Tag: jefferson

Deism and Politics: How Deism Helped Libertarianism

By Jack Parkos | United States

Previously I wrote an introduction and history of deism and explained some of it’s belief systems. Deism, throughout its history, has helped the libertarian movement quite a bit.

During the Age of Enlightenment, political, religious, and scientific thought were rapidly changing into new beliefs, in every area from secularism and skepticism to monarchs. The new political ideology taking place was what we now call Classical Liberalism, the first form of libertarianism. Many Classical Liberals (including most of the Founding Fathers) were also deists.  This makes sense, as there are similarities between the two.

Parallels of Deism and Classical Liberalism

Lets look at some parallels between the two. For starters, both deism and classical liberalism used similar lines of thinking, these being skepticism, and reasoning. I wrote before how deism puts a great emphasis on nature and natural law. This also was a huge part of Locke’s Classical Liberal ideology.

Deists also believe in true free will, similar to the Classical Liberal thought. Classical Liberals believed that our rights come from our creator. This creator was the Deist creator, who gave us natural rights, but left us on our own to use them. With this, we created government to protect these rights. However, the religious view at the time was that God gave monarchs the authority to rule over the people. Both the classical liberal and deist thought would reject this.

Divine Right and Reactions

We must remember what helped spawn the first liberty movements: tyrannical monarchs. Pre enlightenment, kings had near, if not complete, absolute rule over the people. Kings would often interfere in the economy to benefit the wealthy. Kings could raise armies and fight wars while driving the country into debt (sound familiar?), and if the people spoke against it they would be brutally punished. Why? Because the king allegedly had God’s ultimate authority.

This was called “Divine Right”: the theory that God gave monarchs the right to rule. The Enlightenment, on the other hand, was a reaction to this concept. People increasingly thought it was absurd to assume that God gave kings the right to rule. The two groups that stood the most fervently against this were deism and classical liberalism. These ideologies were growing rapidly and growing together. Many people who were deists were also classical liberals and vice versa.

Take, for example, Thomas Paine. Thomas Paine wrote both “The Age of Reason” (which I highly recommend reading if you’re interested in deism)  and “Common Sense”, a famous pamphlet that helped start the American Revolution. Paine rejected the theory of “Divine Right”. Paine, arguably the most famous and popular deist, believed the creator did not interfere with the world and logically, would never give a man right to rule over another. This goes hand and hand with Locke’s belief that no man is born with the authority to rule over another man. The deist thought and classical liberal thought are one and the same.

How Deism Helped the Libertarian Movement

It is truly interesting how a religious philosophy helped a political movement. But the Classical Liberal ideology needed deism. It needed the deist theory of natural rights from the creator and the theory of a non intervening god. We must remember how early libertarianism (classical liberalism) was slightly different than modern libertarianism in how it came about. They were criticizing those who gained power, not through elections, but through the Divine Right theory.

These people like Locke and Paine sat and used there reasoning to come to certain conclusions. 1. Human are born with certain unalienable rights that the creator gives them. 2. Government was created for the sole legitimate function of protecting these rights, but monarchs took it to bad ends. 3. People use organized religions to gain power over other people, and thus created “Divine Right”. We must realize how much deism helped them come to these conclusions. Deist philosophy destroys the Divine Right theory, and applying this philosophy to politics gives us Classical Liberalism.

Conclusion

Was deism the only contributor to libertarianism? No. But not many people would know about how much it truly helped. In fact most people don’t know what deism is. In fact, many people assume the Founding Fathers were Christian. However, most of the Founding Fathers were deists who believed in the moral teachings of the Bible, but not the claims of miracles. Deism has been pushed under the table of enlightenment thought, but it should be remembered for what it did to help the world of both religion and politics.


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The Founding Fathers were Right to be Deists

By Jack Parkos | United States

The Age Of Enlightenment brought many new ideas to the world, including liberty, science, and skepticism towards monarchs. People may not know how much deism helped move these ideas. In fact most people don’t know what deism is. Some people may be deists and not know it.

To understand deism, it is important to recognize to other religious beliefs: atheism and theism. Atheists, of course, believe that there is no God, while theists disagree. Theists also believe in religious texts and ceremonies.

So what do deists believe? Deists believe that a supreme power created the universe but does not interfere with it. A deist would reject revelation, organized religion, and the supernatural. Deists often refer to “god” as “The Creator” as the belief is that The Creator did create the world, but does not seek to be worshiped as a god. The Creator created not only the universe, but the laws of physics, natural law, and the ability to reason.

Since deists have no book stating what they must believe, they must use reason to come to conclusion. Some deists believe in a more scientific creator, while others say The Creator is more spiritual. Deists also are divided on the afterlife. Some have slightly different views from others, but all agree on the principle of a Creator and no divine intervention. Some famous deists include Thomas Paine, Adam Smith, John Locke, and many other enlightenment thinkers. Many deists start out as Christians who reject the churches ideas but still believe in a creator of the universe.

You may be asking how deists come to this belief. What makes a Christian reject religion but still believe in the creator?  Let us start with the argument for an existence of a creator. Remember this creator is not the God of the Bible. Let us start with the universe itself, very complex, full of coincidences. In fact, the current state of the universe itself is highly statistically unlikely.

It’s nearly impossible for life to exist, given all of the factors required. The universe could not just pop into existence (the Big Bang). Rather, some higher power created it. Then, we look at how complex everything is. For example there are many laws of nature. The First Law of Thermodynamics states energy can be neither created nor destroyed, but transformed, from one form to another. This is a complicated law, stating that energy cannot be naturally created, but obviously energy exists. Thus, a paradox forms. Energy had to come from somewhere. We must also look at the idea of the Big Bang, science has explanation as to what was before the big bang nor a good reason how/why it happened. To point it simply, there are too many coincidences to believe in that the universe just happened.

Then, we look into biology and genetics. DNA is very complex and truly amazing. We all know that DNA is made of four nucleobases: A,T,G, and C. In just one cell there are 3 billion letters, all arranged perfectly to create each individual species. It is like the coding of a computer, and computers always have someone create a program. So what does this all point to?

A deist would use the reasoning that the complexity of DNA could not just be coincidence, much like how a computer program can’t just happen. How do those four chemicals arranged in billions of different ways create an individual living organism? The deist reasoning is that the Creator doesn’t pick out each chemical and arrange for each individual species but rather DNA and the way it works was a creation of his. DNA is simply to complex to not be a creation. Life is no coincidence.

Now we will look at the deist argument for a non intervening god. They will agree with theists that the world was created (though we may disagree on how), but then, the similarities end. Theists now state God has been watching over and intervening in the world, while deists believe nature has been governing us. Now, we must ask which is a more logical belief.

The most common intervention the theist will believe in is a religious text. But, there are so many different religious texts all claiming to be right, none having major evidence over the other. Why does one book (say the Bible, for example,) have more logic than the Quran? Both claim that theirs is the true word of god, yet neither have direct empirical evidence of that being the case. What makes a book the word of God? What makes claims of the Bible more rational than Greek Mythology? The idea of something being the “Word of God” was used to rule over people, (this is where it starts to tie into libertarianism, which I will analyze more in part 2) forcing people to follow rules and rule leaders because “God said so”.

The “Word of God” is not a book, as the Creator could not put his words in a way we could comprehend in a book. The word of God is rather, nature. Above we discussed the complexity of DNA. Think of how beautiful and amazing nature is. How perfect it is. This is the word of God, not claims from a Prophet. We all can observe nature, we all don’t get revelation. Which makes more logical sense?

Let us now look at other ways theists claim God intervenes. Miracles. Theists believe God may help the world through supernatural acts. Some claim God cures sickness, saves people in disasters, and even helps teams win in sports. But let us look at third world countries, people who pray the most and get the least amount of miracles. How does an all-powerful and intervening God allow such suffering to occur?

The theist, when asked, says the same scapegoat that they cannot understand the will of God. But that same person also claims that they can determine the word of God based off a two thousand year old book. That is blasphemy! An all-loving and all-powerful God would not allow evil to exist. Christians often respond to this with the fact that evil exists only because we have free will. Yet, God floods the Earth in their sacred text, robbing them of free will. The deist is the true believer of free will. There is no higher being controlling us. We are 100% free within the laws of nature.


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Should Colleges Remove Thomas Jefferson from Curricula?

By Kaihua Zhou | United States

Among the Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson is one of the greatest. His accomplishments include largely authoring the Declaration of Independence, helping pass the Virginia Statue for Establishing Religious Freedom, and enacting the Louisiana Purchase. Many principles that conservatives and libertarians hold dear first took form under Jefferson. Jefferson extolled the virtues of limited government, stating that “To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” America is fundamentally Jeffersonian in its outlook. It is almost impossible to imagine America without these signature accomplishments.

However, Jefferson is increasingly labelled as a hypocrite. In March 2018, student activists in Hofstra University protested Jefferson’s statue on campus.  A number of liberal organizations such as Young Democratic Socialists of Hofstra denounced Jefferson as a white supremacist icon who justified slavery. This disgust has spread to Jefferson’s native Virginia. In the University of Virginia, a vandal defaced Jefferson’s statue, marking him as a racist and a rapist.

While it would be easy to dismiss these incidents as isolated cases of iconoclasm, they are part of a larger trend. In 1996, Stephen Ambrose, a celebrated historian, attended a panel on “Political Correctness and the University” at The University of Wisconsin. During the discussion, he discovered that one of his fellow professors, teaching American political thought, had purged Jefferson’s from her curriculum. When Ambrose inquired why, she simply responded that Jefferson owned slaves. What about Jefferson’s extraordinary accomplishments? They were erased merely for Jefferson’s status as a slaveholder.

How justified are these criticisms? It cannot be denied that Jefferson owned slaves, more than 600 of them at given moments of his life. Moreover, it cannot be denied that he held repulsive prejudices. He could not foresee free African Americans peacefully coexisting with Whites.  Moreover, Jefferson denied the potential of African Americans to obtain the same accomplishments as whites. “Comparing them by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to me that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior, as I think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid: and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous.

By contemporary standards, Thomas Jefferson was a racist.  Despite such prejudices, there is much more to his legacy.  What is too often forgotten in such denouncements is Jefferson’s anti-slavery efforts and views. Jefferson recognized that slave-owners were tainted morally by their practice: “The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other.

Far from being an unapologetic white supremacist, there is a note of self-awareness in Jefferson’s tone. It’s possible to imagine Jefferson privately feeling a very human remorse for his hypocrisy. Such remorse led to action. Jefferson limited slavery, barring it far from the contemporary Midwest in the Northwest Ordinance of 1784. Such legislative foresight prevented slavery’s depravity from expanding further into the new nation. As a revolutionary in 1774, Jefferson attacked the royal British government for allowing the slave trade.  As president, he acted on these noble instincts, passing the Act of 1807. This act concluded the slave trade in the United States, giving severe fines for illegally purchasing slaves.

Was Thomas Jefferson a hypocrite? Yes: his powerful mind was severely constricted by his era’s racial prejudices. Is this grounds for retroactive demoralization? If Jefferson’s primary accomplishments are insufficient to redeem him, what can? His anti-slavery views demonstrate that there is much more to his legacy than pure racism. This complex legacy deserves to be seriously studied by college students. Seeing Jefferson as “merely” a hypocrite or a racist oversimplifies the issue.  He should be respected and celebrated, not worshiped or demonized. He was a hero, but also deeply flawed.


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Slavery, Thomas Jefferson, and Frederick Douglass the Libertarian

By. Joshua D. Glawson | United States

It has been accurately stated by an anonymous source, “The institution of chattel slavery is truly the worst chapter in American political history.  Not only did the institution stand in stark contradiction to the professed ideals of freedom and equality, but its legacy extended well beyond the formal abolition of slavery with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865.  The enduring repercussions of the institution of slavery and the white supremacist ideologies that supported it constituted a relentless assault on black people’s dignity.” This rang true for all, from Frederick Douglass to James Baldwin.

The onset of African chattel slavery in America began in the early Seventeenth Century as the Dutch began their slave trade in the colonies. The numbers of enslaved African people brought to America exponentially grew through the mid Nineteenth Century. It was not until after the U.S. Civil War that slavery was legally condemned throughout the nation via the U.S. Constitution’s Thirteenth Amendment which was ratified in 1865. Prior to this ratification, slavery was only considered illegal in various regions of the Northern states, and even there slaves were continually counted on national censuses as “slaves” until slavery was declared nationally illegal.

This would suggest that although slavery was one of the key issues fought over in the U.S. Civil War, it was not so urgent for the country, or even the North, to treat the enslaved as being equal to ordinary citizens until after the victory of the Union over the Confederacy. Even after defeating the slave-entrenched Confederacy, it was not until 1965 that Blacks would get full equal rights to Whites under the law.

From the origin of the United States of America, the author of the Declaration of Independence and the third President of the U.S., Thomas Jefferson, openly publicized in written word and voice that slavery was wrong and that he was against its very existence. In 1769, as a member of the Virginian Congress, he had a bill to end slavery in Virginia, but it was denied (Jefferson, 9). The unbeknownst issue for Jefferson was that he did not believe in ‘manumission,’ the immediate freeing of slaves by their owners. Few abolitionists in America believed in this immediacy, other than Benjamin Lay and few others. Jefferson believed in gradually transitioning slaves from enslavement to free-society through education and a sort of genetic weeding-out over time separating the naturally bright from the doltish (Jefferson, 243-244).

In part, the reason that Jefferson was hesitant to free slaves through immediate judicial means was that, culturally, chattel slavery was the norm for over one hundred years in America prior to Jefferson. His view of government and regulating society was to incorporate as peaceful of means necessary by gaining the democratic vote of the Colonies and then the American people as a whole.

Additionally, Thomas Jefferson held an Aristotelian philosophical concept of a natural hierarchy and specifically the idea of ‘Natural Slavery,’ being that some people are born to be slaves by their very nature. In the meantime, before any division could have been made, Jefferson felt that having slaves was a benefit to both the slave and the slave owner because enslavement benefited the slaves as being housed, clothed, and fed, etc.; while the slave benefited the slave owner by performing all work necessary for the slave owner’s survival and thriving. Unfortunately, this was a view that many Americans held in Jefferson’s day (Jefferson, 243-244).

Beyond simply thinking that people are naturally born leaders or slaves, Jefferson thought certain races of people, e.g. Blacks and Native Americans, were mentally inferior to that of Whites. He also thought the only way Blacks would become equal to Whites was if they mixed with Whites having mulatto children. This was not because of some hatred for others.

Rather, he believed there was empirical evidence for this idea. His racism towards Blacks was established through empirical evidence only by strict guidelines of social norms which had well-established slavery that also precluded education for these slaves. This means that Jefferson’s so-called evidence for the inferiority of black people was not determined by practical scientific methods, rather it was misguided understanding of the exasperating multi-generational enslavement of Blacks. Any mental inferiority held by black slaves of Jefferson’s period was due to their situation and not their skin color or any correlation of such (Jefferson, 238-241).

Although Jefferson advocated for the abolition of slaves through democratic processes while maintaining the conflicting view of ‘Natural Slavery,’ he also possessed slaves of his own from the age of 21 until his passing in 1826, at age 83. Since his slaves were considered his property, he had the option of what should happen to them once he died via his will, e.g. free them or give them to someone else. Jefferson chose to give them away to others as a means to pay off some of his growing debt, rather than giving these enslaved people their freedom. Just as America’s history of slave ownership, Jefferson’s slave owning is often a point of conflict for those that love Jefferson and those that oppose him.

I disagree with Jefferson’s gradual transition for the enslaved people on the grounds that he considered it an endangerment to Blacks as being mentally inferior to that of Whites and that it would be more harm for them than good. I do not think that someone is inferior or superior because of their skin color. I also do not think it is the place of a government to concern itself with what it determines as being best for individuals, such as when or how to free slaves.

Slavery should, of course, exist under no circumstances as it is the natural inclination of being a person that provides the need to be free. An enslaved person is under the arbitrary will of another and this prevents their truly living and flourishing. Not only does slavery hurt the enslaved, but it equally hurts those that enslave because it makes the master think of themselves as superior to another while cutting off sympathy to others. Simply put, it makes the slave owner less human as it makes the enslaved less human. It is my position that people are to live freely in society among others, and we have ‘negative duties’ towards others such as not hurting, not killing, not stealing, not enslaving, etc. Frederick Douglass thought the same.

Frederick Douglass was a slave for most of his life being traded from one slave master to another. He constantly felt that no matter how well his slave masters treated him, he was still not treated as being a human. His Liberty and freedom grew to be of most importance to him. In one relationship of slave and slave master, Frederick Douglass said that the woman of the house he worked for first treated him as one human should treat another human. As time went on, it became clear that the absolute power she was given over Douglass had corrupted her own integrity of treating others as fellow human beings, especially when it came to Douglass. In this example, it is empirically clear that slavery harms both the enslaved and the enslavers, and that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Further examples provided by Frederick Douglass were that some masters treated him less poorly than others. I will not say “They treated him better than others,” because after all, he was still not free and was treated as being a lesser creature than his white slave masters and White society as a whole.

For instance, when he was growing up on a plantation, the slave master would give him cakes and speak kindly to him (Douglass, 16). Yet another slave master would allow Douglass to go work elsewhere for money, but he had to give the entire earnings to the slave master at the end of every week. Sometimes this master would give Douglass some of the earnings back. Frederick Douglass thought that all of the money should be his own since it was earned through his own labor. These examples demonstrate that even when given some taste of kindness or freedom, he was still not treated as being owner over himself or his labor (Douglass, 59).

It is not clear in Frederick Douglass’ words as to whether he felt the same towards government and taxation. It is my speculation that he would think that a government should tax as little as possible in order to operate, but in the end every person’s income is justifiably their own. In order for ‘justice’ to exist, there requires a unilateral system of equal treatment under the law, so anarchy would not be applicable for ‘justice’ to exist. Either small amounts of taxation would be required, or a voluntary system would be necessary. It is more likely that small amounts of taxation would be successful, and it is my understanding from Douglass’ situation with the master that took his money that he would be inclined to agree with this sentiment for a Minarchist, or “Night-Watchman,” state.

Douglass saw the world in a different way than many other slaves did at the time, which provided him the ability to grow as a person. He learned to read and hungered for knowledge by playing games with white children nearby (Douglass, 22-23). He rightfully understood that a person has property within themselves and is responsible for their actions and labor (Douglass, 59). Furthermore, he saw that people are to be treated equally under the law as the concept of ‘justice’ would have it, no matter one’s skin color or mental capacity.

Frederick Douglass, in contrast with Thomas Jefferson, saw that immediately releasing slaves was imperative. Where Jefferson saw Black people as being naturally inferior, Douglass was able to refute such a hasty generalization and distasteful claim by proving over and over again of his humanity and intellect, while establishing his equality to Whites.

Douglass, like Jefferson, for the most part, believed in peace; and his solution to being enslaved was to run away from the slave owners rather than leading acts of violence towards those that enslaved him and others. Until his death in 1895, at age 77, Frederick Douglas continued to advocate for the equality of Blacks to Whites, and condemned the practice of slavery. He lived to see the victory of the Union over the Confederacy, the Emancipation, and the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments. If only he could have seen the progress made around 70 years later through the likes of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and James Baldwin.


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The Ideals of the Declaration of Independence

Ryan Andrew | United States

The Declaration of Independence (DOI) is quite possibly the most important and influential document in American history. The document, written by Thomas Jefferson in 1776, has allowed The United States to survive and thrive for over 240 years. When writing the Declaration, Jefferson mentioned four ideals that have shaped all of The United States’ history. These ideals were Equality, Consent of the Governed, the unalienable Rights of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, and finally, the Right of the People to alter or abolish the Government.

All four of these ideals are extremely important to the foundation and survival of our country. However, the Right of the People to alter or abolish the Government is the most important one.

With the right to Alter or Abolish our government, anything can be achieved.

The Declaration of Independence: Equality

Furthermore, Jefferson mentions equality when he wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Equality is certainly something that sets The United States apart from other nations in the world. After all, some people in countries such as Iraq and Pakistan would kill for the level of equality the U.S. boasts. This ideal can easily be seen within our democratic election system that ensures that all American citizens, regardless of race, gender, or social status, are allowed to vote and have their voice heard in elections.

However, for a large portion of our nation’s history, this was not true. When Jefferson wrote the DOI, only white, property-owning males could vote. It was nearly two centuries after the signing of the Declaration that all people would be able to take part in The United States’ democratic system.  This was achieved by people deciding they didn’t like something within our government and then taking a stand to alter or change it. In 1870, the 15th Amendment passed, guaranteeing African-Americans the right to vote in all elections. Next came the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Both of these amendments are examples of how equality can be achieved when the public has the ability to alter the government when they deem fit.

Consent of the Governed

Additionally, another ideal the Declaration of Independence outlines is the consent of the governed. Jefferson outlines this ideal when he says, “…deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”  This basically means that a good government should allow the people to have a say in what their government imposes on them and who is representing them. The men and women we elect serve at our command and we ultimately control their fate.

Moreover, one of the main reasons the colonies wanted independence from Britain was because King George III was placing taxes on the colonists without properly representing them in Parliament. In other words, he taxed them without their consent. In response to this, the colonists did many things to boycott and protest the British government in hope of an alteration taking place. Of course, it took the United States declaring independence from King George III to finally stop this. Despite this fact, the colonies trying to fight back against taxation without representation (or consent) is still a great example of how consent of the governed can be achieved by altering or in this case, abolishing (and replacing) the government.

Certain Unalienable Rights

The third ideal that the Declaration of Independence highlights is certain unalienable Rights, such as Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. Jefferson mentions this when he says, “…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” To have unalienable rights is to have freedoms that cannot be taken away by the government and in this case, those freedoms are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

For this ideal, it is important to once again look back on the rights of African-Americans throughout history. For the first part of our nation’s history, most African Americans were slaves who did not have these unalienable Rights. In 1865, after years of conflict and violence during the Civil War, the 13th Amendment passed. This amendment was a result of the people fighting to alter the government to end slavery and involuntary servitude in The United States once and for all.

The Right to Alter or Abolish the Government

Finally, the most important ideal outlined in the Declaration of Independence is the right of the people to alter or abolish the government. Jefferson mentions this ideal when he says, “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it and to institute new Government…”

This means that when the government violates one of the principles laid out in the Declaration of Independence, the people have the right to reform or abrogate the government. With this, equality, consent of the governed, and the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness can be achieved.


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