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Thomas Jefferson Quotes

Here are quotes by one of America's greatest founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, and related quotations about America's founding. For more history, see Founding Fathers.

Founding Fathers Quotes

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

Thomas Jefferson, Rights of British America, 1774

Founding Fathers Quotes

A judiciary independent of a king or executive alone, is a good thing; but independence of the will of the nation is a solecism, at least in a republican government.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Ritchie, December 25, 1820

Founding Fathers Quotes

A morsel of genuine history is a thing so rare as to be always valuable.

Thomas Jefferson, September 8, 1817

Founding Fathers Quotes

A rigid economy of the public contributions and absolute interdiction of all useless expenses will go far towards keeping the government honest and unoppressive.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Lafayette, 1823

Founding Fathers Quotes

A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives 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 your constant companion of your walks.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, August 19, 1785

Founding Fathers Quotes

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 legitimately, by the grace of God.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Roger C. Weightman, June 24, 1826

Founding Fathers Quotes

All the States but our own are sensible that knowledge is power.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph C. Cabell, January 22, 1820

Founding Fathers Quotes

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.

Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

Founding Fathers Quotes

Although a republican government is slow to move, yet when once in motion, its momentum becomes irresistible.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis C. Gray, 1815

Founding Fathers Quotes

Although in the circle of his friends, where he might be unreserved with safety, he took a free share in conversation his colloquial talents were not above mediocrity, possessing neither copiousness of ideas, nor fluency of words. In public, when called on for a sudden opinion, he was unready, short and embarrassed.

Thomas Jefferson, on Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Dr. Walter Jones, January 2, 1814

Founding Fathers Quotes

An honest man can feel no pleasure in the exercise of power over his fellow citizens....There has never been a moment of my life in which I should have relinquished for it the enjoyments of my family, my farm, my friends & books.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Melish, January 13, 1813

Founding Fathers Quotes

And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever.

Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 18, 1781

Founding Fathers Quotes

At the establishment of our constitutions, the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the government. Experience, however, soon showed in what way they were to become the most dangerous; that the insufficiency of the means provided for their removal gave them a freehold and irresponsibility in office; that their decisions, seeming to concern individual suitors only, pass silent and unheeded by the public at large; that these decisions, nevertheless, become law by precedent, sapping, by little and little, the foundations of the constitution, and working its change by construction, before any one has perceived that that invisible and helpless worm has been busily employed in consuming its substance. In truth, man is not made to be trusted for life, if secured against all liability to account.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Monsieur A. Coray, Oct 31, 1823

Founding Fathers Quotes

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, letter to a Committee of the Danbury Baptist Association, Connecticut, January 1, 1802

Founding Fathers Quotes

Born in other countries, yet believing you could be happy in this, our laws acknowledge, as they should do, your right to join us in society, conforming, as I doubt not you will do, to our established rules. That these rules shall be as equal as prudential considerations will admit, will certainly be the aim of our legislatures, general and particular.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Hugh White, May 2, 1801

Founding Fathers Quotes

But of all the views of this law none is more important, none more legitimate, than that of rendering the people the safe, as they are the ultimate, guardians of their own liberty. For this purpose the reading in the first stage, where they will receive their whole education, is proposed, as has been said, to be chiefly historical. History by apprising them of the past will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views.

Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 14, 1781

Founding Fathers Quotes

But with respect to future debt; would it not be wise and just for that nation to declare in the constitution they are forming that neither the legislature, nor the nation itself can validly contract more debt, than they may pay within their own age, or within the term of 19 years.

Thomas Jefferson, September 6, 1789

Founding Fathers Quotes

Cherish, therefore, the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention. Do not be too severe upon their errors, but reclaim them by enlightening them. If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, Judges, and Governors, shall all become wolves.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Edward Carrington, January 16, 1787

Founding Fathers Quotes

Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition.

Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 19, 1787

Founding Fathers Quotes

Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time, who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done, if we are always doing. And that you may be always doing good, my dear, is the ardent prayer of yours affectionately.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Martha Jefferson, May 5, 1787



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