"But with respect to future debt; would it not be wise and just for that nation to declare in the constitution they are forming that neither the legislature, nor the nation itself can validly contract more debt, than they may pay within their own age, or within the term of 19 years."
Thomas Jefferson
(1743-1826), US Founding Father, drafted the Declaration of Independence, 3rd US President
letter to James Madison, 6 September 1789
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Reader comments about this quote:
LOL, Try to get that passed into law today.
 -- Anon
Always the practical man. TJ also defended or advanced the right of the new nation to go into debt. It is interesting that he also thought that there should be limitations on it also. Not like Dick Cheney who espoused the "Audacity of Debt" by saying "deficits don't matter". The US pretty much had been able to see the end of its debt. Reagan and Bush swamped that notion, Clinton had us getting out and then came Bush II.
 -- Waffler, Smith, Arkansas
The bozos inside the beltway spend, spend,and spend some more and that's just fine, we'll let our grandchildren pay it off. This so called "stimulus" bill is just another example of profligate spending and won't stimulate anything except more debt and Democrat power.It's nice to see Republicans showing some backbone ,for a change, in opposing this nonsense.
 -- jim k, austin
That is idiocy Waffler. Quit being a fool. Clinton was almost as bad as Carter. We have just voted for the end of any hint of responsibility what so ever. A Democrat talking about fiscal responsibility is ludicrous. We are now listening to the fascists talk about limitless spending for years. Nothing but pork to insure Dems re-election. No stimulus to be found. But we will hear the drum beat for years about how we have to spend, spend, spend. They know that when they have wrecked the country beyond recognition that the fools that would vote for the Obamanation will accept socialism, fascism or communism accepting that it "has to be done" because the system is broken. Ignorance is the most dangerous thing we have in this country and the heroes of Waffler are doing everything they can to make more of it.
 -- warren, olathe
Nice going warren. you have nailed it.
 -- jim k, austin
This is sound policy. Tell it to the Democratic majority in Congress. They need to listen to this, and listen hard!
 -- Mark, Buffalo, NY
Actually, Clinton got brought down the DEFICIT. The DEBT continued to rise under his presidency. The National Debt is the total amount of money owed by the government. The federal budget deficit is the yearly amount by which spending exceeds revenue. Add up all the deficits (and subtract those few budget surpluses we've had) for the past 200+ years and you'll get the current National Debt. Politicians love to crow "The deficit is down! The deficit is down!" like it's a great accomplishment. Don't be fooled. Reducing the deficit just means we're adding less to the Debt this year than we did last year. Big deal -- we're still adding to the Debt. ( from http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/ )
 -- Bryan Morton, Stuaty, Florida
Isn't it hilarious that Tom Daschle and others haven't paid their taxes. What other evidence do we need to support the premise that our taxes are too high?
 -- Blue, Fredericksburg, Va
Any quote that starts off with a double negative, and seems to have uniformly have been read and commented upon by all as only having a single negative in it, deserves no better than a thumbs down. Clarity in communications... he's saying that the constitution should keep its nose out of how long a debt can be made for (a good idea, keep that document cleaner and leave all more flexible to do "what is right" for the time)... but mostly, learn to read! In addition, Clinton got the budget to a surplus, which does bring down the net debt... something that Reagan & King George W totally destroyed with their flawed "trickle down" lie...
 -- Anonymous, Reston, VA, US
Reston, although I have learned to read I still don't see the double negative you refer to. Could you please point it out? As the first part of this quote refers to the previous sentence, which concerns the national debt of France, it only clouds the meaning of what follows. I'm curious how James Madison might have responded. I would not be surprised if he were to agree with Jefferson that it would indeed be wise and just for France, or any other nation, to include such a declaration in its constitution._________The text of this letter may be found at http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/mtj:@field(DOCID+@lit(tj060008))
 -- A.WOODS, Gloucester
Now we have an unpayable debt. Waffler, where is your source for Jefferson advancing the right for the nation to go into debt? That is a lie. It was Hamilton that pressed for debt and the first national bank -- that Jefferson opposed and killed once he was President. Jefferson warned us time and time again against going into debt as it was the forehorse to servitude.
 -- E Archer, NYC
E. Archer, all true and well said.
 -- A.WOODS, Gloucester
Warren, that's exactly what the GOP did with redistricting - they made it nearly impossible for change. Debt is the engine that drives capitalism and as Archer staid "servitude". Without debt there is no profit.
Your question is answere right in the above quote Archer. Jefferson is saying that any debt should have only a life of 19 years, thus by deduction he is saying debt is okay. Read man read. As far as Warren and Bryan and especially Warren they show their total lack of honestly reviewing any records concerning deficts and national debt. Morally they are no better than Holocaust Deniers in my opinion. Way to go Reston Guy keep keeping them honest Bud. Bryan is correct about one thing a button is pressed on a Treasury computer twice a day and the silly thing does a summation of the face value of all of the serialized (Serial Numbered Bonds) bonds and the accrued interest thereon and voila, you got the National Debt. Cheney said "deficits don't matter" Warren but I will google it again to make sure. Stay tuned but I give up wondering if you can ever open your mind to facts.
 -- Waffler, Smith, Arkansas
Okay Warren I googled "Dick Cheney deficts don't matter" and I got a plethoa of stuff to read. He said to O'Neill the Sec of Treasury "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter and we won the by elections and now we are due another tax cut." The quote is said to have proved to the economists the "total economic illiteracy of the Bush administration". None of this however I am sure will have any meaining to you.
 -- Waffler, Smith, Arkansas
WOW all this talk about Republicans and Democrats. The simple fact is that BOTH over the years have contributed GREATLY to an expansive and powerful central government. Lincoln, FDR, Taft, LBJ, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton, Bush 2, and now Obama have all in their own way expanded the Executive branch, Allowed congress to trample on the Constitution and walk all over state and individual rights. The definition of insanity-is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Maybe...just maybe we should elect some other party to office and see what happens. What ever I don't care. Because no matter what happens it can't possibly be worse than right now!
 -- Sean Bradley, Basrah, Iraq
Sean, absolutely. Half Truth to None Waffler is continuing consistent to his, well, ahh, half truth to none. Clinton's main deficit reduction was a ruse to publicize spending less than the Congress originally offered AND, the surplus was an accounting joke / lie (for public consumption - an impression that the debt was paid off and extra money was just setting in the bank with no place to go). The dot com and other bubbles, for a time, hid Clinton's criminal endeavors only to come crashing down in recession just before the next debt monger took office. Mr. Obamunist Goodwrench the assassin's history (enhanced through association) would show his original intent was / is to bring the USA down through debt - as one in a myriad of other criminal misdeeds. There is a rule against perpetuity that exists in most states, and existed during Jefferson's day, that was / is referenced in 20 year increments (another subject, for another blog, at another time) - that may have been his conceptual 19 year basis. I think the only error in Jefferson's statement was that the 19 years is too long.
 -- Mike, Norwalk
In Texas we have no debt because our constitution forbids it. We have no state income or property tax on individuals. Nuff said there. Why can't Big Brother in DC figure
 -- Cal, Lewisville, TX
As to Clinton, 6of 8 years while he was in office, There was a Republican majority in both houses of congress. Democrats rarely mention this. Nowadays Republicans act like democrats and the debt gets higher and the government gets bigger.
 -- jim k, Austin, Tx
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