Last week in the Brown Daily Herald, junior Oliver Hudson argued that universal suffrage is “immoral”. On Sunday Hudson responded to his critics — who had produced some 272 comments on the Herald’s website — by quoting James Madison and Thomas Jefferson:
In fact, the founders despised democracy. James Madison, the “father of the Constitution,” argued in the famous Federalist 10 that democracy is an undesirable form of government, incompatible with “personal security or the rights of property.” Thomas Jefferson, who penned the words “all men are created equal,” said of democracy: “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51 percent of the people may take away the rights of the other 49.”
As an eagle-eyed Herald commenter points out, there is no record of Thomas Jefferson declaring democracy “nothing more than mob rule.” According to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which collects “spurious quotes” attributed to its namesake,
We currently have no evidence to confirm that Thomas Jefferson ever said or wrote, “Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%” or any of its listed variations. We do not know the source of this statement’s attribution to Thomas Jefferson.
This is principal to Hudson’s defense: that (like Jefferson) one can believe that all men are created equal yet also believe (like Jefferson) that democracy is a savage manner of governance. So where does Hudson’s defense stand if Jefferson never argued the latter? Which other historical figure believed in equal rights but not democracy? (Also, where does the Brown Daily Herald stand on using false quotations? Or on fact-checking in general?)