Thomas Jefferson Quotations

"A little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical."

"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 the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty."

"Advertisements contain the only truth to be relied on in the newspaper."

"It is the trade of lawyers to question everything, yield nothing, and to talk by the hour."

"The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground."

"The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time."

"I have not observed men's honesty to increase with their riches."

"Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom."

"A wise and frugal government, which 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. . ."

"The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive."

"It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world."

"It is neither wealth nor splendor, but tranquillity and occupation which give happiness."

"The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government."

"Liberty is the collective body, what health is to every individual body. Without health no pleasure can be tasted by man; without liberty, no happiness can be enjoyed by society."

"Money, not morality, is the principle commerce of civilized nations."

"Most bad government has grown out of too much government."

"No government ought to be without censors; and where the press is free, no one ever will." (Letter to George Washington, 1792)

"How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened!" (In a letter, 1825)

"I am mortified to be told that, in the United States of America, the sale of a book can become a subject of inquiry, and of criminal inquiry too."

"Error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it." (First Inaugural Address, 1801)

"In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current."

"When angry, count to ten before you speak. If very angry, a hundred." (A Decalogue of Canons for observation in practical life—in letter, 1825)

"Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances."

"Only aim to do your duty, and mankind will give you credit when you fail."

"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; two that are among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." (A draft of the Declaration of Independence)

"Of the various executive abilities, no one excited more anxious concern than that of placing the interests of our fellow-citizens in the hands of honest men, with understanding sufficient for their stations. No duty is at the same time more difficult to fulfill. The knowledge of character possessed b a single individual is of necessity limited. To seek out the best through the whole Union, we must resort to the information which from the best of men, acting disinterestedly and with the purest motives, is sometimes incorrect. (Letter to Elias Shipman and others of New Haven, July 12, 1801)

"Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations—entangling alliances with none." (First Inaugural Address, 1801)

"Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on them [public offices], a rottenness begins in his conduct."

"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear."

"Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others?"

"That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves."

"The art of life is the art of avoiding pain."

"The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers."

"The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do."

"Nature intended me for the tranquil pursuits of science, b rendering them my supreme delight. But the enormities of the times in which I have lived have forced me to take a part in resisting them, and to commit myself on the boisterous ocean of political passions." (1809)

"War is an instrument entirely inefficient toward redressing wrong; and multiplies, instead of indemnifying losses."

"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."

"Education . . . engrafts a new man on the native stock, and improves what in his nature was vicious and perverse into qualities of virtue and social worth. . . . [accumulated knowledge] must advance the knowledge and well-being of mankind, not infinitely, as some have said, but indefinitely, ad to a term which no one can fix or foresee." (1810)

"If the children are untaught, their ignorance and vices will in future life cost us much dearer in their consequences than it would have done in their correction by a good education."

"In every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to Liberty."

"Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just."

"When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation." (Declaration of Independence)

"When a man assumes a public trust, he should consider himself as public property." (Life of Jefferson)

"I sincerely believe . . . that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity under the name of funding is but swindling futurity on a large scale."

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

"Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty."

"I cannot live without books."

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." (Letter to W.S. Smith, November 13, 1787).

"I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition (Christianity) one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology."

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

"Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just." (Notes on Virginia.)

"I shall need, too, the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our fathers, as Israel of old, from their native land and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life; who has covered our infancy with His providence and our riper years with His wisdom and power, and to whose goodness I ask you to join in supplications with me that He will so enlighten the minds of your servants, guide their councils, and prosper their measures that whatsoever they do shall result in your good, and shall secure to you the peace, friendship, and approbation of all nations."