“When Attorney General William Wirt delivered Thomas Jefferson’s eulogy on October 19, 1826 in the Hall of the U.S. House of Representatives, he noted how Jefferson believed in democracy, national humility, and abhorred empire. Jefferson well understood, Wirt noted, the danger of past empires as well as the dangerous possibility of a future president who may seize more power than the Constitution intended.
‘The successful warrior, who had desolated whole empires for his own aggrandizement,’ Wirt wrote about such a dangerous leader, ‘the successful usurper of his country’s rights and liberties, may have their hours of swelling pride, in which they may look back with a barbarous joy upon the triumph of their talents, and feast upon the adulation of the sycophants that surround them.’
In the next paragraph, however, Wirt cited Jefferson’s certain knowledge that those who seek empire will not only see their nation’s downfall, but their own internal spiritual destruction as well. ‘…but, night and silence come; and conscience takes her turn. The bloody field rises upon the startled imagination. The shades of the slaughtered innocent stalk in terrific procession before the couch. The agonizing cry of countless widows and orphans invades the ear. The bloody dagger of the assassin plays, in airy terror, before the vision.’
Empire, Jefferson believed, always ended in disaster, as the nations oppressed by empire invariably rebel. As Wirt summarized Jefferson’s sentiments: ‘Violated liberty lifts her avenging lance, and a down-trodden nation rises before them, in all the majesty of its wrath.’
Which brings us to today. The battle of the election of 2004 – from local races to the presidency – is fundamentally a battle of visions: Empire versus Democracy. “
There’s more. Go read.