Jefferson on Natural & Artificial Aristocracy

Thomas Jefferson, to John Adams

Monticello, October 28, 1813

"As a child, he was full of questions"

…there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents…There is also an artificial aristocracy, founded on wealth and birth, without either virtue or talents; for with these it would belong to the first class. The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature, for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society. And indeed, it would have been inconsistent in creation to have formed man for the social state, and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of the society. May we not even say, that that form of government is the best, which provides the most effectually for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of government? The artificial aristocracy is a mischievous ingredient in government, and provision should be made to prevent its ascendency.

 

 

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