Somewhere in the early morning hours, I awoke from my night’s repose with a fitful start. In this most alarming of dreams, Thomas Jefferson and Jeffrey Smith sat opposite one another on the Windham Board of Finance. Were it not for the nankeen pantaloons of the former, and the turned down collar of the latter, I dare say, I should never have been able to discern one gentleman from the other so lofty were the ideas expressed. In my dream, I arrived at the Windham Town Hall, and found the two engaged in a discussion of free speech.
To Mr. Smith’s inquiry on the matter of a second public hearing Mr. Jefferson replied tersely:
“Information is the currency of democracy!”
“If you will permit me,” Smith said. “A second hearing of the Finance Board brings no additional information to the table.”
“Ah, but Mr. Smith, no government can continue good, but under the control of the people!
“Is that so? Well, unless blind, you could not have failed to notice that it is usually the same people who speak at these hearings, “ he said folding his arms defiantly across his chest.
“Well sir, I would rather be exposed to the inconvenience of too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.”
‘Then, we will be greatly inconvenienced and sit here all evening,” Smith argued.
“Delay is preferable to error,” Jefferson countered, his face now as scarlet as his ginger hair.
“In your book maybe, not mine,” Smith said smugly.
“Mr. Smith, may I remind you, a nation ceases to be republican only when the will of the majority ceases to be the law.”
“May I remind you,” Smith said now pointing a stubby finger across the table at Jefferson. “I was the head of Finance for the Town of Mansfield. I believe I know a thing or two about governance!”
“Perhaps, but the will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object.”
“Your ears as well as your eyes fail you,” Smith said sitting back in his chair. “I was the head bean counter for the Town of Mansfield, a town in which five minutes of free speech is good enough! Therefore, one period of comment is plenty for Windham!”
“Tut-tut!” Jefferson sputtered. “Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day. The liberty of speaking and writing guards our other liberties.”
“Blah, blah, blah,” Smith said moving his fingers up and down in the air for emphasis. “Enough of your blathering nonsense! I say, do away with the second period of public comment. The same people rise and repeat themselves,” and he added in a menacing way, “Sometimes, they even criticize the Board of Finance. Besides, no where is it written that I have to come up here and listen to the same dam fool twice!”
Jefferson fell into a deep reflection and after a moment or two said,” Mr. Smith, when a man assumes a public trust, he should consider himself public property. It is only the timid man who prefers the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty!”
As I came fully to myself with the day’s first light, it struck me. Such a peculiar dream signified relief at Mr. Smith’s departure from Mansfield governance and a wish of “good luck” for Windham residents.