The Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson

By Subject


The only orthodox object of the institution of government is to secure the greatest degree of happiness possible to the general mass of those associated under it. The events which this work proposes to embrace will establish the fact that unless the mass retains sufficient control over those intrusted with the powers of their government, these will be perverted to their own oppression, and to the perpetuation of wealth and power in the individuals and their families selected for the trust. Whether our Constitution has hit on the exact degree of control necessary, is yet under experiment; and it is a most encouraging reflection that distance and other difficulties securing us against the brigand governments of Europe, in the safe enjoyment of our farms and firesides, the experiment stands a better chance of being satisfactorily made here than on any occasion yet presented by history.

to F.A. Van der Kemp, 22 March 1812