If you’re like me – and absolutely couldn’t stomach the imperial speech from Joe Biden earlier this week – I’ve got a refreshing change of pace for you.
Today in history – on March 4, 1801 – President Thomas Jefferson gave his first inaugural address after winning a bitter campaign for President of these United States.
During the campaign, he noted that the nation’s newspapers were “teaming with every falsehood they can invent for defamation.” John Adams, who was seeking re-election on the Federalist ticket, was labeled a monarchist; Vice President Jefferson was called an atheist; both candidates were declared enemies of the Constitution.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
After a tie in the Electoral College and 36 votes in the House of Representatives to break that tie with his former running-mate Aaron Burr, Jefferson knew he had his work cut out for him.
So he started his Inaugural with a great deal of humility – noting that he would do his best to fulfill the duties of the monumental task at hand, but find all his guidance in the Constitution, which he would rely on “under all difficulties.”
From there, he said, “it is proper you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our government, and consequently those which ought to shape its administration.”
There are 13 of them, which you can read below with the text copied from Jefferson’s draft wherever possible. I covered this all in more detail to commemorate the anniversary of his speech on March 4 – in this Path to Liberty episode from our archives (click here)
- Equal and exact justice to all – whatever state of persuasion, religious or political
- Peace commerce and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none
- Support of state governments as the most competent administration for domestic concerns – and surest bulwarks against anti-republican tendencies
- preservation of the General government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home, and safety abroad
- Republican majoritarianism instead of an appeal to force
- a well disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace, and for the first moments of war, till regulars may relieve them
- the supremacy of the civil over the military authority
- economy in the public expence
- honest payment of our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith
- encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid
- the diffusion of information
- freedom of religion; freedom of the press; and freedom of person
- trial by juries impartially selected
On top of this great list – he mentioned the word “PEACE” seven times in his short speech, and even suggested that government should exist only to enforce the non-aggression principle.
At this link you can find the audio and video versions of the show, and some important reference links for you to check out:
At this point, we probably all realize it’s almost impossible to imagine any politician in modern times making a presentation like Jefferson did. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore it – in fact, I believe this should be our standard.
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