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Lakeland, Florida Tax Gathering – April 15, 2011

Is it about taxes or your concern for our country’s future that brought you here today? May I draw your attention to three documents held up here with me: The Declaration of Independence; the Constitution; and our Bill of Rights. Recently, it took our elected officials 1,990 pages to re-design what was already the world’s best health care system. Yet our founders took only three pages to lay the foundation for the greatest country in the world.

It is also understandable why our representatives never read those 1,990 pages. The Health Care Bill is filled with ambiguity, hidden agendas and impossible to comprehend. But what I cannot understand is why so many of those same elected leaders, whose oath of office is to defend these three pages, have not bothered to read them either. I assume they have not read them because they’re surely not following them.  Gatherings like today happen because of a common desire to send a unified message to our government: The message is simply, “It is time to go back to those very basic tenants that made this country great. Leaders, stop playing games, stop bickering, stop spending, and stop ignoring us.”

Old Ironsides

Old Ironsides

In our history, there have always been differing visions for this country. The Federalists, led by George Washington, wanted a powerful central government to provide for its citizens. The Jeffersonians, so named after Thomas Jefferson, supported having a federal government but with greatly constrained powers. So who’s vision is better? We will let history answer.

After the Revolutionary War, the United States was in debt. So much so that our Federalist government sold its last war ship rather than repair it.  A poor strategy for a strong defense. Almost immediately, Algerian Pirates in the Mediterranean seized two American merchant ships and held their crews for ransom. During the interment of our sailors, many were being forced to convert to Islam. Some things just never change do they?

History tells us that we can thank Thomas Jefferson who suggested an American naval force to protect American shipping. Through his influence, the United States Congress authorized the construction of six frigates and formed the United States Navy. In fact, One of those original ships, the USS Constitution (Old Iron Sides), still remains in our Navy and is moored in Boston harbor.

One of the most important commonalities with these three documents was Thomas Jefferson’s influence that is woven through them. Jefferson saw a nation whose rights and privileges belonged to the people and not its government. He envisioned a government who derived its powers from the consent of the governed and not those with special interests. Jefferson felt that the our country was too big to have all of its affairs directed centrally. He felt that the states should have more power because the states could represent the people better. Yet, he knew it would still take a strong government to protect freedom.

  • Thomas Jefferson was our third president, taking office 12 years after Washington and Adams, both Federalists.
  • Jefferson finally stopped the importation of slaves, something that the Federalists did not do.
  • He opened our western lands to expansion and reduced this country’s debt.
  • Jefferson was a key advocate for the separation of church and state and freedom of religion. Remember, your rights say “freedom of religion, not from religion.”
  • We probably owe the second amendment from our Bill of Rights to Jefferson, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms,” a right he personally supported because he understood it’s importance to maintaining freedom.
  • Jefferson advocated that all “Printing presses shall be free.”
  • And we need to give him credit for term limits – the first drafts of our Constitution would have allowed elected officials to serve for life. Now that is a frightening thought isn’t it?
  • He was the first President who limited the government’s power in order to increase state rights. Yes, he gave governmental power back to the people!
  • Jefferson believed in a strict interpretation of the constitution.  And,
  • He also kept our nation at peace.

Jefferson’s legacy was to give us a foundation meant to contain the overreach of government. He also paved the way for Madison and Monroe, his political protégés. It was this Jeffersonian period of our early history that solidified the very rights and freedoms we enjoy today. Now with this as a quick backdrop, let’s check to see where the more recent swing back toward Federalist policies have gotten us; a report card of sorts.

Where should I begin? How about with the National Debt, now over 14 trillion dollars! Every man, woman and child in America currently owes $45,000, much of it to China. And like all debts, it will need to be paid back. Yet, we find our government officials arguing over a 60 billion dollar budget cut. That’s about two weeks’ worth of excess spending and it doesn’t address the existing debt. We are adding 4 billion dollars a day to the National Debt and our elected leaders still don’t get it – they continue to sell out the future and no one seems to have the courage to even begin the discussion of how to stop spending. So how did they do? Our leaders settled for 40 billion when the argument should have been over 600 billion dollars. Now what will they do for 2012 when it should be at least 6 trillion in cuts?

By now, you may be wondering what I mean by a Federalist. One contemporary example is Michael Moore, the movie producer. Here is one of his latest quotes: “What’s happened is that we’ve allowed the vast majority of that cash to be concentrated in the hands of just a few people, and they’re not circulating that cash. They’re sitting on the money. That’s not theirs, that’s a national resource, that’s ours.” So based on Mr. Moore’s comments, a Federalist is someone who describes what you and I have worked for and saved as a “national resource.” Only a Federalist could say that the problem this nation faces is that the rich have too much money.  And what do Federalist policies suggest instead? The Federal Register, a daily publication containing the legal notices of administrative rules and Presidential documents – the governmental rule book you and I must follow, is now over 80,000 pages. That is a book over 20 feet long! Federalists have always had a place for our money to go.

So what is the vision you want for America? A good place to start might be with these three pages. Jefferson’s vision would begin by returning our country back to its people. These three documents contain our rights, each one important to the survival of America. But there is one specific right, our Fifth Amendment right, that I am the most concerned about. It is your right to due process.

Let me explain. This right was established so that no bureaucracy, no group of powerful individuals with special interests could take your property, financial resources or your freedom unfairly. But we have allowed the creation of a government that is consuming those very resources we all have worked so hard for. When the highest growth area of the US economy is the government, something has gone wrong. Today, we have large federal bureaucracies sustained on deficit spending, fueled by special interest fodder, creating rules and regulations that are crushing the very spirit of what made this country great. While exemptions are frequently granted for those rules, you and I cannot ever get them. So where is your due process? The sheer size and incompetency of today’s government is leaving America a debtor nation, without direction, without faith, without hope unless we bring back the vision that Jefferson saw so clearly.

Jefferson's gravestone

Jefferson’s Tombstone

And to best summarize that vision, I want quote Thomas Jefferson’s very last words to America. On his tombstone, which he designed and wrote himself is this inscription; by the way, there is no mention of any of his political offices, no mention of his many governmental achievements.  Rather, it simply reads “Here was buried Thomas Jefferson author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.” His legacy, Jefferson’s vision for America, which he was most proud of was to give us the freedom to pursue life, freedom to pursue a faith of our choice and freedom to use the knowledge of past generations to create a better future.

thomas-jefferson-plans-his-tombstone

Jefferson’s Sketch

The last line of Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence says this: “we mutually pledge to each other.” These words are a calling from our forefathers to unite around a common cause for freedom and make our voices heard. We must communicate with our congressmen and senators and communicate often.  We must pledge to each other to make our vote count by knowing who we are voting for and by voting for people who understand the responsibilities of leadership. We must pledge to each other to hold our elected officials accountable to the principles in these three pages and, lastly, we must pledge to our children that they too will have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Photos: Old Ironsides; Jefferson’s Tombstone; Sketch made by Jefferson on his design for his tombstone and epitaph.

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