Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers and our third president, was a very conflicted man on many
issues of his time. Jefferson was brilliant in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence yet, he was a man
who wrote about the equality of all men while holding 130 slaves on his plantation at Monticello.

Thomas Jefferson’s writing on slavery is responsible for many of the prejudices against black people to this day.
Jefferson knew in his heart that slavery was wrong but, he never gave up his slaves.  Jefferson questioned how
we would be judged by a just God for the practice of slavery.  Jefferson tried to justify in his mind why it would be
bad for the country to free the slaves.

We have many of the same questions today in politics as our country experienced in 1800. Many age old
questions will never be answered but wouldn’t it be fascinating to ask Thomas Jefferson to answer a few
questions 232 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Mr. President, how do you feel about a man of mixed race winning the nomination of his party for president?
Wow!

Mr. President since you drafted the Declaration of Independence at age 33, what is your view on an acceptable
age and level of experience to serve in government?

Mr. President, do you feel the personal life of a candidate is important? Do you think Jefferson would have
wanted to talk about fathering a child with Sally Hemings one of his slaves?

Thomas Jefferson experienced Aaron Burr, his vice-president, killing Alexander Hamilton the first Secretary of
the Treasury. Politics of personal destruction?  What would Jefferson think about the political environment in
America today?

If I could interview Thomas Jefferson, I would want to ask these questions and many more.

Here are some questions answered in Thomas Jefferson’s own words:

Mr. President, what is your view on the role of religion in government?

Jefferson: "We have solved, by fair experiment, the great and interesting question whether freedom of religion
is compatible with order in government and obedience to the laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as
the comfort which results from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which
are the inductions of his own reason and the serious convictions of his own inquiries.

"One of the amendments to the Constitution... expressly declares that '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,' thereby guarding in the same sentence and under the same words, the freedom of religion, of
speech, and of the press; insomuch that whatever violates either throws down the sanctuary which covers the
others."


Mr. President, how do you respond to the acquittal of Aaron Burr on charges of treason? Where is the
accountability in Government?

Jefferson: “The scenes which have been acting at Richmond are sufficient to fill us with alarm.  We supposed
we possessed fixed laws to guard us equally against treason and oppression; but it now appears we have no law
but the will of a judge."

Mr. President, what are your views on the death penalty?

Jefferson: Punishments I know are necessary, & I would provide them, strict & inflexible, but proportioned to the
crime. Death might be inflicted for murder & perhaps for treason if you would take out of the description of
treason all crimes which are not such in their nature. Rape, buggery, etc., -- punish by castration. All other
crimes by working on high roads, rivers, gallies, etc., a certain time proportioned to the offence. But as this would
be no punishment or change of condition to slaves (me miserum!) let them be sent to other countries. By these
means we should be freed from the wickedness of the latter, & the former would be living monuments of public
vengeance. Laws thus proportionate & mild should never be dispensed with. Let mercy be the character of the
lawgiver, but let the judge be a mere machine.

Mr. President, what are you views on the use of military force abroad?

Jefferson: "Our duty is... to act upon things as they are and to make a reasonable provision for whatever they
may be. Were armies to be raised whenever a speck of war is visible in our horizon, we never should have been
without them. Our resources would have been exhausted on dangers which have never happened instead of
being reserved for what is really to take place."

Mr. President, who should have the power to wage war on behalf of the people?

Jefferson: "For a people who are free and who mean to remain so, a well-organized and armed militia is their
best security. It is, therefore, incumbent on us at every meeting [of Congress] to revise the condition of the militia
and to ask ourselves if it is prepared to repel a powerful enemy at every point of our territories exposed to
invasion... Congress alone have power to produce a uniform state of preparation in this great organ of defense.
The interests which they so deeply feel in their own and their country's security will present this as among the
most important objects of their deliberation."

We still ask many of the same questions of our leaders. We have had a history of turmoil in government since
the very beginning of our nation. We argue and choose sides in every debate. We have partisans and citizens
who remain out of the fight.

In Thomas Jeffereson’s own words from the Declaration of Independance:

“Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all
experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right
themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and
usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it
is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government.”

I see hope for the future of this great Democracy as long as we question our government leaders, participate in
the political process and fight for the true equality of every citizen.

We will continue to get through the bleak times and correct the course of our nation in forming a more perfect
union.


Fred Flanagan
Copyright © 2008
My Interview with Thomas Jefferson
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