The title of this post was taken from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote in Paris, on Nov. 13. 1787. He sent that letter to William Smith. Those words do not appear in the Declaration of Independence. Those words do not appear in the U.S. Constitution.
Thomas Jefferson was the principle author of the Declaration of Independence, and had a major influence on the United States Constitution. Jefferson’s quote about refreshing the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots & tyrants was an opinion to a friend, not for the public or justification for a revolution or civil war to replace the government.
In fact, Jefferson “wanted the new Constitution to be accompanied by a written ‘bill of rights’ to guarantee personal liberties, such as freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom from standing armies, trial by jury, and habeas corpus.” — THE FIRST AMENDMENT ENCYCLOPEDIA
When Jefferson was sworn in to become the third president of the United States (1801—1809), he took the same oath that is enshrined in the US. Constitution. Every president has taken that oath, an oath that defines what the Founding Fathers thought a patriot should be
There are many in the United States today that think they are patriots, but, because of that Constitutional Oath, some so-called patriots are wrong. They are not patriots. They are anarchists, loyalists (to Trump or another authoritarian), and traitors.
Patriotism is not defined as blind loyalty to an individual, the flag, a religion, or a militia. For instance: The Oath Keepers or The Three Percenters, et al. To these violent militias, nothing matters but defending what they blindly think is their country against anyone they see as a threat, and that means anyone that doesn’t think like them. If we disagree with what they think, they often reply with something like, “Go home. Go back to Russia, or Africa, or China…. Get out of my country.”
Imagine what it must be like to be blindly loyal to someone like Donald Trump and/or the U.S. flag with little or no knowledge of the U.S. Constitution. For those ignorant, misguided Americans, the concept of patriotism tied to the U.S. Constitution would seem alien because not every American takes the Constitutional Oath of Office, and many Americans don’t know what the U.S. Constitution says beyond the 1st and 2nd Amendments, and many also get the meaning of those two amendments wrong.
Freedom of speech doesn’t mean you’re free to say whatever you want. For some liars, we have libel and slander laws. And writing for the Supreme Court in the 1919 case of Schenck v. United States, Justice Holmes argued, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.”
Just one year after Schenck, United States Attorney General Mitchell Palmer, in congressional testimony, claimed, “A man may say what he will, as has often been said; but if he cries ‘fire’ in a crowded theater, with the intent to injure the people there assembled, certainly his right of free speech does not protect him against the punishment that is his just desert [sic].”
So, deliberately making a false statement that might harm someone, may not fall under the protections offered by the 1st Amendment. Still, the individual making such a false statement is innocent until proven guilty.
“The founders (including Jefferson) required an oath for federal and state officials—absent a religious test—in the Constitution, but the specifics—such as the wording of the oath—were left to the First Congress (1789–1791). In its first act, Congress specified the wording: “I, ______, do solemnly swear or affirm (as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United States.” This oath was used for all federal officials except the President, whose oath was prescribed specifically in the Constitution (Article II, section 1, clause 8).”
Today, who is required to take the oath to defend the U.S. Constitution against both foreign and domestic enemies?
1. Every President of the United States
2. Every member of Congress
3. Every member of the state legislatures and all executive and judicial officers, the United States and the states. (Again, think of all the Republicans in charge of state elections that defied President Donald Trump’s attempts to find votes that would make him the winner.)
4. Every judge (Think of the dozens of judges that ruled against Donald Trump’s challenges to the 2020 election, even judges appointed by Trump.)
5. FBI agents and other federal law enforcement officers
6. Federal employees, including postal workers
7. Both officers and enlisted servicemembers swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, but in the Oath of Enlistment, service members swear they will “obey the orders of the president of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over [them], according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.” However, officers do not include the president in their Oath of Office.
That may not be the complete list.
Most Americans who take that oath also live by that oath, and it doesn’t matter if they are Democrats, Republicans, or independent voters. To millions of Americans, regardless of their political and religious beliefs, their loyalty is to the U.S. Constitution, not to an individual, religion, or private militia. Still, some that have taken the oath never intended to defend the U.S. Constitution. Case in point: On January 6, 2021, President Donald Trump told his supporters at a rally near the capital to “fight like hell.” He also told them to march on the capital, and they did. Then they attempted to pull off a violent coup and install Trump as president for life.
I have no doubts that most if not all of that violent mob that attacked the US capital on January 6, 2021, thanks to Donald Trump urging them to “fight like hell” saw themselves as patriots following the flags they carried. But which flag: that mob carried US flags, Confederate flags, and too many flags to count with only TRUMP’s name on them?
The real patriots on January 6, were the capital police, risking their lives to save and preserve the U.S. Constitution they took an oath to defend, not Trump’s mob of loyalists, anarchists, and alleged fascists.