I would like to welcome you on behalf of the Vermont Secretary of State's
office to this wonderful exhibit of letters and historical records of one of the
founders of this country, Thomas Jefferson. Many of the originals of records in
the exhibit are held in the State Archives which are part of the Secretary of
The Archives of the Secretary of State's office is not only responsible for
preserving records with continuing value, but also for making those records as
accessible to Vermonters as possible. The work of Chip Stokes and the Jefferson
Legacy Foundation in putting together this exhibit is a wonderful way of making
these records more accessible to all of us. This exhibition is also an example
of a private-public partnership that could serve as a model for future efforts
to display records from the Archives.
Jefferson is more than an icon or celebrated Founder of our country. He
articulated, and implemented social and political ideals that we continue to
debate and refine. Two hundred years ago the 1799 Vermont General Assembly
debated Jefferson's Kentucky Resolutions which argued that the states could
determine the constitutionality of federal laws. The debate between Vermont's
Jeffersonians and Federalists centered around the Jefferson's statement
"That confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism, free government is
founded on jealousy, and not in confidence." In other words, having
exercised the franchise, should we trust our elected representatives to govern
wisely and in our interests, or should we constantly watch and question their
actions and, if necessary, reject their laws?
In various forms we continue to debate Jefferson's assertion. How much can we
trust government? How can, or should, we limit the scope of government
authority? Can we function as a nation if each state chooses which federal laws
it will enforce? How far should we go in expressing our
"jealousy?"--Does jealousy include public examination of the private
lives of our elected officials? These are questions each generation has had to
answer, each answer further defining who we are as a self-governing nation.
So, as you enjoy this exhibit, do not simply view it as a collection of
historical records created by one of our most important historical figures.
Rather view these records as part of our on-going process of, and debate over,