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.
If the present Congress errs in too much talking, how can it be otherwise in a body to which the people send 150 lawyers, whose trade it is to question everything, yield nothing, & talk by the hour? That 150 lawyers should do business together ought not to be expected.
Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, 1821
If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretence of taking care of them, they must become happy.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Cooper, Nov 29, 1802
If we move in mass, be it ever so circuitously, we shall attain our object; but if we break into squads, everyone pursuing the path he thinks most direct, we become an easy conquest to those who can now barely hold us in check.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Duane, 1811
If, then, the control of the people over the organs of their government be the measure of its republicanism, and I confess I know no other measure, it must be agreed that our governments have much less of republicanism than ought to have been expected; in other words, that the people have less regular control over their agents, than their rights and their interests require.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Taylor, May 28, 1816
In America, no other distinction between man and man had ever been known but that of persons in office exercising powers by authority of the laws, and private individuals. Among these last, the poorest laborer stood on equal ground with the wealthiest millionaire, and generally on a more favored one whenever their rights seem to jar.
Thomas Jefferson, Answers to de Meusnier Questions, 1786
In our private pursuits it is a great advantage that every honest employment is deemed honorable. I am myself a nail-maker.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Jean Nicolas Démeunier, April 29, 1795
In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.
Thomas Jefferson, fair copy of the drafts of the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, 1798
In times of peace the people look most to their representatives; but in war, to the executive solely.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Caeser Rodney, February 10, 1810
Is it the Fourth?
Thomas Jefferson, evening July 3; Jefferson died the next morning, July 4, 1826
It behooves you, therefore, to think and act for yourself and your people. The great principles of right and wrong are legible to every reader; to pursue them requires not the aid of many counselors. The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest. Only aim to do your duty, and mankind will give you credit where you fail.
Thomas Jefferson, A Summary View of the Rights of British America, 1775
It has been a source of great pain to me to have met with so many among [my] opponents who had not the liberality to distinguish between political and social opposition; who transferred at once to the person, the hatred they bore to his political opinions.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Richard M. Johnson, 1808
It has long, however, been my opinion, and I have never shrunk from its expression... that the germ of dissolution of our federal government is in the constitution of the federal Judiciary;... working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall be usurped.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Charles Hammond, August 18, 1821
It is a duty certainly to give our sparings to those who want; but to see also that they are faithfully distributed, and duly apportioned to the respective wants of those receivers. And why give through agents whom we know not, to persons whom we know not, and in countries from which we get no account, where we can do it at short hand, to objects under our eye, through agents we know, and to supply wants we see?
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Michael Megear, May 29, 1823
It is a happy circumstance in human affairs that evils which are not cured in one way will cure themselves in some other.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Sinclair, 1791
It is a wise rule and should be fundamental in a government disposed to cherish its credit, and at the same time to restrain the use of it within the limits of its faculties, "never to borrow a dollar without laying a tax in the same instant for paying the interest annually, and the principal within a given term; and to consider that tax as pledged to the creditors on the public faith."
Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Wayles Eppes, June 24, 1813
It is an established rule of construction, where a phrase will bear either of two meanings to give it that which will allow some meaning to the other parts of the instrument, and not that which will render all the others useless. Certainly no such universal power was meant to be given to them. It was intended to lace them up straightly with in the enumerated powers, and those without which, as means, these powers could not be carried into effect.
Thomas Jefferson, Opinion on a National Bank, February 15, 1791
It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself. Subject opinion to coercion: whom will you make your inquisitors?
Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 17, 1781
It is not honorable to take mere legal advantage, when it happens to be contrary to justice.
Thomas Jefferson, Opinion on Debts Due to Soldiers, 1790
It is of great importance to set a resolution, not to be shaken, never to tell an untruth. There is no vice so mean, so pitiful, so contemptible; and he who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and a 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 the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good disposition.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, August 19, 1785
It is the duty of every good citizen to use all the opportunities which occur to him, for preserving documents relating to the history of our country.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Hugh P. Taylor, October 4, 1823
More Thomas Jefferson