Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What Would Jefferson Do? Part One

April 13th marks the 266th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Jefferson, who was among many things, the third President of the United States, the author of the Declaration of Independence and one of the founders of the Democratic-Republican Party.

Today's modern Democratic Party celebrates Jefferson as one of their founders, therefore it is appropriate to examine the political philosophy of Jefferson and contrast it with the current policies and beliefs of today's Party.

Let us begin with Jefferson's thoughts regarding a central, national bank. Jefferson was a staunch anti-Federalist and strongly opposed the First Bank of the United States. Ironically, it was a Democrat, Woodrow Wilson, who gave us the Federal Reserve System which is in essence a central, national bank. It is not my intention to debate the issues surrounding the Fed and the current banking and credit situation, but to simply state Jefferson's position. A position shared by the other man celebrated as one of the founders of the modern Democratic Party, Andrew Jackson whose opposition to the Second Bank of the United States is legendary.

In Jefferson's own words we have, "The incorporation of a bank and the powers assumed [by legislation doing so] have not, in my opinion, been delegated to the United States by the Constitution. They are not among the powers specially enumerated."

Jefferson was also a champion of States' Rights. He believed that the federal government must not violate the rights of the states. The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798 (written secretly by Jefferson and Madison) proclaim these principles. These resolutions provided that the federal government had no right to exercise powers not specifically delegated to it (Strict Constructionism. Should the federal government assume such powers, its acts under them would be void. Thus, it was the right of the states to decide as to the constitutionality of such laws passed by Congress. Again, it is not my intent to debate the wisdom of these resolutions, whose principles would eventually lead to the "Nullification Crisis" during the terms of Jackson and later the Secession of South Carolina in 1861, but to demonstrate the principles Jefferson believed. In his own words, "I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground: That all powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the people. [X Amendment] To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specifically drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition."

Jefferson believed that Republicanism is the best form of government and representative democracy is needed to prevent the tyranny of the majority, and that, "democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine." Can the same be said of the current Democratic Party?

[To be continued...]

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