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EDITORIAL: Thomas Jefferson's Stand On Human Rights

"The committee for drafting the Declaration of Independence, desired me to do it," said Thomas Jefferson, one of the greatest Americans of all time. He once stated that he would like to be remembered for three things: "drafting the Declaration of Independence, writing and supporting the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1789), and founding the University of Virginia".

In fact, Jefferson accomplished a lot more than these three things for which "he wished to be remembered". He was a prominent architect and among his most famous works are the Virginia state capitol, his stunning residence, Monticello, and the original, and glorious, buildings for the University of Virginia.

...they are fairly representative of his core values: a nation of law in which human rights must be valued, respected, and protected under the law.

And he took good care of his farm, and made it "one of the most beautiful plantations in America".

He owned an extraordinary library which eventually became the Library of Congress; he became first Secretary of State under President George Washington in 1790, President of the United States in 1800, and he made the Louisiana Purchase (of the land, which today forms 23 percent of the territory of the United States.).

But for a man whose record put him among world's legends, why did he want to be remembered for only three achievements? Because they are fairly representative of his core values: a nation of law in which human rights must be valued, respected, and protected under the law. Indeed, the most fundamental thing in Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence is the concept of human rights.

Jefferson believed that God created all men equal and, therefore, they must have the right to live and pursue their dreams of liberty and happiness. "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." (728).

This passage clearly demonstrates that Jefferson holds the concepts of equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as sacred rights. Therefore, these rights, under no circumstances, must never be flawed or violated by those in power. In order to further his discussion, Jefferson argued that "[the king of England] has refused his assent to laws the most wholesome and necessary for the public good" (729). Here Jefferson denounces brutal treatment and gross violation of "human nature" and "rights" orchestrated by the British monarchy during the eighteenth century.

Thomas Jefferson also denounced slavery, which he believed was a gross violation of human rights. Here is how Jefferson put it in his own words:

He has waged war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to occur miserable death in their transportation thither. This practical warfare, the opprobrium of INFIDEL powers, is the warfare of the CRISTIAN king of Great Britain. (730-31).

This passage is powerful when we consider Jefferson's race, wealth, and power. Here he clearly positioned himself against the status quo of his time.

While Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence is a noble act, for it depicts his courage, his brightness, and his humanity, he still was a torn man because of his dependence on his ownership of fellow human beings for his wealth and his power.

But at a time when great men like Washington, Adams and Franklin were alive and next to him on the world's stage, this flawed but brilliant man emerges as one of the greatest men the world has ever known and all freedom loving people should give thanks for his life.

Jefferson Memorial In Washington, D. C., USA

Thomas Jefferson On Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, USA

Would Jefferson be proud of what is the reality in the United States of America today?

There are about fifty million Americans without health care;

Millions and millions of people are living in severe poverty;

The economy is being dominated by Corporate America;

Marriage is in decline;

The middle class is endangered;

Throughout the world, we have lost our prestige and dignity.

Is this the American dream?

Is this what Thomas Jefferson stood for?

Is this what the Declaration of Independence is about?

Is it too late to save the American dream?


Work Cited
Baym, Nina. The Norton Anthology of American Literature to 1820
(Sixth Edition). New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1979.


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