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date: 25 February 2024

Thomas Jefferson 1743–1826
American Democratic Republican statesman, 3rd President 1801–9. See also Bradshaw 

  1. When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds 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.
    American Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776, preamble
  2. We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable; that all men are created equal and independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
    ‘Rough Draft’ of the American Declaration of Independence, in J. P. Boyd et al. Papers of Thomas Jefferson (1950) vol. 1; see Anonymous
  3. Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bands.
    letter to John Jay, 23 August 1785
  4. Our liberty depends on freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.
    letter to James Currie, 28 January 1786, in Papers of Thomas Jefferson (1954) vol. 9
  5. The sovereign invigorator of the body is exercise, and of all the exercises, walking is best.
    letter to Thomas Mann Randolph Jr., 27 August 1786
  6. Experience declares that man is the only animal which devours its own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe, and to the general prey of the rich on the poor.
    letter to Colonel Edward Carrington, 16 January 1787, in Papers of Thomas Jefferson (1955) vol. 11
  7. A little rebellion now and then is a good thing.
    letter to James Madison, 30 January 1787, in Papers of Thomas Jefferson (1955) vol. 11
  8. State a moral case to a ploughman and a professor. The former will decide it as well, and often better than the latter, because he has not been led astray by artificial rules.
    letter to Peter Carr, 10 August 1787, in Papers of Thomas Jefferson (1955) vol. 12
  9. 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, 13 November 1787
  10. I think our governments will remain virtuous for many centuries; as long as they are chiefly agricultural; and this will be as long as there shall be vacant lands in any part of America. When they get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, they will become corrupt as in Europe.
    letter to James Madison, 20 December 1787, in Papers of Thomas Jefferson (1955) vol. 12
  11. Health is worth more than learning.
    letter to John Garland Jefferson, 11 June 1790
  12. Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on them [official positions], a rottenness begins in his conduct.
    letter to Tench Coxe, 21 May 1799, in P. L. Ford (ed.) Writings of Thomas Jefferson (1896) vol. 7
  13. All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.
    first inaugural address, 4 March 1801
  14. Would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm?
    first inaugural address, 4 March 1801
  15. Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations—entangling alliances with none.
    first inaugural address, 4 March 1801
  16. Freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us, and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation.
    first inaugural address, 4 March 1801
  17. I have learned to expect that it will rarely fall to the lot of imperfect man to retire from this station with the reputation and the favour which bring him into it.
    first inaugural address, 4 March 1801
  18. When a man assumes a public trust, he should consider himself as public property.
    to Baron von Humboldt, 1807; B. L. Rayner Life of Jefferson (1834)
  19. Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.
    letter to John Norvell, 14 June 1807, in The Portable Thomas Jefferson (1977)
  20. But though an old man, I am but a young gardener.
    letter to Charles Willson Peale, 20 August 1811, in Thomas Jefferson's Garden Book (1944)
  21. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.
    letter to Isaac McPherson, 13 August 1813
  22. I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents.
    letter to John Adams, 28 October 1813, in P. L. Ford (ed.) Writings of Thomas Jefferson (1898) vol. 9
  23. If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.
    letter to Colonel Charles Yancey, 6 January 1816, in P. L. Ford (ed.) Writings of Thomas Jefferson (1899) vol. 10
  24. Nothing gives one person so great advantage over another, as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.
    letter to Francis Wayles Eppes, 21 May 1816, in Jerry Holmes (ed.) Thomas Jefferson: A Chronology of His Thoughts (2002)
  25. Banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies.
    letter to John Taylor, 28 May 1816, in T. Jefferson Randolph (ed.) Memoirs, Correspondence & Private Papers of T. Jefferson (1829) vol. 3
  26. 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.
    on slavery
    letter to John Holmes, 22 April 1820
  27. I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.
    letter to William Charles Jarvis, 28 September 1820, in P. L. Ford (ed.) Writings of Thomas Jefferson (1899) vol. 10
  28. To attain all this [universal republicanism], however, rivers of blood must yet flow, and years of desolation pass over; yet the object is worth rivers of blood, and years of desolation.
    letter to John Adams, 4 September 1823; see Powell, Virgil
  29. When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry a hundred.
    letter to Thomas Jefferson Smith, 21 February 1825; see Twain
  30. Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
    Notes on the State of Virginia (1781–5) Query 6
  31. Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity [of opinion]. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites.
    Notes on the State of Virginia (1781–5) Query 17
  32. Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.
    Notes on the State of Virginia (1781–5) Query 18
  33. Of the various Executive duties, no one excites more anxious concern than that of placing the interests of our fellow citizens in the hands of honest men, with understandings sufficient for their station. No duty, at the same time, is more difficult to fulfill.
    sometimes quoted as ‘No duty the Executive had to perform was so trying as to put the right man in the right place’
    letter to Elias Shipman et al., 12 July 1801
  34. This is the Fourth?
    last words, on 4 July 1826