Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Henry And The Sovereignty Of The PeopleJul 03, 2008
We are in a great location, if not a great space, in downtown Richmond, less than a block from perhaps Virginia's most enduring landmark, its Jefferson designed capitol; and perhaps a mile yonder east in Church Hill, St. John's Church, identified with another Revolutionary hero, Patrick Henry, who also knew well the grounds of Shockoe Hill. When people think of Richmond history, they think Civil War (or War Between The States). It's a shame in that it obscures the city's Revolution-era history.
During this fast approaching Independence Day weekend it is easy to ponder our ancestor Virginians' lives and for all they stood. Doing such, I ran across a quote from Henry that pairs nicely with a Jeffersonian quote with which I was already familiar.
Both men were key instruments in the Revolution: Jefferson the Pen, Henry the Tongue. They fought for a democratic republic, free from the chosen few to lead, but open to all — that is to say, open to all. Not just open for all to seek public office, but open to all to participate; and not only to participate, but to know what the people's government was doing, lest it no longer stay the people's government.
So it is on this occasion that we again call on the successors to Jefferson's and Henry's General Assembly to consider ways to further open our government: In particular, through the use of modern technology, making available the Virginia budget online via a Google-like, easy-to-use search engine. (What better way to honor Mr. Jefferson, who was no slouch inventor himself and who was keen to the latest technology of his day?) As the General Assembly reconvenes to consider what they might take from us during this ongoing Special Tax Session, shouldn't we be able to easily learn how, what, when and with whom they our spending our money?
Said the first governor of the commonwealth, Mr. Henry:
The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.
Said the author of the Declaration of Independence, Mr. Jefferson:
Information is the currency of democracy.
Before the General Assembly runs off with what remains of our financial currency, remind them we have every right — rather, it is their responsibility — to keep the operations of the people's government open and free to easy examination. To be sure, that's what this weekend commemorates, for if the people's sovereignty is subjugated to the "rulers" who are few, we become less free; less the sovereign over the elected that our Revolution guaranteed, and more the subjects to new, modern-day monarchs.