On rebellions

After watching a very interesting documentary on John Trudell yesterday, this quote came to mind. If we take the concept of representation seriously, it is essential in a democracy for citizens to be free to voice their discontent with government.

I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. Unsuccessful rebellions indeed generally establish the encroachments on the rights of the people which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions, as not to discourage them too much. It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.

-Thomas Jefferson, Letter to James Madison, Paris, January 30, 1787



  1. A good quote. I’ve been thinking a lot about free speech these past few months, and recall hearing Hitchens quote some one (I can’t remember who he got it from) that it was not just the right and privilege of one to say what one thinks, but the right and privilege of those around to hear it. I’m going a bit off your original topic, but perhaps we might not like dissent, or rebellion, or the things people say, but it is our right and privilege to hear them and then decide whether or not to dismiss it, argue it, or agree.

  2. I’m certainly on board with that sentiment, and it kind of ties in with other Jefferson quotes related to the education of the public and citizens being informed.

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