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The National Association of educational broadcasters presents another in the series of transcribed programs on the Jeffersonian heritage to secure these rights starring Claude Raines as Thomas Jefferson. The mass of mankind. Has not been born with titles on their backs. But a few of them. By the grace of God. All man up a system which. Is government instituted among men. In order to secure these rights. No experiment could be more important in my generation to establish the fact that man may be a reason and. A voice from the. Weather in your time. The fact.
Is For You. In 1785. Not 10 years after the beginning of the American experiment I was in France with my fellow commissioners Benjamin Franklin and John Adams to negotiate commercial treaties with the nations of Europe. I am ready to say to every human being Thou art my brother and to offer him the hand of Concord. But it was not easy in the case of the British minister of France. The Duke of Dorset gentlemen before we go further there is a question I would ask. I shall be happy to answer. Then tell me Mr. Jefferson By whose authority do you and your colleagues enter these proposed negotiations with his Majesty's Government. It is a strange question. You know that we represent the United States of America. Then I presume that you hold commissions
from each of the thirteen states. No. We are commissioned by Congress which has that power under the Articles of Confederation. Now just suppose that we have reached such an agreement what assurance do I have that the states will add here they are bound by the articles to do so. Yes but Mr. Jefferson and we both know that in practice this has not always been so. Will Congress send a federal militia force. They will not embarrass you by pressing the non-sequiturs thought for obvious but entirely unnecessary name especially since it would appear that you are not concerned about concluding a treaty. Mr Jefferson the disunity of your state makes it likely that Britain can achieve its ends without a treaty. I am not suited by temperament for making a commercial treaty between us will be a benefit to both countries.
Now you agree that America would surely profit. But I fail to see any advantage to Great Britain. We are a young country on the edge of a bast continent. It is inevitable that we shall grow. Let us be practical. What have you to offer so I offer the future of the United States. I cannot but admire your patriotism. But Mr. Jefferson It is an exaggeration to speak of the state says. I might have replied as I did on another occasion but the Confederation was a wonderfully perfect instrument considering the circumstances under which it was formed. I might have said that if all the evil that was to occur rise among us from
the Republican form of government from this day to the day of judgment could be put into a scale against what France suffered from its monarchical form in a week or England in a month. The latter would preponderate rate. I might have said these things. And they would have been true. But I cannot deny what was equally true. That there was a serious lack of unity among the states. When Massachusetts closed our ports to English ships in retaliation against British discrimination promptly threw hers wide open and laid duties upon imports from Massachusetts and in New York City. The Governing Council met for a special purpose. Gentlemen you have heard the report.
You want to know where the thousands of dollars are being carried out of the city and into the pockets of Jersey but you neglect to add that for the dollars we receive butter and cheese chickens and garden vegetables from the New Jersey farms to the detriment of our own domestic industry. New York farmers cannot supply the city's needs. Nevertheless dollars are leaving the city. Do you suggest that we should stop eating butter and cheese and vegetables gentleman. The Jersey market boats row across the river from Cook court in St.. We're familiar with local geography the way they must pass the custom house naturally. Why should they not stop and pay entrance fees like the ships from London. And how does an ingenious device. I'm pleased that you like it. I did not say that. I was wondering what the Jersey man will do. The Jersey man retaliated. New York aboard a patch of ground on Sandy
Hook to erect a lighthouse. The New Jersey legislature placed an exorbitant tax on the land. I would not deny what was true. They would trade disputes between the states and. New York and New Hampshire both claim the region of Vermont which declared itself independent and it was rumored negotiated for dominion. In the Wyoming Valley between Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Dispute became a conflict you want to go back to Connecticut and this is Pennsylvania land our homes that here we do you know you have one hour to gather together your possessions feels a plan to do will harvest them. Listen to me all of you empty our houses all we'll burn them as they stand. Get your men all the men are not here. Well I mean you're using my all where are my man. In 1784 less than a year after the treaty of peace with
England my country men fired at each other. Congress was sitting in Philadelphia when another incident occurred. 0. 0 0 2 soldiers of the Pennsylvania line broke from their camp and marched to the State House led by a sergeant. Oh. I don't do the talking. You support my arguments with your gun. They drew up in the line and made them on us. Well you want to OK. There was no money. Congress had made requisitions upon the states but there was no money. The soldiers threw stones and pointed at my skirts threateningly. If you talk ghetto money we can't rest until we don't. Congress appealed to the governor of Pennsylvania to the city of Philadelphia for protection
but none was given. The government of the United States fled across the river from a handful of mutinous soldiers. There were some aloft. And laughed at Congress but there was no cause for laughter in the profound discontent not only of the soldiers but of the farmers as well. With seeing their homestead sold for payment of foreclosed mortgages. The farmers grew desperate there in the name of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I call upon you to disband your men and lay down your arms. Shay's Rebellion in 1786 could no longer be considered a small incident. Out of the turmoil of the time out of the conflicts and rebellions
came here. And ideas born of fear danger to suggestions made even to General Washington before the end of the war. He had received a letter from a certain Colonel Nicola this well bust of military men in particular the weakness of republics. The thought was in the minds of many men but Nikolai went further. If you would consent to be the head of such a government as I propose it may be requisite to find some type apparently more moderate than that of Keene whatever the name they wanted to make Washington King be assured. No occurrence in the cause of the water has given me more painful sensations than the information that such ideas exist in the Army and I must view them with abhorrence and reprehend them with severity. General George Washington might have been if he chose George the
First's of America. The moderation and virtue of a single character probably prevented the American Revolution from being closed as most others have been by a subversion of that liberty it was intended to establish. General Washington was afraid for the liberties of his country that it is necessary to make changes I entertain no doubt. But what may be the consequences of such an attempt is doubtful. Yet something must be done or the fabric must fall. It is certainly tottering. I spoke often about what should be done with my friend James Madison. I think it is only a small change in the sense to say that.
Every ship that sailed between us cut it my left so that I could almost hear his voice. Our situation grows worse daily so that I almost despair of any remedy. We are not permitted to dispense medicine. I hesitate at the distance which I find myself to make suggestions. I always find your advice welcome to make us one nation. As to foreign affairs and keep us distinct in domestic ones. To organize the federal government into separate legislative executive judiciary. These will remedy serious defects of the Confederation. They are needed James is Jefferson but not sufficient for all of his approach close to chaos and anarchy. We have had thirteen states independent 11 years there has been one rebellion.
Madison I think that my friends in America are too much impressed by the insurrection in Massachusetts it is a symptom of the weakness of the government. Jefferson It cannot allow us. We are faced with the dissolution of the Union unless we act to act. Maybe good or bad depending on the direction in which you act. Supporters of liberty must make every concession without infringing on fundamental principles in favor of a stable government. I will not deny that the federal government under the Articles of Confederation needs additional powers but medicine. I am fearful of energetic government. It is always oppressive. You are far removed from the scene Jefferson. Perhaps so Father you cannot be aware how close the government's weakness brings us to a dissolution of the Union. It is not by the concentration apartment by its distribution that good government is effective. Jefferson the danger is immediate. I tremble over the issue. There is another danger medicine. If I am a medic
I am closer to the seats of monarchy to the evils of power in the hands of kings and nobles. I am aware of that and I think I'm glad of it Madison. Whatever form the government may take it must affirm the rights of man. Events move beyond the obits in which they have tribal legislature largely at the instigation of Madison and Washington and back to the states to meet in September 1786 to consider commercial reforms. The convention was a failure but out of it through another convention to be held the following year with another great upis was all
that a convention of delegates for the sole purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation. The federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of government and the preservation of the Union. Faced with the alternatives of and they rejected both and chose the course of order led to liberation in May of 1787 in the statehouse in Philadelphia in the same room where 11 years before the Declaration of Independence had been signed. The delegates met in an atmosphere whose solemnity was expressed by General Washington to please the people we offer what we disapprove. How can we are afterwards defend our work. Let us raise a standard to which the honest can repair the event is in the hand of God. Franklin and Madison were there and Randolph was with us with General Washington as their president.
It was an assembly of demi gods. Your Committee proposes to the convention an additional rule that nothing spoken in the house be printed or otherwise published or communicated without leave. Madison you must not do it. It is an abominable president to tie up the tongues of the delegates. Yet if the men commits himself publicly he might afterward suppose the consistency requires him to maintain his ground and your opinions of every delegate must stand before the judgment of the people whereas by secret discussion no man will feel obliged to retain his opinions
any longer than he is satisfied by that rule. The people are entitled to the fullest information and knowledge. It is my believe therefore that this is approved and justified by the needs of the situation matters. Listen to me. But Madison cannot hear me. I could only write letters that reached him long after the issue was decided. Yes later Madison was to say it is my opinion that no constitution would ever have been adopted by the convention if the debates had been public. Perhaps he was right and I was wrong. I cannot be sure it is for you to judge. Us. It was an assembly of silent demagogues for no voice came through the
closed doors of the convention room. During the long summer months. I imagine the debates on such questions as the powers to be given to the new government which in letters even before the convention I had discussed with Madison. I do not willingly disagree with you. Madison let us strive to agree. Perhaps I can convince you. Jefferson surely among the chief objects of government should be to insure justice. A good beginning. I agree but justice for knowing the subtlety of your reasoning I hesitate to give this self-evident justice for all the people there would be rich and poor creditors and debtors a moneyed interest a manufacturing interest. There will be differences in political religious another attachment so that my hesitation was justified my self evident is
no answer at all. The question thus is whether a majority centered about any common interest or feeling any common passion will find sufficient motives to refrain from oppressing the minority. I would offer such motives as religion or the residue of goodness and or man on light and self interest except that. Except that history has shown that these motives are never sufficient to prevent the oppression of the minority by the majority. I agree reluctantly. It is a pessimistic view on which to found the system of government but a realistic one Jefferson and therefore the laws of the individual states must be subject to the negative veto of the national legislature. Here I part company with you Madison. I do not like it. Some control of an inevitable evil is necessary but the whole and the patch should be commensurate.
And you propose to mend a small hole by covering the entire government. Madison in my own way I am a practical man. I would not bestow power when it is not necessary and I would take part away whenever it is greatly concentrated whether it be in a King or in a legislature. Only as so will the rights of the people be safe. I was in the EU. The people who waited for news of the convention but the secret was kept out knowing little. They speculated much. New Hampshire the convention was the topic of the talk and all is to Ailes Yeah.
As I was saying this convention is Philadelphia and I'll be greatly surprised if something good comes of it. Now I have hopes. Did you see the list of the members in the Gazette. You know where is it. Oh here look. Names not to speak of General Washington their president as I know I know. But tell me what is at the bottom of all the troubles in the country. Well I'll tell you. The government has no money and no power. Right. Well I suppose they are not even General Washington can persuade the states to pay money or part with it. They all want to hold on to what they've got and go their own way. You know is a big country that states and all that Western country to the Mississippi River. It will take a strong hand to hold all this together permanently. I mean in the strictest confidence you understand of course then I might tell you that the delegates are considering very seriously the establishment of a monarchy you know. Yes they will send to England for the goings on and crown him king over this count. I do not believe it as you like perhaps you will believe when you read it in the newspapers. You are.
The room reached such proportions that newspapers throughout the States printed it for the first time. The convention a public statement to inform the readers of this newspaper that to all inquiries the members of the convention have uniformly answered. We cannot affirmatively tell you what we are doing. We can tell you what we are not doing. We never once thought of a king. In the spring of 1787. I made a tour in the south of the kingdom of France talking with the people. Observing the condition of life. Again. I saw how the absence of Liberty from. Beneath the level of the citizen of the United States. Joining much of this time the Convention Center in Philadelphia finally rising in September. Its unique task completed. We the People of the
United States in Order to form a more perfect Union establish Justice insure domestic Tranquility provide for the common defense promote the general Welfare and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. Well over. And then I waited until in October there came a letter from Madison. I am enclosing a copy of the work of the convention. You say nothing Jefferson. I have already seen a copy. Madison. I like the general idea of framing a government which goes on its own without needing continual recurrence to state legislatures. I like the power given the legislature to liberate Texas and I approve the House of Representatives
being chosen by the people directly. And I am captivated by the compromise of the opposite claims of the large and small states Jefferson. Your Enthusiasm more than any man's is gratifying to me. It was a task deemed impossible with no president in history. You can surely boast of having set the world a beautiful example of a government reform by reason alone without bloodshed. A government strengthened to bring order out of chaos to escape dissolution. That danger is minute. Madison there was another danger. I have not forgotten. You will not find a dangerous concentration of power in any branch. Each is checked by the others to strengthen the government without yielding essential liberty. That is a great achievement. Yet there is something lacking. The Constitution is not holy as I would have wished it.
But this is a fundamental lack of medicine in some degree. The people who have been forgotten. No where do I find an affirmation of human rights. The affirmation is there Jefferson. It is implied in every part of the Constitution perhaps but in a constitution that leaves some precious articles unnoticed. An explicit declaration of rights becomes necessary. Jefferson to suppose that any kind of government any paper or declaration of rights would secure liberty or happiness without virtue when the people is a vain hope. I believe as I think you do in the principle that the people will have virtue. That medicine a bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth and what no just government should refuse or rest on inference. I am not against the Bill of Rights. Yes it can be added to the Constitution
and will be. It must be Madison just as a reminder that government is instituted among men for no other reason than to secure these rights. Some men. Look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence. And deem them too sacred to touch. Their scribe to the men of the preceding is more than human. And suppose what they. Do maybe. But I know. That laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. No society can make a perpetual Constitution to bind the President with the change of the past. But the Earth belongs to the living. And not to the day.
Therefore. Each generation must. Fight so. Secure the rights. That its in alienable possession. This we did in my time. You who listen to your own. Just another in the transcribe series on the Jeffersonian heritage following plans of the noted historian and biographer prepared with his counsel authentic and historical spirit while imaginative inform these programs dramatize ideas which are the position of all American and all free people. Today's
program starring Claude Raines as Thomas Jefferson was written by Joseph Smith with special music composed and conducted by Vladimir Symonds. This program was produced and directed by Frank. Listen next week for another in this series of programs on the Jeffersonian heritage. These programs are distributed by the National Association of education abroad. The program is made possible under a grant from the fund for adult education an independent organization established by the board.
The Jeffersonian heritage
To Secure These Rights
Producing Organization
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program dramatizes Jefferson's ideas about the mutability of the Constitution and how succeeding generations must adapt it to secure their rights.
Series Description
This series dramatizes the ideas of Thomas Jefferson, which are"the enduring possessions of all Americans and all free peoples," while being "authentic in historical spirit" and "imaginative in form."
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Actor: Rains, Claude, 1889-1967
Advisor: Malone, Dumas, 1892-1986
Composer: Schmidt, Karl
Conductor: Solinsky, Vladimir
Director: Papp, Frank, 1909-1996
Producer: Papp, Frank, 1909-1996
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Subject: Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826.
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 52-23-11 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:20
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Chicago: “The Jeffersonian heritage; To Secure These Rights,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2024,
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APA: The Jeffersonian heritage; To Secure These Rights. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from