17 Principles of Freedom

Originally disseminated by Sarah Smith

Dear friends,

Our country has been moving away from the foundational principles of freedom for several successive generations. Given this, it is no surprise that most of us are not well-educated about what it takes to maintain freedom for the people of our nation.

Like many of you, my own education in freedom principles is sorely lacking. As we work towards the restoration of freedom, we have to know more in order to effectively combat the problems we are facing. 

I invite you to join me in learning more by considering the 17 Principles of Freedom according to Thomas Jefferson. (Grateful acknowledgements to the TJED Freedom Convention for introducing me to this material.)

Jefferson’s Freedom Creed – 17 Indispensable Principles of Freedom

Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence and the 3rd President of the United States.  In Jefferson’s 1st Inaugural Address, he laid out 17 principles for freedom which he called “the essential principles of our Government.” He laid these out as his own rules to live by in taking the office of President of the United States. 

To the extent that we are moving towards these principles, we are moving towards freedom. As we move away from these principles, we are allowing freedom to decay.  These 17 principles provide a guidepost by which we can assess the actions of our Government today.

Jefferson’s 17 Principles of Freedom

Jefferson’s Words (from Inaugural Address)Further Interpretation
1. “a wise and frugal Government… shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned”The people should be prevented from doing harm to each other, but beyond that they are free to manage themselves and not unduly burdened with taxes. Jefferson describes this as the “sum of good government.”
2. “equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political”Everyone is to be treated equally under the law, regardless of gender, race, religion, age, political party, etc.
3. peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none”Friendly relations with other nations, but making no alliances with other countries that would lead us to make poor decisions for the good of our own citizens or those of other countries.
4. support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against antirepublican tendencies”State rights were paramount, and the States were to govern the day-to-day concerns of the people. Jefferson was particularly concerned about too much power being concentrated in the Federal government.   
5. preservation of the General Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad”The Federal Government’s primary role was national security.
6. a jealous care of the right of election by the people — a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided”Governments are to safeguard the people’s right to elect their government officials. Elections allow the people to peaceably correct the direction of the Government when it has gone astray.
7. absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism”The decisions of the majority shall be accepted insofar as they do not infringe upon the inalienable rights of the people.
8. a well-disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace and for the first moments of war till regulars may relieve them”Able-bodied adults of the society were to be the first line of defense in advance of any Federal army (which would only become involved if necessary). Local militias would also serve as a protection against undue Government control.
9. supremacy of the civil over the military authority”The elected Government holds greater power than the military.
10. “economy in the public expense, that labor may be lightly burthened”Government should be kept limited and spend frugally so as to not unduly burden the people with taxes.
11. honest payment of our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith”National debt should be minimal such that the people and other countries retain trust in the Government’s ability to pay its debts.
12. “encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid”Government should encourage commerce, agriculture, and entrepreneurship, without undue regulations.
13. diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason”There should be a transparent and open disclosure of what the government is doing as opposed to hiding things from the people.
14. freedom of religion”All should be free to practice any religious or spiritual faith without discrimination or persecution.
15. freedom of the press”The press should be free to speak without information being controlled by the Government. This also encompasses the personal right to free speech.
16. freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus”People should be free from being arrested and held without due process of the law.
17. trial by juries impartially selected”Jury trials are an important check on government abuses and overreach.

As you can see, many of these principles are not being followed today.  It is imperative that we move back towards these principles if we want to ensure that our children and grandchildren are free to live happy and prosperous lives.

I’m working to internalize these principles in my own understanding and that of my family.  As an aid to that goal, I have a printable of Jefferson’s Freedom Creed. I’m happy to share that resource with any of you, so let me know if you want me to email you a copy.   

Feel free to share this information with others. Let me know if you want to be removed from this list.

Standing with you in solidarity,



Prayer Guide