Thomas Jefferson Quotes 1–30 of 441 Quotes

Thomas Jefferson (13 April 1743 – 4 July 1826) was author of the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1777), founder of the University of Virginia (1819), the third president of the United States (1801–1809), a political philosopher, editor of Jefferson's Bible (1819), and one of the most influential founders of the United States.

Below are 30 of 441 sourced Thomas Jefferson quotes. Sources and related information appear under each quote. Use the 'Cite this quote' link to get citation references.

“To begin an affair of that kind now, and carry it on so long a time in form, is by no means a proper plan … whatever assurances I may give her in private of my esteem for her, or whatever assurances I may ask in return from her, depend on it — they must be kept in private. Necessity will oblige me to proceed in a method which is not generally thought fair; that of treating with a ward before obtaining the approbation of her guardian. I say necessity will oblige me to it, because I never can bear to remain in suspense so long a time. If I am to succeed, the sooner I know it, the less uneasiness I shall have to go through.''' If I am to meet with a disappointment, the sooner I know it, the more of life I shall have to wear it off: and if I do meet with one, I hope in God, and verily believe; it will be the last.”

— Thomas Jefferson

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Quote source: Letter to John Page (15 July 1763); published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson (1905)

“The most fortunate of us, in our journey through life, frequently meet with calamities and misfortunes which may greatly afflict us; and, to fortify our minds against the attacks of these calamities and misfortunes, should be one of the principal studies and endeavours of our lives. The only method of doing this is to assume a perfect resignation to the Divine will, to consider that whatever does happen, must happen; and that by our uneasiness, we cannot prevent the blow before it does fall, but we may add to its force after it has fallen. These considerations, and others such as these, may enable us in some measure to surmount the difficulties thrown in our way; to bear up with a tolerable degree of patience under this burthen of life; and to proceed with a pious and unshaken resignation, till we arrive at our journey’s end, when we may deliver up our trust into the hands of him who gave it, and receive such reward as to him shall seem proportioned to our merit. Such, dear Page, will be the language of the man who considers his situation in this life, and such should be the language of every man who would wish to render that situation as easy as the nature of it will admit. Few things will disturb him at all: nothing will disturb him much.”

— Thomas Jefferson

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Quote source: Letter to John Page (15 July 1763); published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson (1905)

“Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law [this quote is referring to English Common Law].”

— Thomas Jefferson

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Quote source: Vol. 1 Whether Christianity is Part of the Common Law (1764) Broken link. Published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1904, p. 459

“A lively and lasting sense of filial duty is more effectually impressed on the mind of a son or daughter by reading King Lear, than by all the dry volumes of ethics, and divinity, that ever were written.”

— Thomas Jefferson

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Quote source: Letter to Robert Skipwith (3 August 1771) ; also in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (19 Vols., 1905) edited by Andrew A. Lipscomb and Albert Ellery Bergh, Vol. 4, p. 239

“For the most trifling reasons, and sometimes for no conceivable reason at all, his majesty has rejected laws of the most salutary tendency. The abolition of domestic slavery is the great object of desire in those colonies where it was unhappily introduced in their infant state. But previous to the infranchisement of the slaves we have, it is necessary to exclude all further importations from Africa. Yet our repeated attempts to effect this by prohibitions, and by imposing duties which might amount to a prohibition, have been hitherto defeated by his majesty’s negative: thus preferring the immediate advantages of a few British corsairs to the lasting interests of the American states, and to the rights of human nature deeply wounded by this infamous practice.”

— Thomas Jefferson

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Quote source: A Summary View of the Rights of British America (July 1774)

“The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.”

— Thomas Jefferson

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Quote source: Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774); The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (19 Vols., 1905) edited by Andrew A. Lipscomb and Albert Ellery Bergh, Vol. 1, p. 211

“Let those flatter, who fear: it is not an American art.”

— Thomas Jefferson

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Quote source: Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774)

“Our cause is just. Our union is perfect. Our internal resources are great, and, if necessary, foreign assistance is undoubtedly attainable. — We gratefully acknowledge, as signal instances of the Divine favour towards us, that his Providence would not permit us to be called into this severe controversy, until we were grown up to our present strength, had been previously exercised in warlike operation, and possessed of the means of defending ourselves. With hearts fortified with these animating reflections, we most solemnly, before God and the world, declare that, exerting the utmost energy of those powers, which our beneficent Creator hath graciously bestowed upon us, the arms we have been compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverence, employ for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live slaves.”

— Thomas Jefferson

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Quote source: Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms (1775); Jefferson composed the first draft of this document, but the final work was done by John Dickinson, working with his original draft. Full text online

“All persons shall have full and free liberty of religious opinion; nor shall any be compelled to frequent or maintain any religious institution.”

— Thomas Jefferson

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Quote source: Draft Constitution for Virginia (June 1776)

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“Truth will do well enough if left to shift for herself. She seldom has received much aid from the power of great men to whom she is rarely known & seldom welcome. She has no need of force to procure entrance into the minds of men. Error indeed has often prevailed by the assistance of power or force. Truth is the proper & sufficient antagonist to error.”

— Thomas Jefferson

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Quote source: Notes on Religion (October 1776), published in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson : 1816–1826 (1899) edited by Paul Leicester Ford, v. 2, p. 102

“In the middle ages of Christianity opposition to the State opinions was hushed. The consequence was, Christianity became loaded with all the Romish follies. Nothing but free argument, raillery & even ridicule will preserve the purity of religion.”

— Thomas Jefferson

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Quote source: Notes on Religion (October 1776), published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1904, Vol. 2, p. 256

“Compulsion in religion is distinguished peculiarly from compulsion in every other thing. I may grow rich by art I am compelled to follow, I may recover health by medicines I am compelled to take against my own judgment, but I cannot be saved by a worship I disbelieve & abhor.”

— Thomas Jefferson

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Quote source: Notes on Religion (October 1776), published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1904, Vol. 2, p. 266

“Locke denies toleration to those who entertain opinions contrary to those moral rules necessary for the preservation of society; as for instance, that faith is not to be kept with those of another persuasion, … that dominion is founded in grace, or who will not own & teach the duty of tolerating all men in matters of religion, or who deny the existence of a god (it was a great thing to go so far—as he himself says of the parliament who framed the act of toleration … He says 'neither Pagan nor Mahomedan nor Jew ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the Commonwealth because of his religion.' Shall we suffer a Pagan to deal with us and not suffer him to pray to his god? Why have Christians been distinguished above all people who have ever lived, for persecutions? Is it because it is the genius of their religion? No, its genius is the reverse. It is the refusing toleration to those of a different opinion which has produced all the bustles and wars on account of religion. It was the misfortune of mankind that during the darker centuries the Christian priests following their ambition and avarice combining with the magistrate to divide the spoils of the people, could establish the notion that schismatics might be ousted of their possessions & destroyed. This notion we have not yet cleared ourselves from.”

— Thomas Jefferson

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Quote source: Notes on Religion (October, 1776). Published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1904, Vol. 2, pp. 267

“Well aware that the opinions and belief of men depend not on their own will, but follow involuntarily the evidence proposed to their minds; that Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested his supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments, or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being lord both of body and mind, yet choose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do, but to exalt it by its influence on reason alone; that the impious presumption of legislature and ruler, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time: That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical; … that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry; and therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust or emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religions opinion, is depriving him injudiciously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow-citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honours and emolumerits, those who will externally profess and conform to it; that though indeed these are criminals who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way; that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, … and finally, that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself; that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate ; errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.”

— Thomas Jefferson

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Quote source: A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, Chapter 82 (1779). Published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1904, Vol. 1, pp. 438–441. Comparison of Jefferson's proposed draft and the bill enacted

“History has informed us that bodies of men, as well as individuals, are susceptible of the spirit of tyranny.”

— Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1770s, A Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774)

“There are extraordinary situations which require extraordinary interposition. An exasperated people, who feel that they possess power, are not easily restrained within limits strictly regular.”

— Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1770s, A Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774)

“When the representative body have lost the confidence of their constituents, when they have notoriously made sale of their most valuable rights, when they have assumed to themselves powers which the people never put into their hands, then indeed their continuing in office becomes dangerous to the state, and calls for an exercise of the power of dissolution.”

— Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1770s, A Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774)

“From the nature of things, every society must at all times possess within itself the sovereign powers of legislation. The feelings of human nature revolt against the supposition of a state so situated as that it may not in any emergency provide against dangers which perhaps threaten immediate ruin. While those bodies are in existence to whom the people have delegated the powers of legislation, they alone possess and may exercise those powers; but when they are dissolved by the lopping off one or more of their branches, the power reverts to the people, who may exercise it to unlimited extent, either assembling together in person, sending deputies, or in any other way they may think proper.”

— Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1770s, A Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774)

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“A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate.”

— Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1770s, A Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774)

“Let those flatter who fear; it is not an American art. To give praise which is not due might be well from the venal, but would ill beseem those who are asserting the rights of human nature. They know, and will therefore say, that kings are the servants, not the proprietors of the people.”

— Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1770s, A Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774)

“The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest.”

— Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1770s, A Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774)

“The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.”

— Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1770s, A Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774)

“When, in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

Source: Wikiquote: "Thomas Jefferson" (Quotes

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Source: • Source: Wikiquote: "Thomas Jefferson" (Quotes, 1770s, Declaration of Independence (1776):
For more quotes from and about this document, see United States Declaration of Independence)

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Source: Wikiquote: "Thomas Jefferson" (Quotes

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Source: • Source: Wikiquote: "Thomas Jefferson" (Quotes, 1770s, Declaration of Independence (1776):
For more quotes from and about this document, see United States Declaration of Independence)

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Source: Wikiquote: "Thomas Jefferson" (Quotes

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Source: • Source: Wikiquote: "Thomas Jefferson" (Quotes, 1770s, Declaration of Independence (1776):
For more quotes from and about this document, see United States Declaration of Independence)

“he has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it's most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.  this piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers; is the warfare of the Christian king of Great Britain. determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he ''also obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.”

Known as the "anti-slavery clause"

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Quote source: 1770s, Declaration of Independence (1776):
For more quotes from and about this document, see United States Declaration of Independence, Earlier drafts Known as the "anti-slavery clause", this section drafted by Thomas Jefferson was removed from the Declaration at the behest of representatives of South Carolina.

“Murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them, thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another. In every stage of these repressions, we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms, our repreated petitions have been answered only by repreated injury.”

About Thomas Jefferson

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Jefferson, Thomas. “Thomas Jefferson Quotes: 1–30 of 441 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Thomas-Jefferson-quotes.html#29

Quote source: 1770s, Declaration of Independence (1776):
For more quotes from and about this document, see United States Declaration of Independence, Earlier drafts Article No. 20

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