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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

We established however some, although not all its [self-government] important principles . The constitutions of most of our States assert, that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves, in all cases to which they think themselves competent, (as in electing their functionaries executive and legislative, and deciding by a jury of themselves, in all judiciary cases in which any fact is involved,) or they may act by representatives, freely and equally chosen; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Cartwright, 1824

Founding Fathers Quotes

We have the wolf by the ears, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Holmes, Apr 22, 1820

Founding Fathers Quotes

We lay it down as a fundamental, that laws, to be just, must give a reciprocation of right; that, without this, they are mere arbitrary rules of conduct, founded in force, and not in conscience.

Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the state of Virginia, 1782

Founding Fathers Quotes

We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Samuel Kercheval, July 12, 1816

Founding Fathers Quotes

Were we directed from Washington when to sow, and when to reap, we should soon want bread.

Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, 1821

Founding Fathers Quotes

What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Stephens Smith, 1787

Founding Fathers Quotes

Whatever enables us to go to war, secures our peace.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Monroe, October 24, 1823

Founding Fathers Quotes

When right, I shall often be thought wrong by those whose positions will not command a view of the whole ground.

Thomas Jefferson, Second Inaugural Address, 1805

Founding Fathers Quotes

Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.

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

Founding Fathers Quotes

With those who wish to think amiss of me, I have learned to be perfectly indifferent; but where I know a mind to be ingenuous, and to need only truth to set it to rights, I cannot be passive.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Abigail Adams, 1804

Founding Fathers Quotes

Would it not be better to simplify the system of taxation rather than to spread it over such a variety of subjects and pass through so many new hands.

Thomas Jefferson, 1784

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 Marquis de Lafayette, November 4, 1823

Founding Fathers Quotes

[A] wise and frugal government... shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.

Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

Founding Fathers Quotes

[B]ut whatever be their degree of talent it is no measure of their rights. Because Sir Isaac Newton was superior to others in understanding, he was not therefore lord of the person or property of others. On this subject they are gaining daily in the opinions of nations, and hopeful advances are making towards their re- establishment on an equal footing with the other colors of the human family.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Henri Gregoire, February 25, 1809

Founding Fathers Quotes

[H]is was the singular destiny and merit, of leading the armies of his country successfully through an arduous war, for the establishment of its independence; of conducting its councils through the birth of a government, new in its forms and principles, until it had settled down into a quite and orderly train; and of scrupulously obeying the laws through the whole of his career, civil and military, of which the history of the world furnishes no other example.

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

Founding Fathers Quotes

[I]t is proper you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our Government.... Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever persuasion, religious or political....

Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

Founding Fathers Quotes

[L]et 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, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

Founding Fathers Quotes

[The people] are in truth the only legitimate proprietors of the soil and government.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Pierre Samuel Dupont de Nemours, 1813

Founding Fathers Quotes

[T]he flames kindled on the 4 of July 1776, have spread over too much of the globe to be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism; on the contrary, they will consume these engines and all who work them.

Thomas Jefferson, September 12, 1821

Founding Fathers Quotes

[T]he 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, letter to Abigail Adams, September 11, 1804



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