THOMAS JEFFERSON’S RELIGIOUS CONTRADICTIONS CONTRADICTIONS By Noble M. Notas i
Tho Thoma mas s Jeff Jeffer erso son n lear learne ned d and and said said much much abou aboutt vari variou ous s subj su bjec ects ts duri during ng the the cour course se of hi his s illu illust stri riou ous s care career er.. He naturally contradicted himself from time to time, and was undoubtedly unaware of many of his self-contradictions. He changed his mind from time to time, just as a whole people may change or amend their constitutions. His opinion was unsettled on certain subjects, and he sometimes found it politically expedient to reverse himself, if he did not do so to effe effect ct what what he thou though ghtt was was a great reater er or hi hig gher her caus cause. e. Fortu Fortunat nately ely for for our inde indepe pend ndenc ence e as indiv individ idual uals, s, we are given a number of occasions to employ Jefferson's corpus to contradict contradict each other, to cite him, for instance, instance, in support support of free free trad trade, e, or to cite cite hi his s st stat atem emen entt that that trad trade e must must be restrained for the time being. We claim our founding fathers as we do our gods, i.e. with all their goods and evils, and we often disagree over which is which. Now we hear Jefferson cited by the postmodern Tea Party Party,, a disc discom ombo bobu bula late ted d poli politi tica call pheno phenome menon non rife rife with with cont contra radi dict ctio ions ns.. An And d Jeff Jeffer erso son n has has been been adop adopte ted d by the the patr patrio iott move moveme ment nt alth althoug ough h An Andr drew ew Jacks Jackson on woul would d have have been been a much much bett better er matc match. h. The The poin pointt is that that Jeff Jeffer erso son’ n’s s diverse opinions may be used to refute the so-called patriotic conservative ideology as well as to support it. Of course Jefferson was not altogether inconsistent in his passions. For example, he was vehemently opposed to an indep independ enden entt judic judicia iary: ry: he trie tried d to us use e the the impe impeac achm hment ent proc proces ess, s, whic which h he conf confes esse sed d was was a poli politi tica call "far "farce ce", ", to smother the Supreme Court in its crib. Many strict strict constr construct uctioni ionists sts and conserv conservati atives ves,, who would would have us abide by the letter of the legal codes when it suits
NOBLE NOTES their purposes, tend to sympathize with Jefferson's antipathy to a federal judiciary that claims it has independent powers, purportedly inherent in the Constitution, to act in unspecified ways, ways, at leas leastt to the the extent extent that that its its deci decisi sions ons disc discom omfi fits ts them, particularly at the highest court of appeal but god’s. It appe appear ars s to them them that that the the ju judi dici ciar ary y is a hi high gh prie priest stho hood od chanting chanting a political political theology opposed to law-abiding law-abiding people, who would rather be ruled by the will of a mysterious divine god almighty revealed to conservatives by way of intuition that he might not be called as a witness against them. Justices who make law daily scoff at the very notion that judges should not make law. After all, legal codes must often be interpreted by judges in order to be applied to the facts of cases that differ one from the other, and sometimes sometimes there is no law appertaining although iniquitous injury is at hand. As for the common or English law, as distinguished from the written codes of the so-called Roman law, it is irrational and hardly common to everyone, as can be seen in our disagreements with the particular judgments handed down; then the only common thing about the common law is that we abide by the decisions of judges who manufacture it on the spot, sometimes saying they are only following the law. One might say that the irrational English English law is better suited for a free people than the rationalizations handed down as imperial pragma. One day some law professor, when asked to teach common law, may say, as a certain rabbi did when asked to teach the Kabala, “I cannot teach you nonsense but I can teach the history of nonsense.” The The Engl Englis ish h king kings s who who conc concei eive ved d of them themse selv lves es as the the unimpea unimpeacha chable ble source source of law found found themsel themselves ves and their their high councils restrained by a recalcitrant elite that came to dominate parliament and common law courts in their own inte in tere rest st.. The The free freedo dom m impl implic icit it in the the irra irrati tion onal alit ity y of the the English common law once decided by chiefs in tribal councils was employed to establish a bench and bar independent not only of the legislature and sovereign but of the people and subjects, wherefore the kings found themselves championing
NOBLE NOTES the people agains nstt courts and a corr orrupt upt powe ower elite, employing, for example, the once popular Star Chamber – the King’s Council sitting in the Starry Chamber at Westminster – to bring powerful persons to heel. But the Star Chamber and its kings became hated for good reason, and today commoners find themselves as cattle ruled in all walks of life by lawyers dominant over all supposedly independent bran branch ches es of gove govern rnme ment nt – now now peop people le who who st stil illl have have a conscience cry in vain for star chambers or runaway grand juries independent of the judiciary to rein in the legal locusts blanketing the country and exhausting its resources in the name of freedom. Now the Christian right would have us believe that the laws of the the Unit United ed Stat States es are funda fundame ment ntal ally ly Chris Christi tian an,, but but as Judeo-Christians they confuse Mosaic Law with Love. Marcion estab establi lish shed ed a count counterer-Ch Churc urch h that that ignor ignored ed the the cruel cruel and wrathful god of old, embracing the loving god, who was a stra st rang nger er or alie alien n to that hat viol violen entt worl world d, Jesu Jesus s bein being g hi his s salvat salvatio ional nal phant phantas asm. m. Joachi Joachim m of Flora Flora beli believ eved ed that that the religious motive evolved or progressed from Law to Faith to Love: at first people obeyed their god from fear of punishment, then with faith in obtaining the just reward of righteousness, and then out of love for the ultimate good. Furthermore, we are mindful that the more recent protesting antin antinom omia ians ns beli believ eved ed that that,, if peop people le loved loved each each other other in common, there would be no need for law because love would render it obsolete; but they were overruled by freedom-inorder conservatives who held that Jesus had come to fulfill the Mosaic Mosaic Law and not to to repudiate repudiate it. Wherefore Wherefore free-love free-love radicals lost hope of obtaining freedom, especially free love unfettered by the written codes published by Rome in the impe imperi rial al fash fashio ion n of the the su supp ppla lant nted ed paga pagans ns.. Wher Wheref efor ore e Christianity as we know it today is definitely not the religion of love wanted by free lovers or even by its founders who wanted to break with the law and be judged by their deeds instead of whether or not they had foreskins.
NOBLE NOTES The love love of so-cal so-called led fundame fundamental ntalist ist Christi Christiani anity, ty, which which is not really really fundam fundament entali alist, st, is hate-ot hate-others hers based based self-l self-love; ove; anyone who dares to love and think freely is deemed an athe atheis istt and doome oomed d to burn burn fore foreve verr in hell hell;; but thos hose enemies are not hate, it may be reasoned; they are actually loved because we want to save them, or at least forgive them before we execute them. During a televised appearance on September 5, 2003, Dr. James Dobson, an influential speaker for the religious right and founder of Focus on the Family, congratulated the Bush Administration for its war on Iraq and voiced his displeasure with the judiciary for ruling against his god and in favor of homo homose sexu xual als s - he thank hanked ed god that hat the presi resid dent ent was was sponsoring a federal law prohibiting same-sex marriage. The main concern of the political and religious right is the proper depl deploy oyme ment nt of the the sexu sexual al orga organs ns,, whic which h are are id idol oliz ized ed as instr ins trum ument ents s of power power.. One pres presid ident ent is rumor rumored ed to have have suffered a recurring nightmare about homosexual coupling with repeated thuds, awakening with the vision of a man’s head bursting through the wall of o f his bedroom. Dr. Dobson was convinced that homosexual activists were abusing the law to destroy the institution of marriage in the heterosexual, monogamous family, and that homosexuality itself is a great danger to the world, especially to the next generation. Therefore the judiciary, hell-bent on taking god out of public institutions, must be reigned in from its godless course course and be re-s re-subm ubmit itte ted d to the the Chris Christi tian an god god of love love,, without whom no-one can be saved. And not even the Jews can be saved without Jesus, he h e told Larry King; then he made the standard claim of the religious right, that the foundation foundation of American common law is Judeo-Christian. To support his posi positi tion on,, Dr. Dr. Dobs Dobson on cite cited d our forem foremos ostt found foundin ing g fath father, er, Thomas Jefferson. Thom Thomas as Jeff Jeffers erson on broac broache hed d the the founda foundati tiona onall su subj bjec ectt in a let letter ter to Majo Majorr John John Cart artwri wright dated ated June June 5, 18 1824 24,, at Monticello. Cartwright had abandoned a promising career in
NOBLE NOTES the the Brit Britis ish h Navy Navy to su supp ppor ortt the the Amer Americ ican an colo coloni nist sts; s; he became an English reformer, urging the political combination of radical workers and middle-class moderates; he founded the first Hampden Club, and forme rmed the Society ety for Constitutional Information. Jefferson thanked Cartwright for sending him a copy of his "valuable volume", The English Constitution. Constitution. "I was glad to find in your book," wrote Jefferson, "a formal cont contra radi dict ctio ion, n, at leng length th,, of the the ju judi dici ciar ary y us usur urpa pati tion on of legis legisla lati tive ve power powers; s; for such such judge judges s have have us usurp urped ed in thei theirr repeated decisions, that Christianity is a part of the common law. The proof of the contrary, which you have adduced, is incontrovertible; to wit, that the common law existed while the Anglo-Saxons were yet pagans, at the time when they had never yet heard the name of Christ pronounced, or knew that such a character had ever existed." Jefferson had done some lawyering himself. He cited a few cases in his letter to Cartwright, to demonstrate how the Chris Christi tian an judg judges es "sto "stole le this this law law upon upon us us." ." A cert certai ain n Chief Chief Justice Prisot had used the phrase ancient scripture in one of his opin opinio ions ns,, stat stating ing that that the writ writte ten n laws laws of the the churc church, h, meani meaning ng those those churc church h laws laws that that were were in ancie ancient nt writi writing ng,, should be recognized as laws. Thereafter the phrase was taken out of context and misconstrued to mean that Holy Scripture was part of the law of the land. For instance, England's greatest jurist since Edward Coke, Lord Chief Justice Matthew Hale, declared that "Christianity is parcel of the laws of England." (I Ventr. 293, 3 K.B.. 607). This is the same Hale who personally ordered the execution of two women for witchcraft. In early 1676, in the case of John Taylor, it was Hale on the King's Bench who rendered the most important decision during that dark part of English history which virtually virtually made Christianit Christianity y the law of the land, when blasphemy or heresy was called "nonconformity" and deemed seditious under the common law.
NOBLE NOTES Taylor, a yeoman, had uttered what was deemed the most "horrendous blasphemy" to date: he called Christ a "whore master." He explained that he meant Christ was the master of the the whor whore e of Baby Babylo lon n - the the Cath Cathol olic ic Chur Church ch.. He said said religion was a "cheat" and Christianity a "cloak", and that no man fears god but a hypocrite. He denied calling Christ a bastard, but he admitted to saying "God damn and confound all all your your gods gods." ." Now Now that that is unde unders rsta tand ndab ably ly in insu sult ltin ing g to believers believers although infidels might believe there is some truth to it. Taylor was believed to be off his rocker for saying this: "All the earth is mine, and I am a king's son. My father sent me hither, and made me a fisherman to take vipers, and I neither fear God, devil, nor man, and I am a younger brother to Christ, an angel of God." He was locked up in the mad house (Bedlam) but the keeper reported that Taylor was not mad, and was just a blasphemer, so he was tried and found guilty. The fine of 1,000 marks amounted to a life sentence since he had not the wherewithal or sponsors to pay it. One court reporter reported that Justice Ju stice Hale said: "And... such kind of wicked blasphemous words were not only an offence to God and religion, but a crime against the laws, laws, State State and Governm Government, ent, and therefo therefore re punishab punishable le in this Court. For to say, religion is a cheat, is to dissolve all those obligations whereby the civil societies are preserved, and that Christianity is parcel of the laws of England; and therefore to reproach the Christian religion is to speak in subversion of the law." Jefferson tracked the alleged insertion of Christianity into the comm ommon law to Black ackstone, ne, who repeated, in 1763, "Christianity is part of the laws of England," and to Lord Mans Mansfi fiel eld d who who said said in the the Evan Evans s case case in 17 1767 67 that that "the "the esse essent ntia iall prin princi cipl ples es of reve reveal aled ed reli religi gion on are are part part of the the common law. Jefferson complains that the judges do all this gratui gratuito tous us citi citing ng on thei theirr own own autho authorit rity. y. Furth Furtherm ermore ore,, he note notes s that that even even some ome of the An Angl glo o-S -Sax axo on pries riestts had had interpolated some of Exodus and Acts into Alfred's laws.
NOBLE NOTES "Here I might defy the best-read lawyer to produce another scrip of authority for this judicial forgery; and I might go on furt furthe herr to sh show ow,, how how som some of the Angl nglo-S o-Saxon axon pries riestts th st interpolated into the text of Alfred’s laws, the 20 , 21 , 22 nd, and 23rd chapters of Exodus, and the 15 th of the Acts of the Apostles, from 23rd to the 29th verses. But this would leave my pen and your patience too far. What a conspiracy this, between Church and State! “‘Si “‘Sing ng Tant Tantara arara ra,, rogue rogues s all, all, rogues rogues all, all, Sing Sing Tant Tantara arara ra,, rogu rogues es all! all!’" ’" sang sang Jeff Jeffer erso son n to Cart Cartwr wrig ight ht,, quot quotin ing g The Cavalier, an old anti nti-ro -round undhea head song ong of the Glorio rious Revolution, a song favoring the King in opposition to Oliver Cromwell and Parliament. Howe Howeve ver, r, afte afterr cent centur urie ies s of rese resear arch ch in into to earl early y Engl Englis ish h history, it appears that the controversial "incontrovertible" assumption that English common law is rooted in primitive Anglo-Saxon law is in fact controvertible. Jefferson may have been correct in his view that the common law was not and is not and should never be Christian, but mistaken in his view that that its its origi origin n is someho somehow w An Angl glo-S o-Sax axon on.. No doub doubtt human human free freed dom, a rebellious ous "free ree will" possess essed by eve every individual, was not unique to the Merry Isles, although it was less restrained by codified or “Roman” law in England as the papal authority was resented. Of course this question on the whole might seem moot and even absurd to members of the human race, citizens of the cosmos, and residents of the city of god who have transc transcende ended d such such trivia triviall pursui pursuits. ts. Neverthe Nevertheles less, s, sin since ce the disputes continue to have some influence over our mundane lives on Earth, we may return to the discussion discussion of the AngloAngloSaxon controversy controversy elsewhere, and argue that Western law is far more Roman than we think, leaving us with a fascist tendency, thanks to the Roman Catholic Church – even the relatively isolated English common law had points of contact with the Roman law during nearly all periods, resulting in
NOBLE NOTES sim similar ilarit itie ies s of leg legal thoug hought ht bet between ween Eng England land and and the the Continent. -To Be Continued-
Noble M. Notas is the nom de plume employed by David Arthur Walters for his academic notes.