I came across a (the?) letter where Thomas Jefferson speaks of watering the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots. I do not know if this is only or even first time he used such a phrase (I found it in a letter to Colonel William Stephens Smith, John Adams’ son-in-law, dated November 13, 1787 and written when Jefferson was still in Paris; I also know he tends to cannibalize phrases, as he repeats a phrase from this letter in one sent to Madison and dated over a month later).

But I was struck by the phrase that followed which served bring the heightened suggestion of the famous phrase down a notch or two.

We all know this:

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

But how familiar are you with this?

It is its natural manure…

Does not change to meaning at all, but the sentiment seems to change, does it not? That is probably only for us. As someone who thought of himself as a gentleman farmer (albeit, in truth, a very bad one), manure was no doubt much of a daily factor in his life than it is in mine.