Statement on the 239th Anniversary of the Birth of Thomas Jefferson

April 13, 1982

Thomas Jefferson remains one of the towering figures in American history 239 years after his birth. Statesman, scholar, inventor, farmer, and philosopher, he was, first and foremost, a champion of individual liberty. Throughout his life he was a tireless advocate of free expression and the sanctity of property, for he knew that, to be whole, freedom must be economic as well as political.

Thomas Jefferson also knew that too much government threatened human rights. ``What has destroyed liberty and the rights of man in every government that has ever existed under the Sun?'' he asked. And he answered, ``The generalizing and concentrating all cares and powers into one body.'' Limited government, in a sound Federal system with essential powers properly distributed among local, State, and national bodies was his goal. For all governments his admonition was straightforward: ``A wise and frugal government,'' he declared in his first Inaugural Address, ``. . . shall restrain men from injuring one another, . . . shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.''

Much has changed in the last two centuries, but the principles Thomas Jefferson espoused still lie at the heart of our democratic society. May his 239th birthday be a time of national renewal when we commit ourselves anew to the proud, free heritage Jefferson bequeathed us.