Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation: A Biography

By Merrill D. Peterson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE
President:
First Administration

The people, under such a government [representative democracy], would seem to be naturally more engaged in preserving and enjoying what they already possess, than solicitous of acquiring what was not necessary to their security or happiness; or, at least, that they should resort to no other means of acquiring it than the exercise of their individual faculties; nor think of obtaining authority, or power, by the invasion of the rights of other individuals, or an improper appropriation of the public wealth; that from the principle of attachment to the rights which vest in them all, each citizen should feel and be affected by the injustice done to his neighbor by the public force, as a danger which menaced and concerned them all, and for which no personal favor could compensate.

* * *

This form of government does not call for nor need the constraint of the human mind, the modification of our natural sentiments, the forcing of our desires, nor the excitement of imaginary passions, rival interests, or seductive illusions; it should, on the contrary, allow a free course to all inclinations which are not depraved, and to every kind of industry which is not incompatible with good order and morals: being conformable to nature, it requires only to be left to act.

Destutt de Tracy, A Commentary and Review of Montesquieu's Spirit of Laws. Philadelphia, 1811

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