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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;
3 occurrences of jefferson cyclopedia
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3403. GENERATIONS, Government and.—
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3 occurrences of jefferson cyclopedia
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3403. GENERATIONS, Government and.—

Let us * * * not 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 sisters 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 anything 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 if they had the
wish, the right to hold in obedience to their
will, and to the laws heretofore made by them,
the other two-thirds, who, with themselves,
compose the present mass of adults? If they
have not, who has? The dead? But the dead
have no rights. They are nothing and nothing
cannot own something. Where there is no substance,
there can be no accident. This corporeal
globe, and everything upon it, belong to
its present corporeal inhabitants, during their
generation. They alone have a right to direct
what is the concern of themselves alone, and to
declare the law of that direction; and this declaration
can only be made by their majority.—
To Samuel Kerchival. Washington ed. vii, 15. Ford ed., x, 43.
(M. 1816)