TALKING WITH THOMAS JEFFERSON: The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same

Written by Suzanne Olden on February 25, 2015

I went on a quick trip to Williamsburg, Virginia this week.  If you haven’t been there, it is a fascinating place to learn about where we started.  If you don’t know about our history as a nation, where we started and why we revolted against the Crown, GO VISIT.  The education will be invaluable.

In the Art Museum there was a theater where we had a talk with Thomas Jefferson.  If you haven’t been to Williamsburg before, the people who work there and are in costume are also in character at all times and in time, meaning if they are playing a housekeeper at the Governor’s Palace in 1789, they won’t be able to address questions about something that happened in 1820.  In their character, 1820 hadn’t happened yet.  When I say we had a talk with Thomas Jefferson, the person playing Jefferson was in character and knew his character inside and out.  It was a fascinating talk.  I know that if Thomas Jefferson were alive today he would be appalled at the overreach of the Federal government, the wresting of unconstitutional powers by our President and the usurpation of power by our Courts.

The talk given covered Jefferson’s public life, from his first service to country to his retirement after his Presidency.  He spoke of a lot of things, and as I listened to him speak of the viciousness of politics, the tabloids (someone asked about Sally Hemmings), the freedom of the press, freedom of religion, federalists (those in favor of a strong centralized federal government), anti-federalists (those opposed to a big overpowering centralized federal government, Jefferson was certainly one) and separation of powers, I thought to myself the more things change the more they say the same. 

In Jefferson’s time, up to and including his Presidency, the biggest issue was the role of a Federal government:  was it to be a big, nationalized government or was it to be a small one that mostly kept out of the affairs of the states.  Sound familiar?  It should.  It’s a battle that liberals (Federalists) and conservatives (anti-federalists) are still fighting.  Jefferson also believed passionately that the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, were there to settle disputes between people, not “interpret” the Constitution.  In his view, the Constitution and its 12 Amendments (the number at the time he was in character) were self-explanatory.  That has certainly changed!

Social programs, Medicare/Medicaid, social security, Obamacare, Executive overreach in changing laws passed by Congress, the Federal Reserve, the EPA, IRS, and Departments of Education, Homeland Security and all others besides State and the few others that existed in his time would have made Jefferson apoplectic had he foreseen their existence.  Jefferson saw the United States as a loose confederation of states that did business with each other and should with very little interference from a federal government.  Sounds rather tea partyish doesn’t it?

Jefferson saw our government not as the wealthy landed dictating to the peasantry what the law should be, but a government as it says in the first line of our Constitution: “we the people”, a great experiment in how to use the principles of democracy in the form of a Representative Republic made up of us, the people, who could and should remove those who don’t move the will of the people forward. Today, Obama would call him a terrorist.

When we don’t learn history we are doomed to repeat it.  Today we need to go back to our roots and remember that WE THE PEOPLE are the government.  We reminded those we put in office of that in November, and we need to continue to remind them that WE, not them, are the power in America.

If we don’t, the great experiment will fail.  I’m rather sure I don’t want to be the generation that let’s Jefferson down… do you?



Suzanne Reisig Olden is a Catholic Christian, Conservative, married mother of two, who loves God, family and country in that order. She lives northwest of Baltimore, in Carroll County, Maryland. She graduated from Villa Julie College/Stevenson University with a BS in Paralegal Studies and works as a paralegal for a franchise company, specializing in franchise law and intellectual property. Originally from Baltimore, and after many moves, she came home to raise her son and daughter, now high school and college aged, in her home state. Suzanne also writes for The Firebreathing Conservative website ( and hopes you'll come visit there as well for even more discussion of conservative issues.