government and the abuses that accompany it. The justification for the break from Great Britain was put forth in the Declaration of Independence. In it, learned men elucidated the pitfalls that come from a large and unresponsive government. Their goal was to throw off such government and construct a new government that would “provide new Guards for their future security…” (Declaration of Independence). Many self-proclaimed “patriots” of today embrace this notion. Moreover, because such individuals believe that it is their right to “alter or abolish” government, as their patriot forefathers outlined, they arm themselves and form themselves into self-styled militias to prepare for the eventu- ality of a government that will no longer be able to tolerate their obfuscations. Patriots of the ilk outlined here come in many forms and follow many persuasions. Yet there seem to be at least two consistent threads that run through the narrative of the 21st-century patriot. The first is an affinity for the thinking and writing of Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States. Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, stands for many as the paragon of the patriot cause. After all, it was Jefferson who, in putting pen to paper, articulated the notion that government is first and foremost a creation of the people and should be responsive to them. If it becomes destructive to its ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish said government. For many patriot and militia groups of today, this sentiment resonates in that they believe that the current incarnation of the U.S. government has become unresponsive and unchecked by any of the conventional mechanisms designed to keep the government from usurping power from the people. Jefferson is also a hero to these groups because of his unflagging support of the right of all Americans to keep and bear arms. Jefferson once re- marked that “For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well-organized and armed militia is their best security.”10 Another quote often attributed to Jefferson—“The beauty of the Second Amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it”—cannot be found in any of Jefferson’s personal papers or writings.11 Nevertheless, Jefferson was a strong advocate of small and limited government, be- lieving that the best chance for the United States to preserve its bucolic character was to be found in an agrarian and pastoral setting. His senti- ments leaned toward frequent elections, a small central government, and the rights of the people to be represented by that government clos- est in proximity to them—state and local government. Though he had some qualms about it, Jefferson was largely an admirer of the Constitution. He remarked to Amos Marsh in 1801: Introduction xiii
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