On this Tuesday, April 13, Thomas Jefferson would have celebrated his 278th birthday. He was born in 1743 in Virginia. If he were alive and could see the condition of the country he and his fellow comrades founded, I’m certain what he would wish for this birthday and our nation.
Though the IRS extended the tax filing deadline to May 17 this year, the traditional April 15 Tax Day still looms like a fireball this week. With those dates in view, I believe Jefferson’s first birthday wish would be to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and reduce the tax burden on Americans to a minimum, particularly by replacing it with a Fair or flat tax.
The founders did not penalize productivity through taxes the way we do today. They had no Internal Revenue Service. They believed in minimal taxation.
- Americans did not pay income taxes, which were prohibited by the Constitution;
- They did not pay export taxes, which were also prohibited by the Constitution;
- But imports were taxed. The founders believed in free trade within our own borders and a system of tariffs on imported goods.
As Thomas Jefferson shared with Gouverneur Morris in 1793, “It must be observed that our revenues are raised almost wholly on imported goods.”
Jefferson’s second birthday wish would be that the federal government reduce its insane amount of spending and gargantuan national debt.
In 1816, about seven years after his two terms as president (1801-1809), Jefferson wrote, “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.”
Jefferson’s words unfortunately have come true!
For the record, Jefferson’s administration witnessed the reduction of the national debt during his eight-year tenure in office, from roughly $83 million to $57 million, despite America’s war with the Barbary States during the same period. That’s amazing.
Jefferson and the other founders must roll in their graves to look at Washington’s $28 trillion in national debt today, and still they keep on charging the national credit card.
Jefferson’s third birthday wish would be to shrink the monstrous size of government.
Jefferson would be absolutely terrified and mortified by the size of government. If he were alive, Jefferson would easily reduce our national debt and tax load because he would radically reduce the size of government.
The Miller Center at the University of Virginia put it well: “In Thomas Jefferson’s mind, the first order of business for him as President was the establishment of a ‘wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another’ but which would otherwise leave them alone to regulate their own affairs. He wanted a government that would respect the authority of individual states, operate with a smaller bureaucracy, and cut its debts.”
Jefferson’s fourth birthday wish would be to tighten up U.S. borders and ports, and reestablish and reaffirm legal immigrant protocol and American exceptionalism for entrance into the U.S.
As I pointed out in last week’s column, “America’s founders’ advice to Biden on the border crisis,” while welcoming the poor, downtrodden, and persecuted from every country, the founders also had to protect the sacred soil they called home from unwanted intruders.
According to the Declaration of Independence, “obstructing the Laws for the Naturalization of Foreigners” was one of the objections leveled against Britain that warranted the American colonists’ seceding. Yet, even the founders themselves believed that a total open-door policy for immigrants would lead to community and cultural chaos.
Thomas Jefferson worried that some immigrants would leave more restrictive governments and not be able to handle American freedoms, leading to cultural corruption and “an unbounded licentiousness, passing, as is usual, from one extreme to another. It would be a miracle were they to stop precisely at the point of temperate liberty. These principles, with their language, they will transmit to their children. In proportion to their numbers, they will share with us the legislation. They will infuse into it their spirit, warp and bias its direction, and tender it a heterogeneous, incoherent, distracted mass.”
Jefferson’s fifth birthday wish would be that today’s state and federal governments (and subsequent social and culture suppression spurred on by political correctness) would quit restricting and regulating Americans’ rights, freedoms and liberties.
Government and secular progressivism’s growth and overreach have turned Americans’ bill of rights on its head, clamping down and limiting our rights to bear arms, speak freely and exercise our own religious preferences without inhibitions.
Thomas Jefferson wrote, “A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular; and what no just government should refuse or rest on inference.”
For example, consider our Second Amendment: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Could 27 words be any clearer or simpler, and do they really need any further explanation or regulation?
The founders didn’t have gun-free zones and didn’t need concealed weapon permits to bear arms where they wanted and when they wanted. That is why Jefferson encouraged his young nephew Peter Carr, “Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks.”
And what about the First Amendment today? Jefferson would be shocked how we have distorted and dissolved its tenets.
Instead of the First Amendment securing our freedom of speech and religion in America, popular culture, social media, political correctness and secular progressivism have overturned them. That’s why America is experiencing increased polarizations and divisions. That is also why we’ve wrongly created the new wave of criteria (laws) for so-called “hate speech.”
We must return to be a nation where we agree to disagree agreeably, and even at times not agreeably, where no one is penalized for having a different point of view, no matter how much we disagree with them. If the First Amendment isn’t protecting the most extreme differences, what is it protecting? Only what we perceive to be good, right and loving speech and religious practice?
Could the First Amendment be any clearer or stated more succinctly? It reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
On Dec. 20, 1787, four years before the First Amendment was adopted, Jefferson shared his passion with James Madison: “I will now add what I do not like. First the omission of a bill of rights providing clearly and without the aid of sophisms for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies, restriction against monopolies, the eternal and unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws, and trials by jury in all matters of fact triable by the laws of the land and not by the law of nations.”
Amazingly, Thomas Jefferson, our third president, died on July 4 (1826), the very day our founders established America’s independence and a day we still celebrate. Equally amazing, John Adams, our second president, died the very same day and year, just five hours apart. And just for the record, James Monroe, America’s fifth president, also died on July 4 (1831). Fascinating coincidences – or were they? Patriots and brothers in life and death. I could only wish and pray that Americans today were as united, especially in our diversity.
(For more on Thomas Jefferson, I encourage you read the new edition of “The Jefferson Lies” by our friend and historian David Barton. And don’t forget to read Barton’s critique of his critics when you do.)
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