last letter Jefferson ever wrote.
"In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own."
Source: Letter of Thomas Jefferson to Horatio G. Spafford, March 17, 1814.
"History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes."
Source: Letter of Thomas Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, Dec. 6, 1813.
"The advocate of religious freedom is to expect neither peace nor forgiveness from [the clergy]."
Source: Letter of Thomas Jefferson to Levi Lincoln, 1802.
"The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and in-grafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man."
Source: Letter of Thomas Jefferson to Jeremiah Moor, 1800.
"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State."
Source: Letter of Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association, Connecticut, January 1, 1802.
"I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises. This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment or free exercise of religion, but from that also which reserves to the states the powers not delegated to the United States. Certainly, no power to prescribe any religious exercise or to assume authority in religious discipline has been delegated to the General Government. It must then rest with the states, as far as it can be in any human authority."
Source: Letter of Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Miller, 1808.
"Ministers of the Gospel are excluded [from serving as Visitors of the county Elementary Schools] to avoid jealousy from the other sects, were the public education committed to the ministers of a particular one and with more reason than in the case of their exclusion from the legislative and executive functions."
Source: Thomas Jefferson, Note to Elementary School Act, 1817.
"No religious reading, instruction or exercise, shall be prescribed or practiced [in the elementary schools] inconsistent with the tenets of any religious sect or denomination."
Source: Thomas Jefferson, Note to Elementary School Act, 1817.
"I am for freedom of religion, and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another."
Source: Letter of Thomas Jefferson to Elbridge Gerry, 1799.
"We have solved, by fair experiment, the great and interesting question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government and obedience to the laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason and the serious convictions of his own inquiries."
Source: Letter of Thomas Jefferson to Virginia Baptists, 1808.
"In our early struggles for liberty, religious freedom could not fail to become a primary object."
Source: Letter of Thomas Jefferson to Baltimore Baptists, 1808.
"There are, I acknowledge, passages [in the Bible] not free from objection, which we may, with probability, ascribe to Jesus himself but claiming indulgence from the circumstances under which he acted. His object was the reformation of some articles in the religion of the Jews, as taught by Moses. That sect had presented for the object of their worship, a being of terrific character, cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust. Jesus, taking for his type the best qualities of the human head and heart, wisdom, justice, goodness, and adding to them power, ascribed all of these, but in infinite perfection, to the Supreme Being, and formed him really worthy of their adoration. Moses had either not believed in a future state of existence, or had not thought it essential to be explicitly taught to his people. Jesus inculcated that doctrine with emphasis and precision. Moses had bound the Jews to many idle ceremonies, mummeries and observances, of no effect towards producing the social utilities which constitute the essence of virtue Jesus exposed their futility and insignificance. The one (i.e. Moses) instilled into his people the most anti-social spirit towards other nations the other preached philanthropy and universal charity and benevolence. The office of reformer of the superstitions of a nation, is ever dangerous. Jesus had to walk on the perilous confines of reason and religion: and a step to right or left might place him within the grip of the priests of the superstition, a blood thirsty race, as cruel and remorseless as the being whom they represented as the family God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob, and the local God of Israel."
"The hocus-pocus phantasm of a God, like another Cerberus, with one body and three heads, had its birth and growth in the blood of thousands and thousands of martyrs".
Source: Thomas Jefferson, Works , Vol. IV, p. 360.
"The whole history of these books (i.e. the Gospels) is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills."
Source: Letter of Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, January 24, 1814.
"Among the sayings and discourses imputed to him (i.e. Jesus) by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence and others again of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism, and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being."
Source: Letter of Thomas Jefferson to William Short, April 13, 1820.
"It is between fifty and sixty years since I read it (i.e. the Book of Revelations), and I then considered it merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherence of our own nightly dreams."
Source: Letter of Thomas Jefferson to General Alexander Smyth, Jan. 17, 1825.
"His [Calvin's] religion was demonism. If ever man worshiped a false God, he did. The being described in his five points is . a demon of malignant spirit. It would be more pardonable to believe in no God at all, than to blaspheme him by the atrocious attributes of Calvin"
20b. Jeffersonian Ideology
A marble mosaic of Greek goddess Minerva in the Library of Congress symbolizes the preservation of civilization as well as the promotion of the arts and sciences.
Jefferson's lasting significance in American history stems from his remarkably varied talents. He made major contributions as a politician, statesman, diplomat, intellectual, writer, scientist, and philosopher. No other figure among the Founding Fathers shared the depth and breadth of his wide-ranging intelligence.
His presidential vision impressively combined philosophic principles with pragmatic effectiveness as a politician. Jefferson's most fundamental political belief was an "absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority ." Stemming from his deep optimism in human reason, Jefferson believed that the will of the people , expressed through elections, provided the most appropriate guidance for directing the republic's course.
Jefferson also felt that the central government should be "rigorously frugal and simple." As president he reduced the size and scope of the federal government by ending internal taxes, reducing the size of the army and navy, and paying off the government's debt. Limiting the federal government flowed from his strict interpretation of the Constitution.
Finally, Jefferson also committed his presidency to the protection of civil liberties and minority rights. As he explained in his inaugural address in 1801 , "though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate would be oppression." Jefferson's experience of Federalist repression in the late 1790s led him to more clearly define a central concept of American democracy.
Jefferson's stature as the most profound thinker in the American political tradition stems beyond his specific policies as president. His crucial sense of what mattered most in life grew from a deep appreciation of farming, in his mind the most virtuous and meaningful human activity. As he explained in his Notes on the State of Virginia (1785), "Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God." Since farmers were an overwhelming majority in the American republic, one can see how his belief in the value of agriculture reinforced his commitment to democracy.
Completed in 1943, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial stands in Washington D.C. as a testament to one of the great American political philosophers.
Jefferson's thinking, however, was not merely celebratory, for he saw two dangerous threats to his ideal agrarian democracy . To him, financial speculation and the development of urban industry both threatened to rob men of the independence that they maintained as farmers. Debt, on the one hand, and factory work, on the other, could rob men of the economic autonomy essential for republican citizens.
Jefferson's vision was not anti-modern, for he had too brilliant a scientific mind to fear technological change. He supported international commerce to benefit farmers and wanted to see new technology widely incorporated into ordinary farms and households to make them more productive.
During his lifetime, Thomas Jefferson was accused of having an adulterous affair with Sally Hemings, one of his slaves. In 1998, DNA tests revealed that Heming's son, Eston, was related to Jefferson's family.
Jefferson pinpointed a deeply troubling problem. How could republican liberty and democratic equality be reconciled with social changes that threatened to increase inequality? The awful working conditions in early industrial England loomed as a terrifying example. For Jefferson, western expansion provided an escape from the British model. As long as hard working farmers could acquire land at reasonable prices, then America could prosper as a republic of equal and independent citizens. Jefferson's ideas helped to inspire a mass political movement that achieved many key aspects of his plan.
In spite of the success and importance of Jeffersonian Democracy, dark flaws limited even Jefferson's grand vision. First, his hopes for the incorporation of technology at the household level failed to grasp how poverty often pushed women and children to the forefront of the new industrial labor. Second, an equal place for Native Americans could not be accommodated within his plans for an agrarian republic. Third, Jefferson's celebration of agriculture disturbingly ignored the fact that slaves worked the richest farm land in the United States. Slavery was obviously incompatible with true democratic values. Jefferson's explanation of slaves within the republic argued that African Americans' racial inferiority barred them from becoming full and equal citizens.
Our final assessment of Jeffersonian Democracy rests on a profound contradiction. Jefferson was the single most powerful individual leading the struggle to enhance the rights of ordinary people in the early republic. Furthermore, his Declaration of Independence had eloquently expressed America's statement of purpose "that all men are created equal." Still, he owned slaves all his life and, unlike Washington, never set them free.
For all his greatness, Jefferson did not transcend the pervasive racism of his day.
God in Our Nation’s Capital
In our minds, lets take a walking tour through Americas capital city, Washington, DC. What we will be seeing in our minds eye comes from the book Rediscovering God in America: Reflections on the Role of Faith in Our Nations History and Future. As we consider what religious symbols are found in the buildings and monuments, I think we will gain a fresh appreciation for the role of religion in the public square.
We will begin with the U.S. Capitol Building. No other building in Washington defines the skyline like this one does. It has been the place of formal inaugurations as well as informal and spontaneous events, such as when two hundred members of Congress gathered on the steps on September 12, 2001, to sing God Bless America.
President George Washington laid the cornerstone for the Capitol in 1793. When the north wing was finished in 1800, Congress was able to move in. Construction began again in 1803 under the direction of Benjamin Latrobe. The British invasion of Washington in 1812 resulted in the partial destruction of the Capitol. In 1818, Charles Bulfinch oversaw the completion of the north and south wings (including a chamber for the Supreme Court).
Unfortunately, the original design failed to consider that additional states would enter the union, and these additional representatives were crowding the Capitol. President Millard Fillmore chose Thomas Walter to continue the Capitols construction and rehabilitation. Construction halted during the first part of the Civil War, and it wasnt until 1866 that the canopy fresco in the Rotunda was completed.
The religious imagery in the Rotunda is significant. Eight different historical paintings are on display. The first is the painting The Landing of Columbus that depicts the arrival on the shores of America. Second is The Embarkation of the Pilgrims that shows the Pilgrims observing a day of prayer and fasting led by William Brewster.
Third is the painting Discovery of the Mississippi by DeSoto. Next to DeSoto is a monk who prays as a crucifix is placed in the ground. Finally, there is the painting Baptism of Pocahontas.
Throughout the Capitol Building, there are references to God and faith. In the Cox Corridor a line from America the Beautiful is carved in the wall: America! God shed His grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea!
In the House chamber is the inscription, In God We Trust. Also in the House chamber, above the Gallery door, stands a marble relief of Moses, the greatest of the twenty-three law-givers (and the only one full-faced). At the east entrance to the Senate chamber are the words Annuit Coeptis which is Latin for God has favored our undertakings. The words In God We Trust are also written over the southern entrance.
In the Capitols Chapel is a stained glass window depicting George Washington in prayer under the inscription In God We Trust. Also, a prayer is inscribed in the window which says, Preserve me, God, for in Thee do I put my trust.
The Washington Monument
The tallest monument in Washington, DC, is the Washington Monument. From the base of the monument to its aluminum capstone are numerous references to God. This is fitting since George Washington was a religious man. When he took the oath of office on April 30, 1789, he asked that the Bible be opened to Deuteronomy 28. After the oath, Washington added, So help me God and bent forward and kissed the Bible before him.
Construction of the Washington Monument began in 1848, but by 1854 the Washington National Monument Society was out of money and construction stopped for many years. Mark Twain said it had the forlorn appearance of a hollow, oversized chimney. In 1876, Congress appropriated money for the completion of the monument which took place in 1884. In a ceremony on December 6, the aluminum capstone was placed atop the monument. The east side of the capstone has the Latin phrase Laus Deo, which means Praise be to God.
The cornerstone of the Washington Monument includes a Holy Bible, which was a gift from the Bible Society. Along with it are copies of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
If you walk inside the monument you will see a memorial plaque from the Free Press Methodist-Episcopal Church. On the twelfth landing you will see a prayer offered by the city of Baltimore. On the twentieth landing you will see a memorial offered by Chinese Christians. There is also a presentation made by Sunday school children from New York and Philadelphia on the twenty-fourth landing.
The monument is full of carved tribute blocks that say: Holiness to the Lord Search the Scriptures The memory of the just is blessed May Heaven to this union continue its beneficence In God We Trust and Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
So what was George Washingtons faith? Historians have long debated the extent of his faith. But Michael Novak points out that Washingtons own step-granddaughter, Nelly Custis, thought his words and actions were so plain and obvious that she could not understand how anybody failed to see that he had always lived as a serious Christian.
During the first meeting of the Continental Congress in September 1774, George Washington prayed alongside the other delegates. And they recited Psalm 35 together as patriots.
George Washington also proclaimed the first national day of thanksgiving in the United States. In 1795 he said, When we review the calamities which afflict so many other nations, the present condition of the United States affords much matter of consolation and satisfaction. He therefore called for a day of public thanksgiving and prayer. He said, In such a state of things it is in an especial manner our duty as people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God and implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experience.
The Lincoln Memorial
The idea of a memorial to the sixteenth president had been discussed almost within days after his assassination, but lack of finances proved to be a major factor. Finally, Congress allocated funds for it during the Taft administration. Architect Henry Bacon wanted to model it after the Greek Parthenon, and work on it was completed in 1922.
Bacon chose the Greek Doric columns in part to symbolize Lincolns fight to preserve democracy during the Civil War. The thirty-six columns represented the thirty-six states that made up the Union at the time of Lincolns death.
Daniel Chester French sculpted the statue of Abraham Lincoln to show his compassionate nature and his resolve in preserving the Union. One of Lincolns hands is tightly clenched (to show his determination) while the other hand is open and relaxed (to show his compassion).
Lincolns speeches are displayed within the memorial. On the left side is the Gettysburg Address (only 267 words long). He said, We here highly resolved that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.
On the right side is Lincolns second inaugural address (only 703 words long). It mentions God fourteen times and quotes the Bible twice. He reflected on the fact that the Civil War was not controlled by man, but by God. He noted that each side looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God and each invokes his aid against the other.
He concludes with a lament over the destruction caused by the Civil War, and appeals to charity in healing the wounds of the war. With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nations wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
It is fitting that one hundred years after Lincolns second inaugural, his memorial was the place where Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his most famous speech, I have a dream. An inscription was added to the memorial in 2003 that was based upon Isaiah 40:4-5: I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.
At a White House dinner during the war, a clergyman gave the benediction and closed with the statement that The Lord is on the Unions side. Abraham Lincoln responded: I am not at all concerned about that, for I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lords side.
The Jefferson Memorial
Thomas Jefferson was Americas third president and the drafter of the Declaration of Independence, so it is surprising that a memorial to him was not built earlier than it was. In 1934, Franklin Delano Roosevelt persuaded Congress to establish a memorial commission to honor Jefferson. After some study the commission decided to honor Pierre LEnfants original plan, which called for the placement of five different memorials that would be aligned in a cross-like manner.
The architect of the memorial proposed a Pantheon-like structure that was modeled after Jeffersons own home which incorporated the Roman architecture that Jefferson admired. The original design was modified, and the memorial was officially dedicated in 1943.
When you enter the Jefferson Memorial you will find many references to God. A quote that runs around the interior dome says, I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the minds of man.
On the first panel, you will see the famous passage from the Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
On the second panel is an excerpt from A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, 1777. It was passed by the Virginia Assembly in 1786. It reads: Almighty God hath created the mind free. . . . All attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens . . . are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion. . . . No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship or ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions of belief, but all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion. I know but one code of morality for men whether acting singly or collectively.
The third panel is taken from Jeffersons 1785 Notes on the State of Virginia. It reads: God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between master and slave is despotism. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free.
The Supreme Court
Of the three branches of government, the Supreme Court was the last to get its own building. In fact, it met in the Capitol building for over a hundred years. During that time, it met in many different rooms of the capitol until it finally settled in the Old Senate Chamber in 1860.
Supreme Court Justice William Howard Taft (who also had served as president) persuaded Congress to authorize funds for the Supreme Court building. It was modeled after Greek and Roman architecture in the familiar Corinthian style and dedicated in 1935.
It is ironic that the Supreme Court has often issued opinions which have stripped religious displays from the public square when these opinions have been read in a building with many religious displays. And it is ironic that public expressions of faith have been limited when all sessions of the court begin with the Courts Marshal announcing: God save the United States and this honorable court.
In a number of cases, the Supreme Court has declared the posting of the Ten Commandments unconstitutional (in public school classrooms and in a local courthouse in Kentucky). But this same Supreme Court has a number of places in its building where there are images of Moses with the Ten Commandments. These can be found at the center of the sculpture over the east portico of the Supreme Court building, inside the actual courtroom, and finally, engraved over the chair of the Chief Justice, and on the bronze doors of the Supreme Court itself.
Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has often ruled against the very kind of religious expression that can be found in the building that houses the court. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich says in his book Rediscovering God in America, that we see a systematic effort . . . to purge all religious expression from American public life. He goes on to say that for the last fifty years the Supreme Court has become a permanent constitutional convention in which the whims of five appointed lawyers have rewritten the meaning of the Constitution. Under this new, all-powerful model of the Court, and by extension the trail-breaking Ninth Circuit Court, the Constitution and the law can be redefined by federal judges unchecked by the other two coequal branches of government.
This is the state of affairs we find in the twenty-first century. If five justices believe that prayer at a public school graduation is unconstitutional, then it is unconstitutional. If five justices believe that posting the Ten Commandments is unconstitutional, it is unconstitutional.
If the trend continues, one wonders if one day they may rule that religious expression on public monuments is unconstitutional. If that takes place, then you might want to invest in sandblasting companies in the Washington, DC, area. There are lots of buildings and monuments with words about God, faith, and religion. It would take a long time to erase all of these words from public view.
The next time you are in our nations capital, make sure you take a walking tour of the buildings and monuments. They testify to a belief in God and a dynamic faith that today is often under attack from the courts and the culture.
1. Newt Gingrich, Rediscovering God in America: Reflections on the Role of Faith in Our Nation’s History and Future (Nashville, TN: Integrity House, 2006).
2. Ibid., 77.
3. Ibid., 81.
4. Ibid., 2.
5. Ibid., 35.
6. Ibid., 39.
7. Ibid., 40.
8. Ibid., 50.
9. Ibid., 54.
10. Ibid., 44.
11. Ibid., 87.
12. Ibid., 132.
September 2, 2011 God works in miraculous ways to get His Word to believers who need it. I thought I might share a story I read years ago in a&hellip
Kerby Anderson presents a compelling argument for the view that George Washington was a devoted Christian rather than a deist. He points to Washington's insistence on the importance of services&hellip
Nearly everywhere you go, it seems, you hear statements like, "You can't legislate morality," or "Christians shouldn't try to legislate their morality." Like dandelions, they pop up out of nowhere&hellip
Founders of America: Part One G.K. Chesterton once said that "America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed. That creed is set forth with&hellip
Introduction Soon after assuming office as president, Thomas Jefferson received a letter from the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut containing warm congratulations for his victory. In January of 1802 Jefferson&hellip
Kerby Anderson is president of Probe Ministries International. He holds masters degrees from Yale University (science) and from Georgetown University (government). He is the author of several books, including Christian Ethics in Plain Language, Genetic Engineering, Origin Science, Signs of Warning, Signs of Hope and Making the Most of Your Money in Tough Times. His new series with Harvest House Publishers includes: A Biblical Point of View on Islam, A Biblical Point of View on Homosexuality, A Biblical Point of View on Intelligent Design and A Biblical Point of View on Spiritual Warfare. He is the host of "Point of View" (USA Radio Network) heard on 360 radio outlets nationwide as well as on the Internet (www.pointofview.net) and shortwave. He is also a regular guest on "Prime Time America" (Moody Broadcasting Network) and "Fire Away" (American Family Radio). He produces a daily syndicated radio commentary and writes editorials that have appeared in papers such as the Dallas Morning News, the Miami Herald, the San Jose Mercury, and the Houston Post.
What is Probe?
Probe Ministries is a non-profit ministry whose mission is to assist the church in renewing the minds of believers with a Christian worldview and to equip the church to engage the world for Christ. Probe fulfills this mission through our Mind Games conferences for youth and adults, our 3-minute daily radio program, and our extensive Web site at www.probe.org.
Further information about Probe's materials and ministry may be obtained by contacting us at:
Jefferson’s views on slavery and blacks are complex. At one time he thought blacks were naturally inferior to other races, but later conceded that servitude may have had an impact on their abilities. As a young Virginia legislator, he unsuccessfully advocated allowing private citizens to free their slaves. Later he introduced a bill barring free blacks from staying in the state. His original draft of the Declaration of Independence included strong language opposing the transatlantic slave trade. As president, he signed a bill outlawing that trade.
“Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just that his justice cannot sleep forever…”
—Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1782
Jefferson recognized the evils of slavery, but he remained tied to the system and freed only seven of his bondsmen, all were members of the Hemmings family at Monticello. His concerns about emancipation ranged from paternalistic to self-interest. He believed most former slaves couldn’t survive independently. He also feared for his own economic survival and the safety of whites at the mercy of former slaves who had, in his words, been subjected to “unremitting despotism” and “degrading submissions.” As an older man, he advocated freeing and returning slaves to Africa.
“There is nothing I would not sacrifice to a practicable plan of abolishing every vestige of this moral and political depravity.”
—Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, September 1814
“Nobody wishes more than I do to see such proofs as you exhibit, that nature has given to our black brethren, talents equal to those of the other colors of men, and that the appearance of a want of them is owing merely to the degraded condition of their existence.” Thomas Jefferson to Banneker, August 30, 1791
1 King Tut&rsquos Privates
Not all deliberate mistakes or misrepresentations are printed, digitized, inscribed, or handwritten. King Tutankhamun&rsquos private parts certainly weren&rsquot.
The boy pharaoh was &ldquoentombed in an unusual way,&rdquo without his heart and with his penis &ldquomummified erect&rdquo at a 90-degree angle. Equally bizarre, his remains and the coffins containing them were covered in a thick layer of black liquid, which may have resulted in Tut catching fire.
Why on Earth was King Tut buried in such a peculiar fashion? Not surprisingly, these anomalies have caught the eye of both scholars and the media. The American University in Cairo&rsquos Egyptologist, Salima Ikram, thinks he knows, and he sets forth his hypothesis in a new paper in the journal Études et Travaux.
King Tut&rsquos erection and the black liquid covering him and his coffins are deliberate, not accidental, effects of his embalming, designed to create the impression that he is none other than Osiris, god of the underworld. King Tut&rsquos virile manhood, as evident in his erection, suggests the god&rsquos own fertility, and the black liquid recalls Osiris&rsquos pigmentation. The absence of the pharaoh&rsquos heart alludes to Osiris having been dismembered by his brother Seth. Like Osiris, King Tut&rsquos heart was buried separately from the rest of him.