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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.;

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6050. OFFICE, Declination of.—
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6050. OFFICE, Declination of.—

the State may command the political services
of all its members to an indefinite
extent, or, if these be among the rights
never wholly ceded to the public power,
is a question which I do not find expressly
decided in England. Obiter dictums
on the subject I have indeed met with, but
the complexion of the times in which these
have dropped would generally answer them;
besides that, this species of authority is not
acknowledged in our profession. In this
country, however, since the present government
has been established, the point has been
settled by uniform, pointed and multiplied
precedents. Offices of every kind, and given
by every power, have been daily and hourly
declined and resigned from the Declaration
of Independence to this moment. The General
Assembly has accepted these without
discrimination of office, and without ever
questioning them in point of right. If the
difference between the office of a delegate and
any other could ever have been supposed,
yet in the case of Mr. Thompson Mason, who
declined the office of delegate, and was permitted
so to do by the House, that supposition
has been proved to be groundless. But,
indeed, no such distinction of offices can be
admitted. Reason, and the opinions of the
lawyers, putting all on a footing as to this
question, and so giving to the delegate the
aid of all the precedents of the refusal of
other offices. The law then does not warrant
the assumption of such a power by the State
over its members. For if it does, where is
that law? nor yet does reason. For though I
will admit that this does subject every individual,
if called on, to an equal tour of
political duty, yet it never can go so far as
to submit to it his whole existence. If we
are made in some degree for others, yet in a
greater, are we made for ourselves. It were
contrary to feeling and, indeed, ridiculous to
suppose that a man had less right in himself
than one of his neighbors, or indeed, all of
them put together. This would be slavery,
and not that liberty which the bill of rights
[of Virginia] has made inviolable, and for
the preservation of which our government
has been charged. Nothing could so completely
divest us of that liberty as the establishment
of the opinion, that the State has
a perpetual right to the services of all its
members. This, to men of certain ways of
thinking, would be to annihilate the blessing
of existence, and to contradict the Giver of
life, who gave it for happiness and not for
wretchedness. And certainly, to such it were
better that they had never been born.—
To James Monroe. Washington ed. i, 318. Ford ed., iii, 57.
(M. 1782)