Memoir, Correspondence, And Miscellanies, From The Papers Of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 4 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 693 pages of information about Memoir, Correspondence, And Miscellanies, From The Papers Of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 4.
is worth a century of book-reading:  and this they would say themselves, were they to rise from the dead.  I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions.  I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects.  But I know, also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind.  As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times.  We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.  It is this preposterous idea which has lately deluged Europe in blood.  Their monarchs, instead of wisely yielding to the gradual changes of circumstances, of favoring progressive accommodation to progressive improvement, have clung to old abuses, entrenched themselves behind steady habits, and obliged their subjects to seek through blood and violence rash and ruinous innovations, which, had they been referred to the peaceful deliberations and collected wisdom of the nation, would have been put into acceptable and salutary forms.  Let us follow no such examples, nor weakly believe that one generation is not as capable as another of taking care of itself, and of ordering its own affairs.  Let us, as our sister States have done, avail ourselves of our reason and experience, to correct the crude essays of our first and unexperienced, although wise, virtuous, and well-meaning councils.  And, lastly, let us provide in our constitution for its revision at stated periods.  What these periods should be, nature herself indicates.  By the European tables of mortality, of the adults living at any one moment of time, a majority will be dead in about nineteen years.  At the end of that period, then, a new majority is come into place; or, in other words, a new generation.  Each generation is as independent of the one preceding, as that was of all which had gone before.  It has, then, like them, a right to choose for itself the form of government it believes most promotive of its own happiness; consequently, to accommodate to the circumstances in which it finds itself, that received from its predecessors:  and it is for the peace and good of mankind, that a solemn opportunity of doing this every nineteen or twenty years, should be provided by the constitution; so that it may be handed on, with periodical repairs, from generation to generation, to the end of time, if any thing human can so long endure.  It is now forty years since the constitution of Virginia was formed.  The same tables inform us, that, within that period, two thirds of the adults then living are now dead.  Have then the remaining third, even
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Memoir, Correspondence, And Miscellanies, From The Papers Of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 4 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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