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The National Association of educational broadcasters presents another in the series of transcribed programs on the Jeffersonian heritage. The Democrats and the Commissar starring Claude Raines as Thomas Jefferson. Are A. Spring violets grow on my little mountain. My name and my spirit when invoked again I felt the earth born out of events with giants. I had been a boy my friend and we were there together now. And here my wife and children in the simple domesticity of the grave. Tremor shook the earth with the need of nations and a free man. From
the shock of tyrants. You're. Yes. May I direct you I am Mr. Jefferson. Oh yes. You were here for the posthumous Committee on revolutionary activities investigation. Yes. Go right in there expecting you. Thank you Mr. Jefferson Dr. Franklin My dear Dr. Franklin How very good to see you again. But not unexpected really. History makes such good scenes are to be direct other not to recall members of the original company.
But tell me how why does Dr. Franklin. Clay turns into dust. To go back to the wire we have recalled the dust moisture and with the tears of man returned to Clay and so it is eligible again for human service Mr. Jefferson. Tell me who is that intense gentleman at the trial table. That is the commissar. He has a dedicated look and he's a dedicated man. He advocates a curious political social economic phenomenon of these times called communism. I have heard of it. Even dust is not insensible to the trap of I and I you might cancel Dr Franklin your servant. Yes I know about this communism. A formula a panacea a Mithridates to cure all social ills. An antidote or politic poisons. And about as a reputable as a
top goggle for the pox hook behind fences for the desperately ignorant. But such there be and it has buyers therefore I am grateful to give testimony against Charlotte softly and correction Mr Jefferson. You're not here to testify against the calmest water. You are here to give a testimonial for his Nostrum. Preposterous. I thought I was called by my own people not this commissar you were replying to him. But you will answer to us trusting me. We do. Who judges the proceedings man. The good sense of the people will lead to justice. Paramount him better as part of civilized society is to be taken for the fray. When you are by no means friendly. So mistaken for a friendly
witness by the Communists. I took the stand. It was all apology for disturbing my long residence and then your name Sir Thomas Jefferson residence history occupation patriot. Mr Jefferson You are the author of the Declaration of Independence. I have the honor the abduction of that document was a revolutionary act it was. You are aware that this investigation is under the auspices of the posthumous committee for revolutionary activity. I am aware of it. Why did you write the Declaration of Independence. When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature. And of Nature's God entitle
them a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare. The causes which impel them to the separation. You knew then that this separation meant rebellion we all did so. Rebellion that must mean an appeal to arms shots had been fired and brought already spent. I revolution then by force for which you all might have been hanged for treason had it failed. The question is debatable. The treatment of high American prisoners by the British as prisoners and not as traitors argues against you. You're wrong Dr. Benjamin Franklin and your counsel today is on record there saying that if you did not all hang together us assuredly you would hang separately. I am not sure that I said it but history and it don't seem fondly persuaded that I did a good enough epigram if I did not father the thing. I feel bound to adopt it.
Assume that I did say it and please continue your Therefore pledged your lives your fortunes and your sacred honor in what you asserted was the universal right to revolt. Not quite so absolutely as you put it. And this is certain of the universal right of men to rebel against authority was approved by the unanimous vote of the 13 colonies. Is that not true. It was unanimous Indeed however. Do you Mr Jefferson believe that all men have a natural right of revolution. Yes. Then the revolution may be said to constitute the official doctrine of the boot of the American republic. Yes I didn't go through our minds at the time consider it radical objection. I think it proper at this time to examine the meaning of the word revolution for those people it meant for them and whether it means for us overthrow of the government by force overthrow of government by force if necessary
and political revolution only not social revolution by bloodshed and turn our class against class. Please Mr Jefferson confine yourself to answering the questions. Gladly sir if you will confine yourself only to asking them. I ask you conservatives of your time for revolution radical. So my most revolutionary associates were conservatives they considered revolution drastic and we all considered it a recourse in only the most extreme case. Do you consider a detour any of the Russian czars an extreme case to Congress. Is Mr Jefferson here to discuss the American Revolution and revolution itself. Or are you here to defend communism. Your honor I ask that Mr Franklin's remark be stricken from the record. Strike it out. Thank you. Do you consider the tyranny of the Russian czar is an extreme case.
I do not know Mr. Jefferson. I have your letter which you wrote to James Madison when you were in France in seventeen eighty seven. Will you examine the MBR look please. Yes sir it is a seal which is broken of course. Is that see you familiar. Just my personal see Will you tell the committee and judge the history of that. Mr. Jefferson willingly on July the 4th 1776 Dr. Franklin. Mr John Adams and I were appointed to bring in a device for the seal of the United States of America. The design which we recommended was by Pierre eugène you Smitty here a Swiss artist living in Philadelphia. Omit the details please. I feel that all merit however humble merits immortality continue.
We are trying to prove a modified version of the designer submitted by Dr. Franklin thank you. Immortality was required for the sea which Dr. Franklin proposed. Yes what was it. Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God. Was it accepted. No sir. We finally agreed on a plot of us whom I will ask you to read DeMarco and you will see it was the Jefferson rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God. In other words Mr Jefferson you thought enough of the blunt uncompromising motto with its revolutionary doctoring to take it for your own motto. I did sir. Proving therefore not only your approval of rebellion by force but recognizing directly sanction of heaven. I repeat. Political
rebellion prudently sought against insufferable tyranny. Mr. Chairman gentlemen of the past you must comedian revolutionary activities. It has been my purpose to prove as I have in fact prove that my witness Thomas Jefferson acquiesce in spirit with Revolution object. Mr. Jefferson has sternly qualified those circumstances which alone justify rebellion. Political Revolution is against social and economic revolution by blood and terror Jack. And as against the revolution which merely replaces one tyrant with another will get your ruler my objection overruled. You know I have make plain that Mr Jefferson by acknowledging rebellion is a begins to God recognizes that all who rebel are undecided have the angels. Perhaps in a way that conventional religion fails to appreciate. I will not have my words warped constantly into an endorsement of terror.
And the suppression of formal worship of God. I am presenting facts to prove that Thomas Jefferson is fundamentally in agreement with the Saudi at the Revolution. Well the chair permit me to speak without interruption speak. Thomas Jefferson. I have qualified my theory of rebellion. I have said rebellion against tyranny and only as a last resort. I have held and I hold forever either or men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights that to secure these rights Governments are instituted among Men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these aliens it is the right of the People to alter or abolish it and to institute new government new in form and spirit and not I emphasize again
a new despotism for the old object. Exception is the Jefferson surely does not suggest that his revolution did not secure social and economic benefits. It was assumed that the correction of social and economic abuses would be undertaken in the ordinary course of legislation not directed by the rebellion itself. I myself returned to Virginia. After writing the Declaration of Independence and secured the passage of laws abolishing aristocracy in land ownership. Then you admit your revolution did secure social and economic benefit in the ordinary course of legislation and by Due Process of Law. These benefits were realized without a purge and without bloodshed. And do you thing there is no social or economic sickness in your society today. No discrimination racial and religious
prejudice to name a few. I submit. That injustice under our form of government established in the fires of political revolution only is less today than yesterday and it will be less tomorrow than today. I declare that the achievement of political independence and one set of government is the first thing to be desired from that. A self-governing people will solve its problems medicated in the light of reason and in the privilege of the ballot. The right of men to rebel is the right to amend or rule themselves not others. In this same letter which you wrote James Madison in 1787 you say quote A little rebellion now and then is a good thing and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. What would you call your revolution. A little rebellion is the Jefferson.
No sir it was a considerable a lot you bet it shook the earth from under many kings. That is to say a little rebellion is a good thing. A large rebellion is a better thing from which it must follow that the world rebellion is the ultimate and the best thing a little cupping for preferably patience may be good for them. Drain all the blood from them they die. Strike that from the record you speak a world revolution and governments of course enough so I hold sir that your government is a government of force that seeks will rebellion strike you that government of force is a government of wolves and with sheep I say Strike it. But that sir is also in my letter. According to your own philosophy if a little of my left eye has some vote you're more dovish and have much for which I ask a recess of 15 minutes.
I want. Us. To learn. What had I counsel for the people. And hoped for with my soul. That wilful men should take the letter out of my words and not the spirit. And then corrupt the letter. My pleading had been for the right of elections by the people as a mild and safe corrective of abuses. It is only where such peaceable remedies are not provided that abuses are locked by the sort of revolution. Surely if the councils of the commissars were taken in the winds that shook the trees above my grave with great miasma. I sat with Dr. Franklin While the Commissar like a killer is in another room. You make a ready witness Mr. Jefferson the blind
inquisitors who stroked the elephant's tail and concluded the elephant is very like a rope. They take a dozen of my words from the company of a hundred in class. This is the man the principal in the code. And this is his United States its secret and its pledge. Can they do that and claim virtue in the counsels of humanity. You chose freedom. I do not have to tell you that freedom has a Japanese model of Pericles notion. Mr. Jefferson Marlowe particular liberty out some way to do it. I prefer whatever freedom with danger to slavery with the Mr commerce brandishing blandishments to the gullible offers the latter they whipped my words to give endorsement to their schemes of revolution chaos despotism. The eyes of the virtuous are turned with anxiety on us.
As the depositors of the sacred part of liberty are pouring into anarchy would decide the destinies of mankind and see all the political heresy that man is incapable of self-government. What can I do to set things right. The will and power of man expire with his life by nature's law. You are dust and fast Fersen lie and lie buried on the slope of mount a child. But why do you wish from that temporal circumstance that you were dead any more than I am Thomas Jefferson. England. Is the Jefferson. You have attempted to persuade the committee that the American philosophy of revolution is
substantially different from the Soviet idea. They are poles apart. You have made some sort of this think shin between your rebellion being political then ours being social economic and the gulf between them as without horizon. You say that recourse to rebellion is only for extreme cases. Prudence indeed will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light or transcend causes. Tell me then or did you not approve the French Revolution. That too was a rebellion for your fundamental human rights. That was not a change of government for light or transient causes. It was your American type rebellion at the outset. True at the outset yes or no if you please. Yes you approve of it at the outset. Do you deny that there are great similarities between the French Revolution and the Russian
River. I cannot deny that they were almost twin sisters in their excesses but you have proved that the French rebellion. Do you then approve of excess. If I may speak without interruption just answer the questions Mr Japp excuse me. My client has been at great pains to shake the top of a shank Czarina quarter of model death from his spirit and to come before this body. He has made the journey from the grave in the bosom of his family and of Abraham to serve again. We have interrupted his earned long holiday. I pray you let us not interrupt him Oh. Let him speak let him speak. Mr. Jefferson. I did approve the French convulsion at the start it seemed like our own rebellion based indeed on human rights. It was not a foreign ideology like the Marxian. It was native and
sympathetic to the urgent needs and dark operations more than most of all it was a political revolt. Do you call a political revolution where the proletariat shouts down with the credits. Or is it the Jefferson social. It was political at first that a billion went too fast I thought and it turned out I was right. The execution of that King was too much but lost sight of principles. It's a tax on property were wrong. The revolution got involved with the politics of Europe. And like the Russian revolution launched upon a career of imperialism and Americans were not interested in French imperialism strike it out. The testimony is unresponsive the testimony significant. It remade by Napoleon's time the revolution was imperialism it was Liberty warning against it so when I abhorred it then perhaps you forget Mr. Jefferson
that liberty ward against liberty in your own country. Let me refresh you on the matter of Daniel Shays and his rebellion in seventeen eighty six. The farmers of Massachusetts desperately are pressed back that. This stagnation of Commerce and the scarcity of money rebelled in their pleas went on and served by their governor and they revolted. The rebellion against tyrants that you condone and celebrate in your presidency you tried to deny that Shays Rebellion was unjustified. The Acts of the rebels were irregular inter positions of the people are not justifiable. Have you not said this spirit of resistance to government is valuable on certain occasions on certain occasions indeed your life will be exercised when wrong but better so than not to be exercised or taught.
Cheney's rebellion was wrong. The people had a just grievance through your troops put down there won't be force troops of the state of Massachusetts not federal troops. These events stimulated the movement for a new American Constitution. The consequences of his rebellion deepened my conviction that whenever our affairs go obviously wrong the good sense of the people will set them to rights. The example of changing a constitution by assembling Why is man instead of assembling armies would be worth as much to the world as the former examples we have given it. You used force against your own country men in these paragon of Republicans. You condemned their leaders to death a sentence never executed the prisoners were all set free and as I hoped there were no reprisals and AK existed in America in the single
brief instance of Massachusetts but can history produce an instance of rebellion so honorably conducted. I say nothing of its motives. They were founded on ignorance not wickedness. No country can preserve its liberties. If its rulers do not heed the natural spirit of resistance to injustice among its people. I know indeed that some honest men fear that this government is not strong enough. But would the honest patriot abandon a government which has so far kept us firm and free on the theoretic and visionary fear that this republic the world's best hope may by possibility lack energy to preserve itself. I trust not. I believe this on the contrary
the strongest government on earth. Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he then be trusted with a government of other US. More have we found angels in the form of dictators to. Let history answer this question that the Commissar answered with a concise purposive the stink wavering is not sure if you or the merits of so-called democracy has come for a state to the dictatorship of the proletariat but to establish Mr. Jefferson's revolutionary ideals Mr. Jefferson I know that history must answer the questions where the come I saw replied to a non political question not to person Mr commissar. How did you die. They purged me.
Well Mr Jefferson. You are. My boyhood friend took my hand when I came back to the launch on the slope of Twilight and Martha smiled an evening bird sang thread that is for the dead and I lay down again to rise and pull of this side across my eyes. Dusk stood there tore apart I want to channel it would all work together. How still it was however lovely.
The Jeffersonian heritage
The democrat and the commissar
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 opinions about communism.
Other 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.
Writer: Geiger, Milton
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 52-23-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:30:00?
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Chicago: “The Jeffersonian heritage; The democrat and the commissar,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 25, 2022,
MLA: “The Jeffersonian heritage; The democrat and the commissar.” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 25, 2022. <>.
APA: The Jeffersonian heritage; The democrat and the commissar. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from