Saturday, September 06, 2003

Reading some articles from Thomas Jefferson's Commonplace Book
I was trying to look up his thoughts on Montesquieu. This book, his Commonplace Book (legal, not literary) he worked on for many years, and was intended as a source book, containing a number of facts about cases and legal history that would be of use to a professional lawyer, as well as opinions and recitations of facts Jefferson learned from other writers. I was most interested in articles 775-, concerning Montesquieu's Spirit of Laws, but am started with 735. 749 begins a discussion of Republics which are, Jefferson writes "worthy of attention in constituting an AMERICAN CONGRESS" [emphasis and italics from the 1926 edition from Johns Hopkins] Jefferson begins 754, with this...
All Europe was beholden to the Northern nations for introducing or restoring a constitution of government far excelling all others that we know in the world.
Here he is referring to Holland, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden and Poland Holland: We call them the United Provinces now, but Jefferson called them "the united states" Switzerland: no canton could have its troops forced into a foreign war, for any reason Denmark Until 1660, the King of Denmark did not necessarily follow heredity, but could be chosen by a near universal suffrage. Jefferson does not say, but I presume he means male suffrage. Jefferson read Robert Molesworth "An account of Denmark as it was in the year 1692", London, 1694 for this information, which also related how the Danes would not suffer long if they made a poor decision, but instead would depose, or banish, or destroy the malefactor, formally or quickly. Sweden In the middle of the 1300s, Sweden also would elect her Kings, although generally following the rules of primogeniture. Interestingly, the wealth of the Swedish Kingdon was mostly in the hands of the clergy. I suppose that fits with my general conception of religious authority in the dark ages. The Swedish King was nothing more than President of the Senate in peacetime, and Commander of the Armed Forces in war. The Archbishop of Upsal filled in for any interregnum, yet, even before that, Jefferson writes "The Archibishop of Upsal was a senator of course." I mean, didn't you all say to yourselves "Of course, the Archbishop of Upsal, why wouldn't he be a Senator?"

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