If Thomas Jefferson Blogged

Tara Koellhoffer at the Thomas Jefferson Blog inserts excerpts from Jefferson’s writings into today’s current affairs.

Link: Thomas Jefferson Blog

In Jefferson’s day, American politicians were hoping to make the nations of Europe more democratic. Today, the U.S. government is more often trying to encourage democracy in the Middle East, other parts of Asia, or Africa. In this 1811 quote, Jefferson warned that the use of violence is not the best way to convince other nations to conform with American principles:

For us to attempt by war to reform all Europe, and bring them back to principles of morality and a respect for the equal rights of nations, would show us to be only maniacs of another character.

Over the past few days, as the violence between Israel and Lebanon has escalated, President Bush has supported Israel’s use of force, saying that Israel has the right to defend itself. In a 1781 letter, Thomas Jefferson expressed similar sentiments:

Any free nation has a right to punish those who have done them an injury. . . . While I advise [another nation] like an affectionate friend to avoid unnecessary war, I do not assume the right of restraining [them] from punishing [their] enemies.