=====> RELIGION Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a Censor - over each other. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear. Ignorance is preferable to error, and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing than he who believes what is wrong. Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting "Jesus Christ," so that it would read "A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination. I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. They [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion. History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes. The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills. Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law. In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. If we did a good act merely from love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist? ...Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than the love of God. Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus." My opinion is that there would never have been an infidel, if there had never been a priest. The artificial structures they have built on the purest of all moral systems, for the purpose of deriving from it pence and power, revolts those who think for themselves, and who read in that system only what is really there. You say you are a Calvinist. I am not. I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know. As you say of yourself, I too am an Epicurian. I consider the genuine (not the imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy which Greece and Rome have left us. Priests...dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight and scowl on the fatal harbinger announcing the subversions of the duperies on which they live. And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors. I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature.
=====> LIBERTY I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be. I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion. I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it. If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others: or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own. Leave no authority existing not responsible to the people. Liberty is to the collective body, what health is to every individual body. Without health no pleasure can be tasted by man; without liberty, no happiness can be enjoyed by society. No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground. The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty. I am mortified to be told that, in the United States of America, the sale of a book can become a subject of inquiry, and of criminal inquiry too. All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent. All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression. Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty. Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day. Every citizen should be a soldier. This was the case with the Greeks and Romans, and must be that of every free state. Every generation needs a new revolution. For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well-organized and armed militia is their best security.
=====> GOVERNMENT A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine. A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference. A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned - this is the sum of good government. An association of men who will not quarrel with one another is a thing which has never yet existed, from the greatest confederacy of nations down to a town meeting or a vestry. Commerce with all nations, alliance with none, should be our motto. Conquest is not in our principles. It is inconsistent with our government. Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories. Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny. History, in general, only informs us of what bad government is. Force is the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism. Friendship is but another name for an alliance with the follies and the misfortunes of others. Our own share of miseries is sufficient: why enter then as volunteers into those of another? I abhor war and view it as the greatest scourge of mankind. When a man assumes a public trust he should consider himself a public property. My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government. Taste cannot be controlled by law. The most successful war seldom pays for its losses. Money, not morality, is the principle commerce of civilized nations. It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world. It is more dangerous that even a guilty person should be punished without the forms of law than that he should escape. I have no ambition to govern men; it is a painful and thankless office. I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.
=====> GENERAL Happiness is not being pained in body or troubled in mind. He who knows best knows how little he knows. Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom. As our enemies have found we can reason like men, so now let us show them we can fight like men also. Be polite to all, but intimate with few. Bodily decay is gloomy in prospect, but of all human contemplations the most abhorrent is body without mind. Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper. Delay is preferable to error. Books constitute capital. A library book lasts as long as a house, for hundreds of years. It is not, then, an article of mere consumption but fairly of capital, and often in the case of professional men, setting out in life, it is their only capital. Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition. Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing. Do not bite at the bait of pleasure, till you know there is no hook beneath it. Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you. Errors of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. Experience demands that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor.