Thomas Jefferson and Jeffersonian Democracy
Thomas Jefferson was a Founding Father of the United States of America, Principal Author of the Declaration of Independence, First Secretary of State, Governor of Virginia, and the third U.S. President. And he was the principal founder of Jeffersonian Democracy and chief proponent of freedom of religion and public education.
Jefferson had truly democratic ideals and principles. He deeply believed that America should be a country where all people have equal opportunities. He wanted to create a level playing field, as it were, on which any person willing and able could succeed, flourish and prosper, regardless of the wealth or religion of their family or circumstances of birth.
Today it is important for Americans to understand that, and to understand that is why Republican President Abraham Lincoln later said: “The principles of Jefferson are the axioms of a free society.”
That is crucially important because there are some right-wing extremist Republicans in America today who have been led to believe in a distorted view of the intent of the Founding Fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson and his views and principles regarding both democracy and religion.
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison formed the Democratic-Republican Party in 1800 in order to establish a Democratic Republic, and they were supported by the majority of the other Founding Fathers and opposed only by a minority of Hamiltonian Federalists.
The Hamiltonian Federalist Party was against Jefferson and Jeffersonian Democracy because they had a different point of view and interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. That was because they preferred the British traditions of aristocracy and the British banking and economic systems that catered to and enabled the wealthiest few.
The Jeffersonian Democratic Republican Party was against aristocracy and oligarchy based on wealth, and they wanted the people to be free and able to choose leadership that they deemed wise, virtuous, and educated. Fortunately, by 1800 Jefferson's and Madison's Democratic Republican Party defeated the Federalists. And by solidifying Jeffersonian ideas they achieved a huge step in human evolution.
Thomas Jefferson was also very much against religious bigotry and theocracy, and Americans need to realize how and why his views on both government and religion are very important today, more than ever.
Jefferson On Freedom of Religion
One of the most blatant examples of distorting the Founding Fathers’ views on religion, and particularly Jefferson’s, is in the claims of the “religious right” in America about what freedom of religion means.
For example, many years ago right-wing televangelist Pat Robertson claimed that “the idea that the Constitution established a wall of separation between church and state is a lie.” And many other leaders of the “religious right” in America have since agreed and parroted the same claim.
However, Robertson and other Theocratic leaders of the “religious right” simply ignore Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution, which prevents any sort of religious requirement or religious test for holding office, and they ignore the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prevents Congress from enacting any law regarding the establishment of religion.
They also conveniently ignore that Thomas Jefferson famously wrote that the First Amendment freedom of religion clause was intended specifically to “build a wall of separation between church and state,” and the U.S. Supreme Court later agreed with Jefferson so it is legally binding.
That is generally acknowledged by the vast majority of Americans. After all, we cannot have real religious freedom unless all religions are respected as equal by a government that is neutral regarding religion.
Unfortunately, the leaders of the “religious right” in America ignore all the facts because they want a Theocracy where only Christians have the political power in government. They think freedom of religion means the freedom for them to rule in the name of Christianity to make it the state religion.
They’ve been trying to do that for 30 years, which is why so many right-wing Republican presidential candidates have basically followed the same misguided “religious” political ideology to try to gain presidential power.
However, they ignore the obvious and clear intent of the Founding Fathers regarding religion and freedom of religion. That is why the articles on Ignored American History and The Founding Fathers Regarding Religion wert written, providing quotes of the Founding Fathers that show how and why they were very much against Theocracy and for real freedom of religion, intending to establish religious pluralism and government that would be neutral regarding religion and prevent any kind of theocratic imposition.
Jefferson on Democracy
The distortion by the “religious right” regarding the separation of church and state is much like the distortion by right-wing extremists calling themselves Republicans or Libertarians or Federalists regarding the Constitution and the intent of the Founding Fathers regarding Democracy.
Their intent is to claim that the Founding Fathers, and even Thomas Jefferson, were against Democracy and wanted a Republic in which a “moral, virtuous, financially successful” elite aristocracy would naturally be entitled to rule. And they have not only distorted Jefferson’s views. They have actually fabricated false statements they attribute to Jefferson.
For example, they often attribute a false, fabricated quote to Thomas Jefferson, claiming that he said or wrote: “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”
However, according to those who created and maintain Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello web site, the earliest known appearances of that “quote” in print were in 2004, and there is no evidence to confirm that Thomas Jefferson ever said or wrote such a statement. In fact, they found that the source of that statement's attribution to Thomas Jefferson is unknown, after searching the following sources for its earliest appearance in print: Google Books, Google Scholar, Amazon.com, Internet Archive, America's Historical Newspapers, American Broadsides and Ephemera Series I, Early American Imprints Series I and II, Early English Books Online, Eighteenth Century Collections Online, 19th Century U.S. Newspapers, and American Periodicals Series Online.
Another false quote that's been spread around the Internet is this: “The Democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”
That quotation has not been found in any of the writings of Thomas Jefferson. It was probably derived from a distortion of one of Jefferson's comments regarding Destutt de Tracy's Treatise on Political Economy, in which Jefferson essentially cited what he called “the first principle of association,” by which he essentially meant that as a man sows, so shall he reap. In other words, Jefferson was pointing out that we all should get what we deserve.
However, that does not mean, as some right-wing extremists claim, that Jefferson believed that the wealthy should not be charitable or willing to help the poor. In fact, Jefferson wrote: “I deem it the duty of every man to devote a certain portion of his income for charitable purposes; and that it is his further duty to see it so applied and to do the most good for which it is capable.” -- Thomas Jefferson
These facts are important now, because it is very clear that there has been a deliberate attempt to distort the intent of the Founding Fathers, and particularly Thomas Jefferson, since he was the most democratic Founder who, with James Madison, founded the Democratic Republican Party based on Jeffersonian Democracy.
After all, Jefferson wrote: “The end of Democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed incorporations.”
He also wrote: “Information is the currency of Democracy,” and “A government afraid of its citizens is a Democracy. Citizens afraid of government is tyranny!”
Objective Scholars On Jeffersonian Democracy
Regarding Jeffersonian Democracy, most fair and objective scholars agree that Jefferson was a major if not the chief iconic figure in the emergence of democracy in the world, and was the Democrat who shaped the thinking of his nation and the world.
The historian Vernon Louis Parrington concluded that: "Far more completely than any other American of his generation, Jefferson embodied the idealisms of the great revolution – its faith in human nature, its economic individualism, its conviction that here in America, through the instrumentality of political democracy, the lot of the common man should somehow be made better." 
Jefferson's concepts of democracy were rooted in "The Enlightenment," which is also called the Age of Enlightenment or Age of Reason. It was a cultural movement of educated intellectuals in 18th century Europe and America seeking to advance the power of reason in order to reform society, advance knowledge, promote science and higher education, and counter the ignorance, superstition, intolerance and abuses of power by theocratic leaders of both church and state.
Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine, among many other Founding Fathers of the U.S.A., were Enlightenment thinkers and played a major role in the American Revolution. Their democratic political ideals influenced the American Declaration of Independence and the United States Bill of Rights, and Jefferson’s work inspired the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
Jefferson not only advocated Enlightenment ideals. He envisioned Democracy as an expression of society as a whole, and he called for national self-determination, cultural uniformity, and education of all the people.  In 1778, Jefferson's "Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge" called for public education so that all children could get an education regardless of ability to pay. 
And Jefferson believed that public education and a free press were essential to a democratic nation, saying: “The people cannot be safe without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe". 
Speaking of an educated public, as Thomas Jefferson reminded John Adams (a Federalist) in a letter in 1813, Jefferson had actually tried to establish a law providing free higher education at public expense to all qualified students, regardless of their parentage or wealth. In fact, Jefferson wrote that he was against a "psuedo-aristocracy" consisting of a privileged wealthy few. He saw true aristocrats as people from all walks of life, who would succeed in a society which enables all people to have equal opportunity to live up to their God-given potential.
According to "Jefferson on Politics & Government: Publicly Supported Education," after leaving the Presidency, Jefferson wanted to found new institutions of higher learning as well, to also be publicly funded and free of church influences, where students could specialize in many new areas. Jefferson believed educating people was a good way to establish an organized and democratic society. He believed public schools and universities should be paid for by the general public, so the people could be educated regardless of their ability to pay. In his vision, any citizen of the state could attend school with the sole criterion being ability.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Government has totally ignored Jefferson’s vision regarding free higher education to qualified students at public expense.
In fact, during the last 30 years the Reaganites, including the so-called “religious right,” have done much to cause the cost of higher education to become beyond the reach of the majority and to become easily accessed only by a privileged wealthy few. Indeed, they have actually harmed higher education as well as public education, claiming most educators are "secular humanists" who are "against religion" (even though a good majority of educated people are not against actual religion and are merely against the theocratic bigotry of the "religious right"). 
Ultimately, it is clear that Jefferson wanted a true Democracy, in a Democratic Republic.
However, the fact that Americans must now face is that what we now know as Democracy is not Real Democracy.
Indicators of that were in the 2000 presidential election when only 60 percent of eligible voters in the U.S. voted, and far less than half of them voted for George W. Bush. (And it took the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court overruling the Florida Supreme Court to put Bush in the White House.) In 2004 only 64 percent of eligible voters voted and only 32 percent of them re-elected Bush for his second term. Both those elections were controversial and there has been much written about how and why Republicans resorted to unscrupulous tactics in order to win, and the consequence was that America was nearly as divided and polarized by bitter partisan conflict as it was prior to and during the Civil War.
Furthermore, even President Barack Obama was elected by only 52 percent of the popular vote in 2008, and only 57 percent of eligible voters voted — probably because nearly half of the eligible voters are totally disgusted with partisan politics. Even more voters are now, following the 2010 mid-term elections. And no wonder. Not only is Partisan Politics dirty and disgusting, it is divisive and unfair because elections are determined by a relatively small minority of people regardless of which party wins.
 Peterson, Merrill D. (1960) The Jefferson Image in the American Mind. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, p. 68.
 Rouhollah K. Ramazani, ed. The future of liberal democracy: Thomas Jefferson and the contemporary world (2004)
 Vernon Louis Parrington, Main Currents in American Thought: The colonial mind, 1620–1800 (1927) p. 343
 Peter Onuf, in John B. Boles, Randal L. Hall, eds. Seeing Jefferson Anew: In His Time and Ours (University of Virginia Press, 2010).
 1778, Jefferson's "Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge"
 Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816, Jefferson, The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia (1900) pp 605, 727