Monday, August 02, 2010

"I Have Sworn Upon the Altar of God, Eternal Hostility Toward Every Form of Tyranny Over the Mind of Man."

The origin of this quote is a letter written by Vice President Jefferson to his old friend, Dr. Benjamin Rush. Specifically, Jefferson fiercely opposed Christian clergy who sought to have an established state church. Instead, he championed the idea of church/state separation. For this, the clergy hated him, and waged a despicable campaign of slander and lies against him. Here is the quote in it's original context:

I promised you a letter on Christianity, which I have not forgotten. On the contrary, it is because I have reflected on it, that I find much more time necessary for it than I can at present dispose of. 

I have a view of the subject which ought to displease neither the rational Christian nor Deists, and would reconcile many to a character they have too hastily rejected. I do not know that it would reconcile the genus irritabile vatum who are all in arms against me. Their hostility is on too interesting ground to be softened. 

The delusion into which the plot shewed it possible to push the people; the successful experiment made under the prevalence of that delusion on the clause of the constitution, which, while it secured the freedom of the press, covered also the freedom of religion, had given to the clergy a very favorite hope of obtaining an establishment of a particular form of Christianity thro' the U. S.; and as every sect believes its own form the true one, every one perhaps hoped for his own, but especially the Episcopalians and Congregationalists. 

The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes, and they believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility toward every form of tyranny over the mind of man

But this is all they have to fear from me, and this is the cause of their printing lying pamphlets against me, forging conversations for me with Mazzei, Bishop Madison, and company, which are absolute falsehoods without a circumstance of truth to rest on; falsehoods, too, of which I acquit Mazzei & Bishop Madison, for they are men of truth.

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