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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

History by apprising [citizens] 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

Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them if we basely entail hereditary bondage on them.

Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of the Causes and Necessities of Taking up Arms, July 6, 1775

Founding Fathers Quotes

I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground that 'all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states or to the people.' To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, not longer susceptible of any definition.

Thomas Jefferson, Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank, February 15, 1791

Founding Fathers Quotes

I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises. This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment or free exercise of religion, but from that also which reserves to the States the powers not delegated to the United States. Certainly, no power to prescribe any religious exercise or to assume authority in any religious discipline has been delegated to the General Government. It must then rest with the States.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Samuel Miller, January 23, 1808

Founding Fathers Quotes

I had always hoped that the younger generation receiving their early impressions after the flame of liberty had been kindled in every breast...would have sympathized with oppression wherever found, and proved their love of liberty beyond their own share of it.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Edward Coles, August 25, 1814

Founding Fathers Quotes

I have been happy... in believing that... whatever follies we may be led into as to foreign nations, we shall never give up our Union, the last anchor of our hope, and that alone which is to prevent this heavenly country from becoming an arena of gladiators.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elbridge Gerry, May 13, 1797

Founding Fathers Quotes

I have sometimes asked myself whether my country is the better for my having lived at all? I do not know that it is. I have been the instrument of doing the following things; but they would have been done by others; some of them, perhaps, a little better.

Thomas Jefferson, 1800

Founding Fathers Quotes

I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Benjamin Rush, September 23, 1800

Founding Fathers Quotes

I join cordially in admiring and revering the Constitution of the United States, the result of the collected wisdom of our country. That wisdom has committed to us the important task of proving by example that a government, if organized in all its parts on the Representative principle unadulterated by the infusion of spurious elements, if founded, not in the fears & follies of man, but on his reason, on his sense of right, on the predominance of the social over his dissocial passions, may be so free as to restrain him in no moral right, and so firm as to protect him from every moral wrong.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Amos Marsh, November 20, 1801

Founding Fathers Quotes

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 a 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, letter to William Charles Jarvis, September 28, 1820

Founding Fathers Quotes

I leave to others the sublime delights of riding in the storm, better pleased with sound sleep & a warmer berth below it encircled, with the society of neighbors, friends & fellow laborers of the earth rather than with spies & sycophants...I have no ambition to govern men. It is a painful and thankless office.

Thomas Jefferson, December 28, 1796

Founding Fathers Quotes

I should consider the speeches of Livy, Sallust, and Tacitus, as preeminent specimens of logic, taste and that sententious brevity which, using not a word to spare, leaves not a moment for inattention to the hearer. Amplification is the vice of modern oratory.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to David Harding, April 20, 1824

Founding Fathers Quotes

I suppose, indeed, that in public life, a man whose political principles have any decided character and who has energy enough to give them effect must always expect to encounter political hostility from those of adverse principles.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Richard M. Johnson, March 10, 1808

Founding Fathers Quotes

I suppose, indeed, that in public life, a man whose political principles have any decided character and who has energy enough to give them effect must always expect to encounter political hostility from those of adverse principles.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Richard M. Johnson, 1808

Founding Fathers Quotes

I think all the world would gain by setting commerce at perfect liberty.

Thomas Jefferson, July 7, 1785

Founding Fathers Quotes

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

Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Ludlow, September 6, 1824

Founding Fathers Quotes

I will not believe our labors are lost. I shall not die without a hope that light and liberty are on a steady advance.

Thomas Jefferson, September 12, 1821

Founding Fathers Quotes

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniencies attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Archibald Stewart, Dec 23, 1791

Founding Fathers Quotes

If a nation expects to be ignorant — and free — in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Colonel Charles Yancey, January 6, 1816

Founding Fathers Quotes

If our country, when pressed with wrongs at the point of the bayonet, had been governed by its heads instead of its hearts, where should we have been now? Hanging on a gallows as high as Haman's.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Maria Cosway, 1786



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