Quotes by Thomas Jefferson
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Wikipedia Summary for Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, philosopher, and Founding Father who served as the third president of the United States from 1801 to 1809. He had previously served as the second vice president of the United States under John Adams between 1797 and 1801. The principal author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was a proponent of democracy, republicanism, and individual rights, motivating American colonists to break from the Kingdom of Great Britain and form a new nation; he produced formative documents and decisions at both the state and national levels.
During the American Revolution, Jefferson represented Virginia in the Continental Congress that adopted the Declaration of Independence. As a Virginia legislator, he drafted a state law for religious freedom. He served as the second Governor of Virginia from 1779 to 1781, during the American Revolutionary War. In 1785, Jefferson was appointed the United States Minister to France, and subsequently, the nation's first Secretary of State under President George Washington from 1790 to 1793. Jefferson and James Madison organized the Democratic-Republican Party to oppose the Federalist Party during the formation of the First Party System. With Madison, he anonymously wrote the provocative Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions in 1798 and 1799, which sought to strengthen states' rights by nullifying the federal Alien and Sedition Acts.
As president, Jefferson pursued the nation's shipping and trade interests against Barbary pirates and aggressive British trade policies. Starting in 1803, Jefferson promoted a western expansionist policy, organizing the Louisiana Purchase which doubled the nation's land area. To make room for settlement, Jefferson began a controversial process of Indian tribal removal from the newly acquired territory. As a result of peace negotiations with France, his administration reduced military forces. Jefferson was reelected in 1804. His second term was beset with difficulties at home, including the trial of former vice president Aaron Burr. In 1807, American foreign trade was diminished when Jefferson implemented the Embargo Act in response to British threats to U.S. shipping. The same year, Jefferson signed the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves.
Jefferson, while primarily a planter, lawyer and politician, mastered many disciplines, which ranged from surveying and mathematics to horticulture and mechanics. He was an architect in the classical tradition. Jefferson's keen interest in religion and philosophy led to his presidency of the American Philosophical Society; he shunned organized religion but was influenced by Christianity, Epicureanism, and deism. A philologist, Jefferson knew several languages. He was a prolific letter writer and corresponded with many prominent people, including Edward Carrington, John Taylor of Caroline and James Madison. Among his books is Notes on the State of Virginia (1785), considered perhaps the most important American book published before 1800. Jefferson championed the ideals, values, and teachings of the Enlightenment.
During his lifetime, Jefferson claimed ownership of over 600 slaves, who were kept in his household and on his plantations. Since Jefferson's time, controversy has revolved around his relationship with Sally Hemings, a mixed-race enslaved woman and his late wife's half-sister. According to DNA evidence from surviving descendants and oral history, Jefferson probably fathered at least six children with Hemings, including four that survived to adulthood. Evidence suggests that Jefferson started the relationship with Hemings when they were in Paris, where she arrived at the age of 14, when Jefferson was 44. By the time she returned to the United States at 16, she was pregnant.\n\nAfter retiring from public office, Jefferson founded the University of Virginia. Jefferson and his colleague John Adams both died on Independence Day, July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Presidential scholars and historians generally praise Jefferson's public achievements, including his advocacy of religious freedom and tolerance in Virginia. Although some modern scholars have been critical of his stance on slavery, Jefferson continues to rank highly among the top ten U.S. presidents.
I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.
Peace and friendship with all mankind is our wisest policy, and I wish we may be permitted to pursue it.
Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.
Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching.
Common sense is the foundation of all authorities, of the laws themselves, and of their construction.
I abhor war and view it as the greatest scourge of mankind.
How soon the labor of men would make a paradise of the earth were it not for misgovernment and a diversion of his energies to selfish interests.
I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.
I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.
The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.
Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far. The Europeans value themselves on having subdued the horse to the uses of man; but I doubt whether we have not lost more than we have gained, by the use of this animal.
In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.
Money, not morality, is the principle commerce of civilized nations.
War is an instrument entirely inefficient toward redressing wrong; and multiplies, instead of indemnifying losses.
I have seen enough of one war never to wish to see another.
History, in general, only informs us of what bad government is.
But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life and thanks to a benevolent arrangement of things, the greater part of life is sunshine.
Happiness is the aim of life. Virtue is the foundation of happiness. Utility is the test of virtue. If the wise be the happy man, as the sages say, he must be virtuous too; for without virtue, happiness cannot be.
The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the first and only legitimate object of good government.
I am for freedom of religion, and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.
Even if we differ in principle more than I believe we do, you and I know too well the texture of the human mind, and the slipperiness of human reason, to consider differences of opinion otherwise than differences of form or feature.
Agriculture, manufactures, commerce and navigation, the four pillars of our prosperity, are the most thriving when left most free to individual enterprise.
A strict observance of the written laws is doubtless one of the high virtues of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation.
A strict observance of the written laws is doubtless one of the highest virtues of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to written law would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property and all those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the end to the means.
Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading. I will rather say more necessary because health is worth more than learning.
Our ancestors, possessed a right, which nature has given to all men, of departing from the country in which chance, not choice has placed them.
A government big enough to give you everything you need is government big enough to take away everything you have.
All men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights...namely the enjoyment of life and liberty...and pursuing and obtaining happiness.
Some of my finest hours have been spent on my back veranda, smoking hemp and observing as far as my eye can see.
Although a republican government is slow to move, yet when once in motion, its momentum becomes irresistible.
We are now trusting to those who are against us in position and principle, to fashion to their own form the minds and affections of our youth... This canker is eating on the vitals of our existence, and if not arrested at once, will be beyond remedy.
Question with boldness even the existence of a
God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of
the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.
Let us in education dream of an aristocracy of achievement arising out of a democracy of opportunity.
If the obstacles of bigotry and priestcraft can be surmounted, we may hope that common sense will suffice to do everything else.
No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority.
The last hope of human liberty in this world rests on us. we ought, for so dear a stake, to sacrifice every attachment and every enmity.
The most fortunate of us all in our journey through life frequently meet with calamities and misfortunes which greatly afflict us. To fortify our minds against the attacks of these calamities and misfortunes should be one of the principal studies and endeavors of our lives.
The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading subjugation on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it: for man is an imitative animal.
And even should the cloud of barbarism and despotism again obscure the science and libraries of Europe, this country remains to preserve and restore light and liberty to them.
And even should the cloud of barbarism and despotism again obscure the science and liberties of Europe, this country remains to preserve and restore light and liberty to them. In short, the flames kindled on the fourth 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.
Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. Enable them to see that it is their interest to preserve peace and order, and they will preserve them.
Self-interest, or rather self-love, or egoism, has been more plausibly substituted as the basis of morality.
Every man cannot have his way in all things. If his opinion prevails at some times, he should acquiesce on seeing that of others preponderate at other times. Without this mutual disposition we are disjointed individuals, but not a society.
If it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by the governor and council or any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward, it is a belief against all experience.
We are sensible of the duty and expediency of submitting our opinions to the will of the majority, and can wait with patience till they get right if they happen to be at any time wrong.
Above all things, lose no occasion of exercising your dispositions to be grateful, to be generous, to be charitable, to be humane, to be true, just, firm, orderly, courageous, etc. Consider every act of this kind as an exercise which will strengthen your moral faculties and increase your worth.
The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep he waters pure.
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.
The art of governing consists simply of being honest, exercising common sense, following principle, and doing what is right and just.
The elective franchise, if guarded as the ark of our safety, will peaceably dissipate all combinations to subvert a Constitution, dictated by the wisdom, and resting on the will of the people.
Life is of no value but as it brings gratifications. among the most valuable of these is rational society. it informs the mind, sweetens the temper, chears our spirits, and promotes health.
I see the necessity of sacrificing our opinions sometimes to the opinions of others for the sake of harmony.
History has informed us that bodies of men as well as individuals are susceptible of the spirit of tyranny.
Let the farmer forevermore be honored in his calling; for they who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God.
It seems that the Cannibals of Europe are going to eat one another again. A war between Russia and Turkey is like the battle of the kite and snake; whichever destroys the other, leaves a destroyer the less for the world.
I have now the gloomy prospect of retiring from office loaded with serious debts, which will materially affect the tranquility of my retirement.
Our Constitution... has not left the religion of its citizens under the power of its public functionaries, were it possible that any of these should consider a conquest over the conscience of men either attainable or applicable to any desirable purpose.
Where the law of the majority ceases to be acknowledged, there government ends; the law of the strongest takes its place, and life and property are his who can take them.
A lottery is a salutary instrument and a tax... laid on the willing only, that is to say, on those who can risk the price of a ticket without sensible injury, for the possibility of a higher prize.
We should talk over the lessons of the day, or lose them in Music, Chess, or the merriments of our family companions.
I have overlived the generation with which mutual labors and perils begat mutual confidence and influence.
Nothing but good can result from an exchange of information and opinions between those whose circumstances and morals admit no doubt of the integrity of their views.
Every man wishes to pursue his occupation and to enjoy the fruits of his labours and the produce of his property in peace and safety, and with the least possible expense. When these things are accomplished, all the objects for which government ought to be established are answered.
I consider the doctrines of Jesus as delivered by himself to contain the outlines of the sublimest system of morality that has ever been taught but I hold in the most profound detestation and execration the corruptions of it which have been invented.
Revenue on the consumption of foreign articles is paid cheerfully by those who can afford to add foreign luxuries to domestic comforts.
But the fact being once established, that the press is impotent when it abandons itself to falsehood, I leave to others to restore it to its strength, by recalling it within the pale of truth. Within that, it is a noble institution, equally the friend of science and of civil liberty.
Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to; convinced that on their good sense we may rely with most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty.
So much of the presidency is a matter of standing in the path of a Newsham Engine for Quenching Fires, opening one's mouth, and attempting to get a drink.
Still less, let it be proposed that our properties within our own territories shall be taxed or regulated by any power on earth but our own. The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time: the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.
A right to property is founded in our natural wants, in the means with which we are endowed to satisfy these wants, and the right to what we acquire by those means without violating the similar rights of other sensible beings.
I find the pain of a little censure, even when it is unfounded, is more acute than the pleasure of much praise.
It is an encouraging observation that no good measure was ever proposed which, if duly pursued, failed to prevail in the end.
A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for a second; that second for a third; and so on, till the bulk of the society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery, to have no sensibilities left but for sin and suffering.
When right, I shall often be thought wrong by those whose positions will not command a view of the whole ground.
When sins are dear to us we are too prone to slide into them again. The act of repentance itself is often sweetened with the thought that it clears our account for a repetition of the same sin.
A republic will avoid war unless the avoidance might create conditions that are worse than warfare itself. Sometimes, the dispositions of those who choose to make themselves our enemies leaves us no choice.
In the middle ages of Christianity opposition to the State opinions was hushed. The consequence was, Christianity became loaded with all the Romish follies. Nothing but free argument, raillery and even ridicule will preserve the purity of religion.
The human character, we believe, requires in general constant and immediate control to prevent its being biased from right by the seductions of self-love.
I have so much confidence in the good sense of man, and his qualifications for self-government, that I am never afraid of the issue where reason is left free to exert her force.
The present generation has the same right of self-government which the past one has exercised for itself.
The equal rights of man and the happiness of every individual are now acknowledged to be the only legitimate objects of government.
My most earnest wish is to see the republican element of popular control pushed to the maximum of its practicable exercise. I shall then believe that our government may be pure and perpetual.
The rights of the people to the exercise and fruits of their own industry can never be protected against the selfishness of rulers not subject to their control at short periods.
The qualifications for self-government in society are not innate. they are the result of habit and long training.
There is not a single crowned head in Europe whose talents or merit would entitle him to be elected a vestryman by the people of any parish in America.
Never did a prisoner, released from his chains, feel such relief as I shall on shaking off the shackles of power.
We should be determined... to sever ourselves from the union we so much value rather than give up the rights of self-government... in which alone we see liberty, safety and happiness.
While the farmer holds the title to the land, actually, it belongs to all the people because civilization itself rests upon the soil.
Take care that you never spell a word wrong. Always before you write a word, consider how it is spelled, and, if you do not remember, turn to a dictionary. It produces great praise to a lady to spell well. to his daughter Martha.
A nation which expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, expects that which never was and never will be.
Excessive taxation ... will carry reason and reflection to every man's door, and particularly in the hour of election.
The most effective means of preventing tyranny is to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large, and more especially to give them knowledge of those facts.
I would observe to you that what is called style in writing or speaking is formed very early in life while the imagination is warm, and impressions are permanent.
Instead of that liberty which takes root and growth in the progress of reason, if recovered by mere force or accident, it becomes with an unprepared people a tyranny still of the many, the few, or the one.
A rising nation, spread over a wide and fruitful Land, traversing all the seas with the rich production of their Industry.
There are other places at which ... the laws have said there shall be towns; but Nature has said there shall not, and they remain unworthy of enumeration.
Error indeed has often prevailed by the assistance of power or force. Truth is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error.
Be assured that it gives much more pain to the mind to be in debt, than to do without any article whatever which we may seem to want.
It is unfortunate that the efforts of mankind to recover the freedom of which they have been so long deprived, will be accompanied with violence, with errors, and even with crimes. But while we weep over the means, we must pray for the end.
I see now our fireside formed into a groupe, no one member of which has a fibre in their composition which can ever produce any jarring or jealousies among us. No irregular passions, no dangerous bias, which may render problematical the future fortunes and happiness of our descendants.
I learn with great concern that one portion of our frontier so interesting, so important, and so exposed, should be so entirely unprovided with common fire-arms. I did not suppose any part of the United States so destitute of what is considered as among the first necessaries of a farm-house.
The diffusion of information and the arraignment of all abuses at the bar of public reason, I deem one of the essential principles of our government, and consequently one of those which ought to shape its administration.
I look to the diffusion of light and education as the resource most to be relied on for ameliorating the condition, promoting the virtue and advancing the happiness of man.
I never before knew the full value of trees. Under them I breakfast, dine, write, read and receive my company.
As you are entered with the class of Nat. philosophy, give to it the hours of lecture, but devote all your other time to Mathematics, avoiding company as the bane of all progress.
The eyes of our citizens are not sufficiently open to the true cause of our distress. They ascribe them to everything but their true cause, the banking system.
I feel... an ardent desire to see knowledge so disseminated through the mass of mankind that it may, at length, reach even the extremes of society: beggars and kings.
When two parties make a compact, there results to each a power of compelling the other to execute it.
The government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself; since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers.
My religious reading has long been confined to the moral branch of religion, which is the same in all religions; while in that branch which consists of dogmas, all differ.
It is not by the consolidation or concentration of powers but by their distribution that good government is effected.
I do not believe war the most certain means of enforcing principles. Those peaceable coercions which are in the power of every nation, if undertaken in concert and in time of peace, are more likely to produce the desired effect.
His system of morality was the most benevolent and sublime probably that has been ever taught, and consequently more perfect than those of any of the ancient philosophers... He was the most innocent, the most benevolent, the most eloquent and sublime character that ever has been exhibited to man.
My confidence is that there will for a long time be virtue and good sense enough in our countrymen to correct abuses.
Preach, my dear Sir, a crusade against ignorance; establish and improve the law for educating the common people.
Never was so much false arithmetic employed on any subject, as that which has been employed to persuade nations that it is in their interest to go to war.
It is while we are young that the habit of industry is formed. If not then, it never is afterwards. The fortune of our lives therefore depends on employing well the short period of our youth.
Against us are all timid men who prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty We are likely to preserve the liberty we have obtained only by unremitting labors and perils.
I have come to a resolution myself as I hope every good citizen will, never again to purchase any article of foreign manufacture which can be had of American make, be the difference of price what it may.
Free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence; it is jealousy, and not confidence, which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power.
In a virtuous and free state, no rewards can be so pleasing to sensible minds, as those which include the approbation of our fellow citizens. My great pain is, lest my poor endeavours should fall short of the kind expectations of my country.
Slavery is an abomination and must be loudly proclaimed as such, but I own that I nor any other man has any
immediate solution to the problem.
I sincerely wish you may find it convenient to come here. the pleasure of the trip will be less than you expect, but the utility greater. it will make you adore your own country, it's soil, it's climate, it's equality, liberty, laws, people and manners. my god! how little do my countrymen know.
Every man's reason is his own rightful umpire. This principle, with that of acquiescence in the will of the majority, will preserve us free and prosperous as long as they are sacredly observed.
Still less let it be proposed that our properties within our own territories shall be taxed or regulated by any power on earth but our own.