The Tree of Liberty

By Atom Bergstrom

Atom’s Blog

Algernon Sidney (1623-1683) wrote …

“That which is not just, is not Law; and that which is not Law, ought not to be obeyed.”


Re: What did Thomas Jefferson think of the French Revolution?

He endorsed it wholeheartedly … a little less so during its bloodiest times.

According to the Library of Congress …

“Recognized in Europe as the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson quickly became a focal point or lightning rod for revolutionaries in Europe and the Americas. As United States minister to France when revolutionary fervor was rising toward the storming of the Bastille in 1789, Jefferson became an ardent supporter of the French Revolution, even allowing his residence to be used as a meeting place for the rebels led by Lafayette. Jefferson maintained his support for the French Revolution, although he wavered during the most violent and bloody stages.”

According to the same source …

“Jefferson reached the limits of his influence when he attempted to intrude republican principles in Russia, Poland, Greece, and the emerging South American nations. Until his death Jefferson was convinced that ‘this ball of liberty … will roll round the world’ aided by the beacon of the Declaration of Independence.”

According to the same source …

“Sensing rising criticism of the excesses of the French Revolution in the letters of William Short (1759–1848), his handpicked chargé des affaires in Paris, Secretary of State Jefferson sharply chastised Short and praised the revolution despite its rising irrationality and violence: ‘and was ever such a prize won with so little innocent blood? my own affections have been deeply wounded by some of the martyrs to this cause, but rather than it should have failed, I would have seen half the earth desolated. Were there but an Adam and Eve left in every country, left free, it would be better than as it now is.'”


Re: Did Thomas Jefferson approve of Shay’s Rebellion?

As a general concept, yes.

Jefferson was in Paris during the rebellion, and his information about it came from James Madison.


Thomas Jefferson (in Paris, Nov. 13, 1787) wrote …

“The British ministry have so long hired their gazetteers to repeat, and model into every form, lies about our being in anarchy, that the world has at length believed them, the English nation has believed them, the ministers themselves have come to believe them, and what is more wonderful, we have come to believe them ourselves.

“Yet where does this anarchy exist? Where did it ever exist, except in the single instance in Massachusetts? And can history produce an instance of rebellion so honorably conducted? I say nothing of its motives. They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion.”

And …

“What country before, ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them.”

And …

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure. Our convention has been too much impressed by the insurrection of Massachusetts; and on the spur of the moment, they are setting up a kite to keep the hen yard in order.”


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