Thomas Jefferson Quotes 151 Sourced 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.

Here are 151 real Thomas Jefferson quotes ordered by their popularity online. The most quoted quotes on the web appear first. Questionable and fake quotes are excluded. Sources and related information are shown after each quote. We hope you find these quotes useful. If there is anything we can do to improve this article, your feedback is welcome. If you find these quotes helpful, please share them.

1. “Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Vol. 1 Whether Christianity is Part of the Common Law (1764). 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.

2. “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1800s, First Presidential Administration (1801-1805) Letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT. (1 January 1802) This statement is the origin of the often used phrase "separation of Church and State".

3. “This is the Fourth?”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source and Related Info: Last words (Jefferson died on 4 July 1826, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence)
• A few accounts declare that he asked on the night of the third: "Is it the fourth?" Most accounts declare the cited words were his last, and that he died a few hours before John Adams, whose last words are reported to have been: "Thomas — Jefferson — still surv — " or "Thomas Jefferson still survives.".

4. “To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1800s, First Presidential Administration (1801-1805) Letter to Benjamin Rush (12 April 1803).

5. “Bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds; enthusiasm of the free and buoyant. Education & free discussion are the antidotes of both.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to John Adams (1 August 1816).

6. “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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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.

7. “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: 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.

8. “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)

9. “I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to James Madison (30 January 1787); referring to Shays' Rebellion Lipscomb & Bergh ed. 6:65.

10. “I like well your idea of issuing treasury notes bearing interest, because I am persuaded they would soon be withdrawn from circulation and locked up in vaults & private hoards. It would put it in the power of every man to lend his 100. or 1000 d. tho’ not able to go forward on the great scale, and be the most advantageous way of obtaining a loan. The other idea of creating a National bank, I do not concur in, because it seems now decided that Congress has not that power, (altho’ I sincerely wish they had it exclusively) and because I think there is already a vast redundancy, rather than a scarcity of paper medium.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Thomas Law (6 November 1813) FE 9:433 : The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (10 Vols., 1892-99) edited by Paul Leicester Ford.

11. “You will next read the new testament. It is the history of a personage called Jesus. Keep in your eye the opposite pretensions 1. of those who say he was begotten by God, born of a virgin, suspended & reversed the laws of nature at will, & ascended bodily into heaven: and 2. of those who say he was a man of illegitimate birth, of a benevolent heart, enthusiastic mind, who set out without pretensions to divinity, ended in believing them, & was Punished capitally for sedition by being gibbeted according to the Roman law which punished the first commission of that offence by whipping, & the second by exile or death in furcâ.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1780s, Letter to Peter Carr (1787): Letter to his nephew Peter Carr from Paris, France (10 August 1787). 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. 5, pp. 324–327.

12. “No body wishes more than I do to see such proofs as you exhibit, that nature has given to our black brethren, talents equal to those of the other colors of men, and that the appearance of a want of them is owing merely to the degraded condition of their existence, both in Africa & America.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Benjamin Banneker (August 30, 1791).

13. “An opinion prevails that there is no longer any distinction, that the republicans & Federalists are completely amalgamated but it is not so. The amalgamation is of name only, not of principle. All indeed call themselves by the name of Republicans, because that of Federalists was extinguished in the battle of New Orleans. But the truth is that finding that monarchy is a desperate wish in this country, they rally to the point which they think next best, a consolidated government. Their aim is now therefore to break down the rights reserved by the constitution to the states as a bulwark against that consolidation, the fear of which produced the whole of the opposition to the constitution at its birth. Hence new Republicans in Congress, preaching the doctrines of the old Federalists, and the new nick-names of Ultras and Radicals. But I trust they will fail under the new, as the old name, and that the friends of the real constitution and union will prevail against consolidation, as they have done against monarchism. I scarcely know myself which is most to be deprecated, a consolidation, or dissolution of the states. The horrors of both are beyond the reach of human foresight.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Thomas Jefferson to William B. Giles, December 26, 1825.

14. “The habit of using ardent spirit, by men in public office, has occasioned more injury to the public service, and more trouble to me, than any other circumstance which has occurred in the internal concerns of the country, during my administration. And were I to commence my administration again, with the knowledge which from experience I have acquired, the first question which I would ask, with regard to every candidate for public office, should be, ‘Is he addicted to the use of ardent spirit?’”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Attributed by an unnamed "distinguished officer of the United States Government" in the Sixth Report of the American Temperance Society, May, 1833, pp. 10-11.

15. “Delay is preferable to error.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to George Washington (16 May 1792).

16. “One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to George Washington, 1796. As quoted in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Lipscomb and Bergh, editors, 20 Vols., Washington, D.C., 1903-04, 9:341.

17. “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source and Related Info: Letter to Alexander von Humboldt (6 December 1813)
Scanned letter at The Library of Congress
Transcript at The Library of Congress.

18. “Of liberty I would say that, in the whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will. But rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Isaac H. Tiffany (1819).

19. “The question will be asked and ought to be looked at, what is to be the resource if loans cannot be obtained? There is but one, ‘Carthago delenda est.’ Bank paper must be suppressed, and the circulating medium must be restored to the nation to whom it belongs. It is the only fund on which they can rely for loans; it is the only resource which can never fail them, and it is an abundant one for every necessary purpose. Treasury bills, bottomed on taxes, bearing or not bearing interest, as may be found necessary, thrown into circulation will take the place of so much gold and silver, which last, when crowded, will find an efflux into other countries, and thus keep the quantum of medium at its salutary level. Let banks continue if they please, but let them discount for cash alone or for treasury notes.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1810s, Letters to John Wayles Eppes (1813): John Wayles Eppes was a United States Representative and a Senator from Virginia, and Jefferson's son-in-law. 11 September 1813, ME 13:361.

20. “‘A Decalogue of Canons for Observation in Practical Life’ 1. Never put off till tomorrow what you can do to-day. 2. Never trouble another for what you can do yourself. 3. Never spend your money before you have it. 4. Never buy what you do not want, because it is cheap; it will be dear to you. 5. Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst and cold. 6. We never repent of having eaten too little. 7. Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly. 8. How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened. 9. Take things always by their smooth handle. 10. When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to the infant Thomas Jefferson Smith (21 February 1825) (Image at Library of Congress).

21. “Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Posthumous publications Epitaph, upon his instructions to erect a "a plain die or cube … surmounted by an Obelisk" with "the following inscription, and not a word more…because by these, as testimonials that I have lived, I wish most to be remembered." It omits that he had been President of the United States, a position of political power and prestige, and celebrates his involvement in the creation of the means of inspiration and instruction by which many human lives have been liberated from oppression and ignorance.

22. “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1800s, Post-Presidency (1809) "To the Republican Citizens of Washington County, Maryland" (March 31, 1809).

23. “Above all things, lose no occasion of exercising your dispositions to be grateful, to be generous, to be charitable, to be humane, to be true, just, firm, orderly, courageous, &c. Consider every act of this kind, as an exercise which will strengthen your moral faculties and increase your worth.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1780s, Letter to Peter Carr (1787): Letter to his nephew Peter Carr from Paris, France (10 August 1787). 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. 5, pp. 324–327.

24. “For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well organized and armed militia is their best security.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1800s, Second Presidential Administration (1805-1809) Thomas Jefferson's Eighth State of the Union Address (8 November 1808).

25. “I am for freedom of religion, & against all maneuvres to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another, for freedom of the press, and against all violations of the Constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Elbridge Gerry (January 26, 1799); in: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Memorial Edition (ME) (Lipscomb and Bergh, editors), 20 Vols., Washington, D.C., 1903-04, Volume 10, page 78.

26. “Commerce with all nations, alliance with none, should be our motto.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Thomas Lomax (12 March 1799)

27. “If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1800s, First Inaugural Address (1801): Thomas Jefferson's First Inaugural Address (4 March 1801)

28. “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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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.

29. “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Dr. James Currie (28 January 1786) Lipscomb & Bergh 18:ii.

30. “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty, than those attending too small a degree of it.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Archibald Stuart http://faculty.maxwell.syr.edu/skjolly/jeffersonianfederalism.pdf http://books.google.com/books?id=ZTIoAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA837#v=onepage&q=&f=false, Philadelphia (23 December 1791).

31. “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)

32. “The republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to William Hunter (11 March 1790).

33. “There is not a truth existing which I fear or would wish unknown to the whole world.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Henry Lee (15 May 1826).

34. “No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms [within his own lands].”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Draft Constitution for Virginia (June 1776) This quote often appears with the parenthetical omitted and with the spurious extension, "The strongest reason for the people to retain their right to keep and bear arms is as a last resort to protect themselves against tyranny in government". (See Jefferson Encyclopedia "No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms" Quotation and Jefferson Encyclopedia "Strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms" Quotation).

35. “I cannot live without books.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to John Adams (10 June 1815).

36. “We are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to William Roscoe (December 27, 1820).

37. “Good wine is a necessity of life for me.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Jefferson, Thomas. “Thomas Jefferson Quotes: 151 Sourced Quotes.” Last modified November 15, 2017. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/thomas-jefferson-quotes.html#37

Source: Posthumous publications As quoted in The Man from Monticello : An Intimate Life of Thomas Jefferson (1969) by Thomas J. Fleming, p. 250.

38. “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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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.

39. “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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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.

40. “Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Horatio G. Spafford (17 March 1814).

41. “I am an enemy to all banks discounting bills or notes for anything but coin.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Posthumous publications, On financial matters: This section was added by an editor primarily citing The Writings of Thomas Jefferson Memorial Edition (Lipscomb and Bergh, editors) (ME) 20 Vols., Washington, D.C. (1903-04) as the source. Letter to Thomas Cooper, 1814. ME 14:61.

42. “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Abigail Smith Adams from Paris while a Minister to France (22 February 1787), referring to Shay's Rebellion. "Jefferson's Service to the New Nation," Library of Congress image

43. “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Edward Carrington, Paris (27 May 1788) PTJ, 13:208-9 http://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/natural-progress-things-quotation

44. “War is an instrument entirely inefficient toward redressing wrong; and multiplies, instead of indemnifying losses.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to John Sinclair (1798).

45. “Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Jefferson, Thomas. “Thomas Jefferson Quotes: 151 Sourced Quotes.” Last modified November 15, 2017. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/thomas-jefferson-quotes.html#45

Source: 1800s, First Inaugural Address (1801): Thomas Jefferson's First Inaugural Address (4 March 1801)

46. “Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1800s, First Inaugural Address (1801): Thomas Jefferson's First Inaugural Address (4 March 1801)

47. “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp (30 July 1816), denouncing the doctrine of the Trinity.

48. “I believe... that every human mind feels pleasure in doing good to another.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Jefferson, Thomas. “Thomas Jefferson Quotes: 151 Sourced Quotes.” Last modified November 15, 2017. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/thomas-jefferson-quotes.html#48

Source: Letter to John Adams (1816).

49. “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)

50. “We confide in our strength, without boasting of it; we respect that of others, without fearing it.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to William Carmichael and William Short (1793).

51. “Paper is poverty,... it is only the ghost of money, and not money itself.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Colonel Edward Carrington (27 May 1788) ME 7:36.

52. “The Constitution . . . meant that its coordinate branches should be checks on each other. But the opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1800s, First Presidential Administration (1801-1805) Letter to Abigail Adams (1804).

53. “But though an old man, I am but a young gardener.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Charles Willson Peale (20 August 1811).

54. “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1780s, Notes on the State of Virginia Query XVII.

55. “We are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty in a featherbed.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette (2 April 1790).

56. “As pure a son of liberty as I have ever known.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: About Tadeusz Kościuszko, in a letter to Horatio Gates (1798).

57. “All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression. Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1800s, First Inaugural Address (1801): Thomas Jefferson's First Inaugural Address (4 March 1801)

58. “I shall often go wrong through defect of judgment. When right, I shall often be thought wrong by those whose positions will not command a view of the whole ground. I ask your indulgence for my own errors, which will never be intentional, and your support against the errors of others, who may condemn what they would not if seen in all its parts.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1800s, First Inaugural Address (1801): Thomas Jefferson's First Inaugural Address (4 March 1801)

59. “I advance with obedience to the work, ready to retire from it whenever you become sensible how much better choice it is in your power to make.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1800s, First Inaugural Address (1801): Thomas Jefferson's First Inaugural Address (4 March 1801)

60. “Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Éleuthère Irénée du Pont de Nemours (24 April 1816).

61. “I think myself that we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to William Ludlow (6 September 1824).

62. “May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all), the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Roger C. Weightman, on the decision for Independence made in 1776, often quoted as if in reference solely to the document the Declaration of Independence (24 June 1826).

63. “I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Alexander Donald (7 February 1788).

64. “Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Richard Price (8 January 1789).

65. “I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this Government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this Government, the world's best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1800s, First Inaugural Address (1801): Thomas Jefferson's First Inaugural Address (4 March 1801)

66. “I repair, then, fellow-citizens, to the post you have assigned me. With experience enough in subordinate offices to have seen the difficulties of this the greatest of all, I have learnt to expect that it will rarely fall to the lot of imperfect man to retire from this station with the reputation and the favor which bring him into it.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1800s, First Inaugural Address (1801): Thomas Jefferson's First Inaugural Address (4 March 1801)

67. “The priests have so disfigured the simple religion of Jesus that no one who reads the sophistications they have engrafted on it, from the jargon of Plato, of Aristotle & other mystics, would conceive these could have been fathered on the sublime preacher of the sermon on the mount.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Benjamin Waterhouse (13 October 1815). 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. 11, p. 492.

68. “It is an axiom in my mind, that our liberty can never be safe but in the hands of the people themselves, and that too of the people with a certain degree of instruction. This it is the business of the State to effect, and on a general plan.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to George Washington (4 January 1786).

69. “Let the eye of vigilance never be closed.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Spencer Roane (9 March 1821).

70. “I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government to the genuine principles of its Constitution; I mean an additional article, taking from the federal government the power of borrowing.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Posthumous publications, On financial matters: This section was added by an editor primarily citing The Writings of Thomas Jefferson Memorial Edition (Lipscomb and Bergh, editors) (ME) 20 Vols., Washington, D.C. (1903-04) as the source. Letter to John Taylor (26 November 1798), shortened in The Money Masters to "I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution … taking from the federal government their power of borrowing".

71. “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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Source: Draft Constitution for Virginia (June 1776).

72. “Whenever there is in any country, uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labour and live on.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to James Madison (October 28, 1785).

73. “When speaking of the new testament that you should read all the histories of Christ, as well of those whom a council of ecclesiastics have decided for us to be Pseudo-evangelists, as those they named Evangelists. Because these Pseudo-evangelists pretended to inspiration as much as the others, and you are to judge their pretensions by your own reason, & not by the reason of those ecclesiastics. Most of these are lost. There are some however still extant, collected by Fabricius which I will endeavor to get & send you.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1780s, Letter to Peter Carr (1787): Letter to his nephew Peter Carr from Paris, France (10 August 1787). 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. 5, pp. 324–327.

74. “No government ought to be without censors; and where the press is free no one ever will.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to George Washington (9 September 1792).

75. “I never will, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance, or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1800s, First Presidential Administration (1801-1805) Letter to Edward Dowse (19 April 1803).

76. “The acquisition of Canada this year, as far as the neighborhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of marching, and will give us experience for the attack of Halifax the next, and the final expulsion of England from the American continent.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Statement during an early stage of the War of 1812, in a letter to William Duane (4 August 1812).

77. “You say you are a Calvinist. I am not. I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Ezra Stiles Ely (25 June 1819), published in The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (1983) by Dickinson W. Adams; Attributions of this letter as one to Ezra Stiles, President of Yale College (who died in 1795) are incorrect. See also Positive Atheism's "Questionable Thomas Jefferson Quotations"

78. “All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Roger C. Weightman'', declining to attend July 4th ceremonies in Washington D.C. celebrating the 50th anniversary of Independence, because of his health. This was Jefferson's last letter. (24 June 1826).

79. “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)

80. “Experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind; for I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe, and to the general prey of the rich on the poor.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Colonel Edward Carrington (16 January 1787).

81. “If a due participation of office is a matter of right, how are vacancies to be obtained? Those by death are few; by resignation, none.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1800s, First Presidential Administration (1801-1805) Letter to Elias Shipman and others of New Haven (12 July 1801). Often misquoted as, "few die and none resign".

82. “If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretense of taking care of them, they must become happy.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1800s, First Presidential Administration (1801-1805) Letter to Thomas Cooper (29 November 1802).

83. “Religion is a subject on which I have ever been most scrupulously reserved. I have considered it as a matter between every man and his Maker in which no other, and far less the public, had a right to intermeddle.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Richard Rush (1813).

84. “Lay down true principles and adhere to them inflexibly. Do not be frightened into their surrender by the alarms of the timid, or the croakings of wealth against the ascendency of the people.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Samuel Kercheval (1816).

85. “It should be remembered, as an axiom of eternal truth in politics, that whatever power in any government is independent, is absolute also; in theory only, at first, while the spirit of the people is up, but in practice, as fast as that relaxes. Independence can be trusted nowhere but with the people in mass. They are inherently independent of all but moral law.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Judge Spencer Roane (6 September 1819).

86. “Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting ‘Jesus Christ,’ so that it would read ‘A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;’ the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Autobiography (1821), in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom.

87.Thomas Jefferson, Political Writings ed by Joyce Appleby and Terence Ball. Cambridge University Press. 1999”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Wikiquote: "Thomas Jefferson" (Primary sources)

88. “Smith, James Morton, ed. The Republic of Letters: The Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, 1776-1826, 3 vols. (1995).”

—Thomas Jefferson

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89. “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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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.

90. “Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now. Thus in France the emetic was once forbidden as a medicine, and the potatoe as an article of food.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1780s, Notes on the State of Virginia

91. “The Constitution of the United States asserts that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right and duty.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Justice William Johnson (1823).

92. “Of the various executive abilities, no one excited more anxious concern than that of placing the interests of our fellow-citizens in the hands of honest men, with understanding sufficient for their stations. No duty is at the same time more difficult to fulfil. The knowledge of character possessed by a single individual is of necessity limited. To seek out the best through the whole Union, we must resort to the information which from the best of men, acting disinterestedly and with the purest motives, is sometimes incorrect.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1800s, First Presidential Administration (1801-1805) Letter to Elias Shipman and others of New Haven (12 July 1801). Paraphrased in John B. McMaster, History of the People of the United States (ii. 586): "One sentence will undoubtedly be remembered till our republic ceases to exist. 'No duty the Executive had to perform was so trying,' [Jefferson] observed, 'as to put the right man in the right place.'"

93. “Whensoever hostile aggressions...require a resort to war, we must meet our duty and convince the world that we are just friends and brave enemies.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1800s, Second Presidential Administration (1805-1809) Letter to Andrew Jackson (3 December 1806).

94. “I have often thought that nothing would do more extensive good at small expense than the establishment of a small circulating library in every county, to consist of a few well-chosen books, to be lent to the people of the country under regulations as would secure their safe return in due time.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1800s, Post-Presidency (1809) Letter to John Wyche (19 May 1809).

95. “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves; nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Colonel Charles Yancey (6 January 1816) ME 14:384.

96. “If by religion, we are understand sectarian dogmas, in which no two of them agree, then your exclamation on that hypothesis is just, ‘that this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.’ But if the moral precepts, innate in man, and made a part of his physical constitution, as necessary for a social being, if the sublime doctrines of philanthropism and deism taught us by Jesus of Nazareth, in which all agree, constitute true religion, then, without it, this would be, as you again say, ‘something not fit to be named, even indeed, a hell.’”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to John Adams, 5 May 1817, in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Lipscomb-Bergh edition, 1903), Volume XV, p. 109.

97. “The Pennsylvania legislature, who, on a proposition to make the belief in God a necessary qualification for office, rejected it by a great majority, although assuredly there was not a single atheist in their body. And you remember to have heard, that when the act for religious freedom was before the Virginia Assembly, a motion to insert the name of Jesus Christ before the phrase, ‘the author of our holy religion,’ which stood in the bill, was rejected, although that was the creed of a great majority of them.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Albert Gallatin (16 June 1817). 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. 12, p. 73.

98. “As you say of yourself, I too am an Epicurian. I consider the genuine (not the imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy which Greece and Rome have left us.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to William Short (31 October 1819).

99. “The earth belongs to the living, not to the dead.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1810s, Letters to John Wayles Eppes (1813): John Wayles Eppes was a United States Representative and a Senator from Virginia, and Jefferson's son-in-law. 24 June 1813.

100. “It is not by the consolidation or concentration, of powers, but by their distribution that good government is effected.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Posthumous publications Memoirs, Correspondence and Private Papers of Thomas Jefferson (1829) edited by Thomas Jefferson Randolph, p. 70.

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

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774).

102. “I say, the earth belongs to each of these generations during its course, fully and in its own right. The second generation receives it clear of the debts and incumbrances of the first, the third of the second, and so on. For if the first could charge it with a debt, then the earth would belong to the dead and not to the living generation. Then, no generation can contract debts greater than may be paid during the course of its own existence.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to James Madison (6 September 1789) ME 7:455, Papers 15:393.

103. “He who made us would have been a pitiful bungler, if he had made the rules of our moral conduct a matter of science. For one man of science, there are thousands who are not. What would have become of them? Man was destined for society. His morality, therefore, was to be formed to this object. He was endowed with a sense of right and wrong, merely relative to this.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1780s, Letter to Peter Carr (1787): Letter to his nephew Peter Carr from Paris, France (10 August 1787). 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. 5, pp. 324–327.

104. “Let what will be said or done, preserve your sang-froid immovably, and to every obstacle, oppose patience, perseverance, and soothing language.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to William Short (18 March 1792).

105. “It was by the sober sense of our citizens that we were safely and steadily conducted from monarchy to republicanism, and it is by the same agency alone we can be kept from falling back.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Arthur Campbell (1797).

106. “Yours is one of the few lives precious to mankind, and for the continuance of which every thinking man is solicitous. Bigots may be an exception. What an effort, my dear sir, of bigotry in politics and religion have we gone through! The barbarians really flattered themselves they should be able to bring back the times of Vandalism, when ignorance put everything into the hands of power and priestcraft. All advances in science were proscribed as innovations. They pretended to praise and encourage education, but it was to be the education of our ancestors. We were to look backwards, not forwards, for improvement … This was the real ground of all the attacks on you. Those who live by mystery & charlatanerie, fearing you would render them useless by simplifying the Christian philosophy — the most sublime and benevolent, but most perverted system that ever shone on man — endeavored to crush your well-earned & well-deserved fame.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1800s, First Presidential Administration (1801-1805) Letter to Dr. Joseph Priestley (21 March 1801); published in The Life of Thomas Jefferson (1871) by Henry Stephens Randall, Vol. 2, p. 644; this seems to be the source of a misleading abbreviation: "[Christianity is] the most … perverted system that ever shone on man".

107. “It is rare that the public sentiment decides immorally or unwisely, and the individual who differs from it ought to distrust and examine well his own opinion.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1800s, First Presidential Administration (1801-1805) Letter to William Findley, Washington (21 March 1801); published in Thomas Jefferson - A chronology of his thoughts (2002) by Jerry Holmes, p. 175

108. “No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1800s, First Presidential Administration (1801-1805) Letter to Judge John Tyler (June 28, 1804); in: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Memorial Edition (ME) (Lipscomb and Bergh, editors), 20 Vols., Washington, D.C., 1903-04, Volume 11, page 33.

109. “The selfish spirit of commerce knows no country, and feels no passion or principle but that of gain.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1800s, Post-Presidency (1809) Letter to Larkin Smith (1809).

110. “Politics, like religion, hold up the torches of martyrdom to the reformers of error.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to James Ogilvie (4 August 1811).

111. “England was, until we copied her, the only country on earth which ever, by a general law, gave a legal right to the exclusive use of an idea. In some other countries it is sometimes done, in a great case, and by a special and personal act, but, generally speaking, other nations have thought that these monopolies produce more embarrassment than advantage to society; and it may be observed that the nations which refuse monopolies of invention, are as fruitful as England in new and useful devices.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Isaac McPherson (13 August 1813).

112. “Our particular principles of religion are a subject of accountability to our god alone. I enquire after no man's and trouble none with mine; nor is it given to us in this life to know whether yours or mine, our friend's or our foe's, are exactly the right.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Miles King (26 September 1814).

113. “I, however, place economy among the first and most important republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to William Plumer (21 July 1816).

114. “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past, — so good night!”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to John Adams (1 August 1816).

115. “It is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be read. By the same test the world must judge me. But this does not satisfy the priesthood. They must have a positive, a declared assent to all their interested absurdities. My opinion is that there would never have been an infidel, if there had never been a priest.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Mrs. Harrison Smith (6 August 1816).

116. “What all agree upon is probably right; what no two agree in most probably is wrong.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to John Adams (11 January 1817) This statement has been referred to as "Jefferson's Axiom".

117. “The priests of the different religious sects, who dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of day-light; and scowl on it the fatal harbinger announcing the subversion of the duperies on which they live. In this the Presbyterian clergy take the lead. the tocsin is sounded in all their pulpits, and the first alarm denounced is against the particular creed of Doctr. Cooper; and as impudently denounced as if they really knew what it is.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to José Correia da Serra (11 April 1820).

118. “I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to William Charles Jarvis (28 September 1820).

119. “The system of banking we have both equally and ever reprobated. I contemplate it as a blot left in all our constitutions, which, if not covered, will end in their destruction, which is already hit by the gamblers in corruption, and is sweeping away in its progress the fortunes and morals of our citizens.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Posthumous publications, On financial matters: This section was added by an editor primarily citing The Writings of Thomas Jefferson Memorial Edition (Lipscomb and Bergh, editors) (ME) 20 Vols., Washington, D.C. (1903-04) as the source. Letter to John Taylor (28 May 1816): The Writings of Thomas Jefferson "Memorial Edition" (20 Vols., 1903-04) edited by Andrew A. Lipscomb and Albert Ellery Bergh, Vol. 15, p. 18).

120. “The Jefferson Cyclopedia (1900) large collection of TJ quotations arranged by 9000 topics; searchable; copyright has expired and it is online free.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Wikiquote: "Thomas Jefferson" (Primary sources)

121. “Cappon, Lester J., ed. The Adams-Jefferson Letters (1959).”

—Thomas Jefferson

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122. “I am conscious that an equal division of property is impracticable. But the consequences of this enormous inequality producing so much misery to the bulk of mankind, legislators cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property..[a] means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to James Madison (October 28, 1785).

123. “The two principles on which our conduct towards the Indians should be founded, are justice and fear. After the injuries we have done them, they cannot love us . . . .”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Benjamin Hawkins (13 August 1786) Lipscomb & Bergh ed. 5:390.

124. “The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to Colonel Edward Carrington (16 January 1787) Lipscomb & Bergh ed. 6:57.

125. “When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become corrupt as in Europe.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to James Madison (20 December 1787), The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (19 Vols., 1905) edited by Andrew A. Lipscomb and Albert Ellery Bergh, Vol. VI, p. 392.

126. “I sincerely rejoice at the acceptance of our new Constitution by nine States. It is a good canvas, on which some strokes only want retouching. What these are, I think are sufficiently manifested by the general voice from north to south, which calls for a bill of rights.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: Letter to James Madison (July 31, 1788); reported in Memoir, correspondence, and miscellanies from the papers of Thomas Jefferson, Volumes 1-2 (1829), p. 343.

127. “As to the species of exercise, I advise the gun. While this gives a moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise, and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body, and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks. Never think of taking a book with you.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1780s, Letter to Peter Carr (1785): Letter to his nephew Peter Carr from Paris, France (19 August 1785).

128. “He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world's believing him. This falsehood of tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1780s, Letter to Peter Carr (1785): Letter to his nephew Peter Carr from Paris, France (19 August 1785).

129. “There is no act, however virtuous, for which ingenuity may not find some bad motive.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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Source: 1800s, First Presidential Administration (1801-1805) Letter to Edward Dowse (19 April 1803).

130. “The inhabitants of the ceded territory shall be incorporated in the Union of the United States, and admitted as soon as possible, according to the principles of the Federal constitution, to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages, and immunities, of citizens of the United States; and, in the mean time, they shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property, and the religion which they profess.”

—Thomas Jefferson

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