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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

It is the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigor. A degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution.

Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia Query 19, 1781

Founding Fathers Quotes

It must be observed that our revenues are raised almost wholly on imported goods.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Gouverneur Morris, 1793

Founding Fathers Quotes

It should be our endeavor to cultivate the peace and friendship of every nation.... Our interest will be to throw open the doors of commerce, and to knock off all its shackles, giving perfect freedom to all persons for the vent to whatever they may choose to bring into our ports, and asking the same in theirs.

Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 22, 1787

Founding Fathers Quotes

It would reduce the whole instrument to a single phrase, that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the United States; and as they would be the sole judges of the good or evil, it would be also a power to do whatever evil they please. Certainly no such universal power was meant to be given them. It [the Constitution] was intended to lace them up straightly within 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

Founding Fathers Quotes

Jefferson was against any needless official apparel, but if the gown was to carry, he said: "For Heaven's sake discard the monstrous wig which makes the English judges look like rats peeping through bunches of oakum.

Thomas Jefferson, commenting on judges' apparel

Founding Fathers Quotes

Laws are made for men of ordinary understanding and should, therefore, be construed by the ordinary rules of common sense. Their meaning is not to be sought for in metaphysical subtleties which may make anything mean everything or nothing at pleasure.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Johnson, June 12, 1823

Founding Fathers Quotes

Laws are made for men of ordinary understanding and should, therefore, be construed by the ordinary rules of common sense. Their meaning is not to be sought for in metaphysical subtleties which may make anything mean everything or nothing at pleasure.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Johnson, 1823

Founding Fathers Quotes

Love your neighbor as yourself and your country more than yourself.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Jefferson Smith, February 21, 1825

Founding Fathers Quotes

Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the spot of every wind. With such persons, gullability, which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason and the mind becomes a wreck.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Smith, December 8, 1822

Founding Fathers Quotes

Men of energy of character must have enemies; because there are two sides to every question, and taking one with decision, and acting on it with effect, those who take the other will of course be hostile in proportion as they feel that effect.

Thomas Jefferson, December 21, 1817

Founding Fathers Quotes

My confidence is that there will for a long time be virtue and good sense enough in our countrymen to correct abuses.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Edward Rutledge, 1788

Founding Fathers Quotes

My construction of the constitution is very different from that you quote. It is that each department is truly independent of the others, and has an equal right to decide for itself what is the meaning of the constitution in the cases submitted to its action; and especially, where it is to act ultimately and without appeal.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Samuel Adams Wells, May 12, 1819

Founding Fathers Quotes

Natural rights [are] the objects for the protection of which society is formed and municipal laws established.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Monroe, 1791

Founding Fathers Quotes

Newspapers… serve as chimnies to carry off noxious vapors and smoke.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thaddeus Kosciusko, April 2, 1802

Founding Fathers Quotes

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

Thomas Jefferson, Draft Constitution for the State of Virginia, June, 1776

Founding Fathers Quotes

No government ought to be without censors & where the press is free, no one ever will.

Thomas Jefferson, September 9, 1792

Founding Fathers Quotes

No one more sincerely wishes the spread of information among mankind than I do, and none has greater confidence in its effect towards supporting free and good government.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Trustees for the Lottery of East Tennessee College, May 6, 1810

Founding Fathers Quotes

Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free.

Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, 1821

Founding Fathers Quotes

Nothing then is unchangeable but the inherent and unalienable rights of man.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Cartwright, 1824

Founding Fathers Quotes

On every question of construction carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Johnson, June 12, 1823



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