A Little Sunday TJ


“It [is] more dangerous that even a guilty person should be punished without the forms of law, than that he should escape.” –Thomas Jefferson to William Carmichael, 1788.

“It [is] more a duty [of the Attorney General] to save an innocent than to convict a guilty man.” –Thomas Jefferson: Biographical Sketch of Peyton Randolph.

“No nation however powerful, any more than an individual, can be unjust
with impunity. Sooner or later, public opinion, an instrument merely
moral in the beginning, will find occasion physically to inflict its
sentences on the unjust… The lesson is useful to the weak as well as
the strong.” –Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1804.

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0 responses to “A Little Sunday TJ”

  1. Mark, here are a few more by Jefferson:

    “A spirit of disobedience… must be subdued. Laws made by common consent must not be trampled on by individuals. It is very much the good to force the unworthy into their due share of contributions to the public support, otherwise the burden on them will become oppressive, indeed.” –Thomas Jefferson to Garret Vanmeter, 1781. ME 4:417, Papers 5:566

    “While the laws shall be obeyed, all will be safe. He alone is your enemy who disobeys them.” –Thomas Jefferson: Misc. Notes, 1801?. FE 8:1

    “The punishment of all real crimes is certainly desirable as a security to society; the security is greater in proportion as the chances of avoiding punishment are less.” –Thomas Jefferson: Report on Spanish Convention, 1792. FE 5:482

    “The public security against a partial dispensation of justice depends on its being dispensed by certain rules. The slightest deviation in one circumstance becomes a precedent for another, that for a third, and so on, without bounds. A relaxation in a case where it is certain no fraud is intended, is laid hold of by others, afterwards, to cover fraud.” –Thomas Jefferson to George Joy, 1790. ME 8:10

    “In forming a scale of crimes and punishments, two considerations have principal weight. 1. The atrocity of the crime. 2. The peculiar circumstances of a country, which furnish greater temptations to commit it, or greater facilities for escaping detection. The punishment must be heavier to counterbalance this. Were the first the only consideration, all nations would form the same scale. But as the circumstances of a country have influence on the punishment, and no two countries exist precisely under the same circumstances, no two countries will form the same scale of crimes and punishments.” –Thomas Jefferson: Answers to de Meusnier Questions, 1786. ME 17:79

    “I can conceive of no other profession so vile, so profane, so despicable, so bereft of those diverse good attributes which commend a civilized society to the world, as that of the common solicitor or advocate for the accused, who, knowing quite well the consequences of his actions, nevertheless shields and gives comfort to one whose guilt is undisputed, twisting the laws both natural and of man and perverting the course of justice to earn his filthy keep. Miscreants such as these should hang along with their clients.” –Thomas Jefferson; Letter to Samuel Adams shortly after having been mugged by a man who later got pretrial intervention from PJ, 1804.

    –Okay, so I made the last one up. Couldn’t resist.

    The second to last one is informative, however. Jefferson didn’t live in Harris County!

  2. Ehhhh. Get your own damn blog, buddy!

    “The fantastical idea of virtue and the public good being a sufficient security to the state against the commission of crimes,… was never mine. It is only the sanguinary hue of our penal laws which I meant to object to. Punishments I know are necessary, and I would provide them strict and inflexible, but proportioned to the crime. Death might be inflicted for murder and perhaps for treason, [but I] would take out of the description of treason all crimes which are not such in their nature. Rape, buggery, etc., punish by castration. All other crimes by working on high roads, rivers, gallies, etc., a certain time proportioned to the offence… Laws thus proportionate and mild should never be dispensed with. Let mercy be the character of the lawgiver, but let the judge be a mere machine. The mercies of the law will be dispensed equally and impartially to every description of men; those of the judge or of the executive power will be the eccentric impulses of whimsical, capricious designing man.” –Thomas Jefferson to Edmund Pendleton, 1776.

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