The Tree of Liberty

As I filter through my daily FaceBook feed, I often find articles or comments from readers about a famous quote of Thomas Jefferson. The quote is often associated with an article about gun control. The quote is “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots.“ I find it to be a great quote and clearly it is used by those who favor the 2nd amendment to comment about those who are against it. It is often suggestive of foreshadowing of a new American Civil War in some writings. Some people take their guns, and the rights guaranteed by the 2nd amendment, very seriously. Pretty sure that is not how Jefferson meant it, or that many of modern politicians who quote it, place it in the correct context.

Never really thought about the meaning behind the quote. I like it. It is adequate because I also think the 2nd amendment does not allow the government to infringe upon our rights to have guns, to bare arms. That said, I think that there can be some restrictions. I do not need to own an F15 with sidewinder missiles. That said, I understand that Joe Biden plans to send F15’s with bombs and missiles to take my guns away if elected. Not gonna happen! And to be honest, I wish all cars were equipped with sidewinder missiles to allow me to control my road rage by just simply removing bad drivers on the road.

Today’s post is my first in 2020. I have been very negligent about writing in the new year. Funk and frustration still abound me each and every day. Most of my writing and reading of late has been work related. Doubt they will ever get posted here. OK, maybe one, but we shall save that for another time. This first post of 2020 is not about guns, whether you are for or against. Yes, it probably is something about politics, but I’m not going to say “Go Trump” or “let’s burn Bernie”. I’ll save those for another time too.

Tonight, I came home from work, having experienced what was a bad day to a totally unproductive week. On my Facebook page, I posted the following:

It wasn’t the post that got me thinking about the Jefferson quote. It was what I did next…

Yes. After a long and stressful day at the end of a long and stressful week, I poured myself some bourbon. Just one. No more than two fingers. Over a little ice. Tasted great as I pondered the day and made dinner for myself and the kids. The bottle has Thomas Jefferson on the back. That is what got me thinking about the Jefferson quote. And not so much about the quote, but where did it come from? What did it mean?

I actually have a nice book collection and one of my books is a collection of Writings by Thomas Jefferson. It took awhile, but I was able to find that the quote is embedded in a letter written to William Smith in 1787 about the New Constitution and to “endeavor to shew civilities to all the Americans who come here…” Jefferson was in Paris in 1787, trying to negotiate new commerce treaties between European countries and our young republic. Smith we come to understand is the son-in-law of John Adams. The letter then goes on to talk about the “lies about our being in anarchy”. It then briefly covers Massachusetts and the rebellion, the forerunner of death to the public liberty and what country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit or resistance?

Paris Nov. 13. 1787. Extract from Thomas Jefferson letter to William Stephens Smith
The New Constitution

…the people can not be all, & always, well informed. the part which is wrong [. . .] will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. if they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. we have had 13 states independant 11 years. there has been one rebellion. that comes to one rebellion in a century & a half for each state. what country before ever existed a century & half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? let them take arms. the remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. what signify a few lives lost in a century or two? the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. it is it’s natural manure…

It ends with a discussion of the new Constitution. That new constitution was the Articles of Confederation. Jefferson did not like the Articles, based upon other readings, his letter to Smith was to declare his opposition to the governmental structure that the Articles created. State’s power over the federal government. The Articles were drafted by James Madison. The rebellion that he speaks of is not the American Revolution. Rather it is the Shay’s Rebellion, an armed uprising in Western Massachusetts in opposition to a debt crisis among the citizenry and the state government’s increased efforts to collect taxes both on individuals and their trades; the fight took place mostly in and around Springfield during 1786 and 1787. We find out that the problems of a weak national government eventually led to the end of the Articles of Confederation and led to a Constitutional Convention.

We also find through other readings that Madison and Jefferson were friends. Madison was the major architect of this new Constitution (influenced by Jefferson); Madison is the father of the Bill of Rights, and one of the strongest proponents of the rights of religious liberty in America; the co-author of The Federalist and a founder of the Democratic-Republican Party in the 1790s. This party later evolved into the modern Democratic Party, but more resembles today’s Republican Party. This is because both Jefferson and Madison favored a limited role for government.

The Constitution of the United States

Natural manure. It ties nicely with Ruby, our horse. From guns, to a crappy day, to drinking some good bourbon, to a history lesson. What a great way to start my new year with a new posting on TheMcKeeSpot. Many themes developed here, all worthy of more detail in a later posting.

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