Interview with Thomas Jefferson


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WhiteKnight
July 21, 2004, 03:33 PM
Over the summer I was required to construct and interview with a founding father for an upcoming class in the fall. :scrutiny:

Please don't laugh. :o

Tell me what you think!


:)


Founding Fathers Dialogue

July 4th, 2004

(interview begins)

JH: Today I am interviewing the venerable Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of the great nation of America. Due to an unexpected technological development and following device, our staff was able to travel back in time and convince Mr. Jefferson to temporarily join us in the future for this exclusive interview.

JH: Welcome, Mr. Jefferson! It’s so nice to have you on the show.

TJ: Why yes, this entire occurrence still boggles my mind.

JH: As does it mine! Who would have thought someone would actually ever invent a time machine?

TJ: Had he not recently passed away, I would have put a thousand acres of my land to bet ole’ Franklin would have thought of it in a couple years. Did you know he invented a fly-swatting rocking chair?

JH: I didn’t know that.

TJ: Well he did! Benjamin even invented an odometer for his bicycle to use while delivering mail. While looking over the driver’s shoulder in the vehicle in which I was brought here, Franklin’s invention seems to be the predecessor to that of your hautomobile.

JH: I believe the word is actually “automobile,” Mr. Jefferson.

TJ: Ah! My apologies. Au-to-mobile. Excellent!

JH: Mr. Jefferson, I would like to begin the interview by asking you a couple of questions about yourself. As you probably know, many of these facts have been recorded in countless history books, but myself and our viewers watching on television would like to hear it from you.

TJ: Yes, that “television.” You explained it is basically a box in the majority of American households that constantly conveys the image of yourself and myself sitting here?

JH: Yes, Mr. Jefferson, that’s correct.

TJ: Amazing! I would never have fathomed it.

JH: Firstly, tell us a little about your upbringing. What are some of your accomplishments?

TJ: I was born on April 13th, 1743 in Albemarle County in Shadwell, Virginia. I attended the College of William and Mary in 1762 and was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1767. I married my wonderful wife Martha in 1772, and we’ve lived on my Virginia estate, Monticello, ever since. I can’t really say that I’ve accomplished very much, although I do hold closely to my heart the fact I drafted the Declaration of Independence. (Summers 2)

JH: Mr. Jefferson, how do you feel about the recent ratification of the Bill of Rights on December 15th 1791?

TJ: I am certainly glad to finally have a legislative guarantee of the God-given rights of every citizen of the United States of America.

JH: Sir, I’m sure it’s easy to see that things have changed drastically since the late 1790s, and all of the reforms since your time cannot be listed in a single sitting, let alone debated. Nonetheless, I would like to ask you your views regarding recent government interpretations of the second Amendment.

TJ: Yes, A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. If you will allow me to use a term I overheard in my few short hours here, this Amendment seemed to be a “no-brainer” to me and not leave any room for discussion. I’m not sure what else there is to say.

JH: Well, throughout the past century and since the beginning of this new millennium, certain individuals have taken it upon themselves to make certain laws prohibiting and restricting various types of weapons to law-abiding American citizens.

TJ: You lie!

JH: Truly I do not. Take for example the National Firearms Act in 1934 that entrenched machine guns, suppressors, and short barreled rifles and shotguns with prohibitively expensive fees (NFA). Due to the nature of federal paperwork and laws surrounding these weapons, legal citizens of the United States can effectively no longer own these products.

TJ: I am unfamiliar with those things you mentioned. Please explain.

JH: Well, sir, a machine gun is a modern firearm that continually fires cartridges while the trigger is depressed, with the user only having to reload when the box magazine or drum is empty.

TJ: That sounds like fun! I imagine it’s quite a blast, if you’ll pardon the pun, to shoot those machine guns.

JH: Yes sir, but only a few Americans are able to enjoy these guns in current times due to the 1934 law.

TJ: Hmm…

JH: A suppressor is a metal tube containing sturdy baffles with quiet the blast of a loud firearm down to more reasonable levels in order to preserve the hearing of the shooter and those around him or her.

TJ: What an ingenious device! Pray tell, why would something as helpful to one’s health as this illegal?

JH: Due to a negative image portrayed by filmmakers in the earliest part of the 20th century, people feared these mere mechanical devices and allowed laws to be passed to bar their possession and use.

TJ: That’s unbelievable!

JH: Well…

TJ: Also, you mentioned…short-barreled rifles?

JH: Oh, yes. Rifles and shotguns with short barrels were illegalized in 1934 in addition.

TJ: Well what in heaven for? I myself own a quick-pointing shotgun with a properly short barrel for upland bird hunting.

JH: I believe people thought guns with shorter barrels would be easier to conceal and therefore easier to kill someone with.

TJ: Wouldn’t someone who already planned to break the law by killing another have no reservations about simply using a common saw to illegally shorten the barrel on his gun?

JH: That’s entirely correct. There have been many cases where that has occurred.

TJ: So you mean to tell me this law, among other things, disallows law-abiding citizens to own a legal weapon with a short barrel, but has no power over criminals who have no regard for legality anyway?

JH: Yes sir.

TJ: I’m amazed! I can see no Godly reason why you have endured this! This was simply a constitutional infringement!

JH: Sir, that was only one law. Also, a law to further restrict citizens’ rights by banning “assault weapons” was enacted under President Bill Clinton during his term in office.

TJ: Assault weapons? I’m not sure if I know what you mean.

JH: Oh! Well, actually there are three definitions. Which definition applies to you depends on who you are. To the military, assault rifles are select-fire weapons chambered for an intermediate rifle cartridge, yet with less power than a battle rifle. To the legislators who enacted the assault weapons ban in 1993, an assault weapon is any semi-automatic gun with a box magazine and two or more of the following features:
Bayonet Lug
Flash Suppressor
Folding or Collapsible Stock
Pistol Grip
Threaded Barrel
Magazine able to hold more than 10 rounds

To many inhibitors of the US with no firearms knowledge, an assault weapon is any gun made of black components and simply looks “evil.” (Kleck, 4)

TJ: Explain to me some of those components. I already know that a bayonet lug is simply a spot to attach a long blade known as a bayonet, and common sense dictates what a folding stock and pistol grip are. What are flash suppressors and threaded barrels?

JH: A flash suppressor is a tiny length of metal that slips over or screws onto the end of a firearm’s barrel to help protect the vision of the person shooting the gun. As you know, the blast produced when a gun is fired is quite significant, and leads to temporary blindness in some situations.

TJ: It seems to me that would be a good thing. If it’s designed to protect the shooter in some way, why to people want to ban it?

JH: Your guess is as good as mine.

TJ: Now what is a threaded barrel?

JH: A threaded barrel is a normal gun barrel from which the bullets are emitted that merely has machined threads on the end and allows a device with matching threads such as a the flash suppressor I mentioned to be screwed onto it.

TJ: Why would anyone not want to make it easier for you to put a flash suppressor on your gun? I don’t see why anyone would want to ban simple threads on a gun.

JH: Honestly, I don’t either.

TJ: A box magazine? What is that?

JH: It is simply a metal container that houses cartridges ready to be fired, and allows an individual firearm to hold more than one round. It is particularly handy for target shooters who do not want to spend the entire afternoon reloading their guns and would rather spend the time shooting them.

TJ: What about semi-automatic guns? I heard you it had to be one of those to classify for this ban you mentioned.

JH: A semi-automatic firearm is one that fires a shot for every time you pull the trigger, without you having to reload.

TJ: What an improvement over the muskets I have at my own house back in Virginia! Do tell, I bet battles nowadays are much quicker with these modern guns.

JH: Actually, most military firearms are fully-automatic, which means you can pull the trigger and keep it depressed and the gun will keep firing until it is empty of ammunition. Like I mentioned before, the 1934 law effectually illegalized fully-automatic arms for the general public, but our military and law enforcement are allowed to use them.

TJ: So this ban further restricted already-restricted firearms?

JH: Yes sir.

TJ: So the military and constables are allowed to use firearms ordinary civilians are not?

JH: Yes sir.

TJ: That’s unbelievable! The citizens of the nation were guaranteed their rights in the Second Amendment to allow them the same weaponry as those presiding over them. The originators of the Constitution included the 2nd Amendment to keep the government from getting out of hand. You should have access to exactly the same weapons as they do! If your rights as a civilian keep getting restricted, you’ll be under the same tyrannical rule under the federal government as we were under the rule of Britain. When drafting the Virginia Constitution, I even included “No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms.”(Kleck 3) I didn’t mean freemen should be able to only use certain types of arms on certain occasions or after filling out paperwork. I meant that as long as you haven’t illegally wronged society, you should be able to enjoy each and every firearm with no restrictions on the firearms themselves. I had no idea some would interpret the Constitution this way.

JH: Actually, there have been many interpretations of the Second Amendment. Some even believe that the Second Amendment’s inclusion into the Bill of Rights was intended solely for the purposes of hunting?

TJ: I am uncertain how anyone ever imagined the Second Amendment to be about hunting. Have citizens become less intelligent since my time? Hunting is not mentioned at all in the Bill of Rights, and it boggles my mind to imagine someone could actually equate the two. The Second Amendment isn’t about hunting. Furthermore, I believe my views are summed up in a letter to James Madison in ’88 or ’89. I wrote to him: "The few cases wherein these things (proposed Bill of Rights) may do evil, cannot be weighed against the multitude where the want of them will do evil...I hope therefore a bill of rights will be formed to guard the people against the federal government..." (Kleck 2) As you can see, I wouldn’t have signed the Declaration of Independence had I believed anyone in the present or future would misconstrue it to mean what you’ve told me. The right to bear arms is a right of the people, and is a Constitutional safeguard to prevent such tyranny as we fought during the War for Independence from King George. Possession of firearms, and the ability to use them was a necessity for survival on the wilderness frontier, as is it still essential to survive in a world full of potential dictators or totalitarian rulers.

TJ: Based on what you’ve told me, it seems this law only prohibits cosmetic features that don’t really have anything to do with the deadliness of the weapon. In fact, all of them seemed to actually aide the shooter in enjoying his firearm or even increase the safety of the gun itself in the case of that flash suppressor. Now tell me, would a weapon chambered in the same caliber as one with all of the prohibited features you mentioned still be legal?

JH: It certainly would.

TJ: Don’t those advocating these gun-banning laws realize the caliber of the weapon determines how much damage it can do? It seems to be that enacting laws such as these don’t really serve any purpose but to make the originators feel safe at night. If you’ll pardon my use of one of Benjamin Franklin’s most profound quotes applicable to this situation: They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. (Kleck 2) I believe he included that in his Historical Review of Pennsylvania many years ago. Franklin recognized that only the weak-minded turn to the government to make them feel safe and secure. Thousands of patriotic Americans poured out their very blood onto the battlefields of our nation in a struggle for freedom, and it deeply saddens me to learn that future generations are so absorbed in themselves they squander away rights so laboriously earned.

JH: Many pro-gun voters have said exactly the same thing. If I may be so bold, your sentiments align themselves with many supporters of the 2nd Amendment who are often labeled by liberal democrats as “gun nuts.” By your own words, I believe many would classify you as a gun nut. How would you respond to this?

TJ: Well, as I once wrote to Peter Carr, A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks. (Kleck 4) I don’t believe I’m a “nut” more than anyone else, especially not about guns. If anything, I’m a freedom nut. I’ve devoted my life to preserving the freedom in American gained during the war with Great Britain, and the unrestricted ability for honest to possess, carry, and train with firearms is a crucial component of their freedom. As soon as you transport me back to my own time, I’m going to spread what I’ve heard here to my compatriots and work my hardest to make the laws even more unambiguous.

JH: I’m afraid sir that when we transport you back you will lose all knowledge of what happened here. An unfortunate side effect of the recent technology, I’m afraid.

TJ: That’s horrendous! Who is going to fight for your gun freedoms!

JH: I’m afraid to say that responsibility rests upon us, all the gun owners of America.

TJ: But as you mentioned before, new laws are continually being debated as liberalistic legislative bodies swindle away your rights. What can be done to stop this horrific intrustion?

JH: There are organizations in existence right now, such as the National Rifle Association, that are fighting their hardest to stop this personal vendetta of those opposed to freedoms given in the Constitution. However, they need active participants and volunteers to support the cause, as well as monetary support. Since our time machine does not work well enough to go back and change history, it is up to every cognitive citizen to change the present and preserve the future.

TJ: Though it burdens me to hear of such oppression, I strongly feel that, acting in unity, able-bodied Americans have the chance to stand up for themselves in such a trying day and age.


JH: Mr. Jefferson, it’s been a pleasure to have you on the show.

TJ: As was it mine.

(Interview concluded)



Works Cited
Kleck, Gary. Quotes from the Founding Fathers and Their Contemporaries. 23 May 2003. GunCite. 10 July 2004 <http://www.guncite.com/gc2ndfqu.html>.
Summers, Robert S. POTUS: Presidents of the United States. 29 Mar. 2004. The Internet Public Library. 12 July 2004 <http://www.potus.com/tjefferson.html>.
The National Firearms Act. 25 Aug. 1998. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. 6 July 2004 <http://www.atf.gov/pub/fire-explo_pub/nfa.htm>.
VanOrden, Ryan. The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban: A Public Opinion Nightmare. 15 Jan. 2003. AWbansunset. 7 July 2004 <http://www.awbansunset.com/essay_vanorden1.html>.

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another okie
July 21, 2004, 04:14 PM
Very interesting. I would note that Jefferson's wife died in 1782, and your interview seems to occur after the ratification of the Bill of Rights, which was later than that.

Thumper
July 21, 2004, 04:19 PM
TJ- Where tha sistas at?

Kidding...well done, informative and entertaining.

Justin
July 21, 2004, 04:33 PM
Some things you might consider mentioning:

The Puckle Gun
Pepperboxes
Some of the self-loading airguns they had at the time

You might also look into a design called the Harmonica Gun. I can't recall if it was around at the time of Jefferson, or came along after, but the rest of the arms I mentioned were either invented before or during the time of the founders.

TallPine
July 21, 2004, 04:49 PM
As you can see, I wouldn’t have signed the Declaration of Independence had I believed anyone in the present or future would misconstrue it to mean what you’ve told me.
Did you perhaps mean the Constitution in this sentence ...?

I'm not sure ... was TJ even a signer of the Constitution? Wasn't he out of the country or something at that time?

another okie
July 21, 2004, 06:14 PM
You're correct - Jefferson did not sign the Constitution, nor was he there at the Convention. He was in Paris representing the U.S. He did strongly suggest a Bill of Rights, as in his letter of July 31, 1788 from Paris to James Madison: "I sincerely rejoice at the acceptance of our new constitution by nine States. It is a good canvas, on which some strokes only want retouching. What these are, I think are sufficiently manifested by the general voice from north to south, which calls for a bill of rights."

Unisaw
July 21, 2004, 06:34 PM
Very well done. The only additional inaccuracy that I see is one of omission. I am certain that Jefferson would have mentioned founding the University of Virginia ("The University") as one of his accomplishments. BTW, shortly after 9/11, UVA closed its pistol range and the team was forced to start practicing off-grounds at Rivanna Rifle and Pistol Club. The excuse given was that they needed the space for something else. Of course, that "something else" was never built. You might be able to work some of this into your story.

Unisaw
UVA 1980
Member, UVA pistol team, 1976 to 1980

WhiteKnight
July 21, 2004, 07:17 PM
I originally chose July 4th, 2004, as the date of the interview because I wanted to ask Jefferson how he felt about all these constitutional infringements on the birthday of our nation, but sort of forgot and didn't see how I could insert it and it still make sense.

I need to somehow work in that I "plucked" him from January of 1792 (Bill of Rights was ratified on 15 Dec 1791).

WhiteKnight
July 21, 2004, 07:18 PM
Tallpine - thanks for the info. I'm going to edit that comment about him signing it.

Also, guys I used a little bit of creative license in this paper. I am aware the 1934 NFA act prohibited suppressors not only because of the image conveyed by movies (sometimes even suppressed revolvers :uhoh: ) but also to combat widespread poaching, often not even done with suppressors, but enough for some to believe it justified illegalization of them.

ACP230
July 21, 2004, 08:46 PM
I like it, but have one suggestion.

I think Jefferson would pick up some modern idiom, but overall I think he'd speak a more ornate English. More like the language of the Declaration than the way he speaks in your piece.

WhiteKnight
July 21, 2004, 08:58 PM
I apologize, I'm not quite an expert on ornate English. I'll try to fanci-fy the wording a little bit, but I'm not sure how much better it'll turn out. :(

cfabe
July 22, 2004, 12:33 AM
He would not understand the term "film maker"

Tinker
July 22, 2004, 10:42 AM
Whiteknight,

I liked it. I've often wondered what it would be like to snatch somebody from the past and introduce them to our modern world. Take them for a ride or on an airplane. Jefferson and Franklin have both come to mind. Glad to see you got to do it. I'm in envy. :)

I think ACP230 was right about his mode of speech. If you have a large library you may find his collection of letters there to work from. I went to our library searching for "a" book of his published correspondences. They had half a shelf full. :) Seems the fellow like to right a little.

The technical points offered by these guys are great too. Hope you repost it after revisions.

Henry Bowman
July 22, 2004, 01:50 PM
The proverbial frog dropped in boiling water.

another okie
July 22, 2004, 02:46 PM
Modern Library has an edition that contains his autobiography, notes on Virginia, and the most important letters.

HABU
July 22, 2004, 11:58 PM
Well done!
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. There was recently some debate about the number of commas in the 2A. I dont remember the number, but I am pretty sure that three is too many. Thats my poor attempt at constructive criticism.

ETA: Perhaps I am mistaken and you have the commas correct. The "comma" post can be found here (http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?s=&threadid=88279&highlight=comma) .

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