Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Thomas Jefferson

American Statesman, President of the United States, Founding Father, Principal Author of the Declaration of Independence

"An honest heart being the first blessing, a knowing head is the second."

"Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition."

"Gaming corrupts our dispositions, and teaches us a habit of hostility against all mankind."

"He who steadily observes those moral precepts in which all religions concur, will never be questioned at the gates of heaven as to the dogmas in which they all differ."

"How much have cost us the evils that never happened!"

"I agree that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents."

"I have ever deemed it more honorable and more profitable, too, to set a good example than to follow a bad one."

"I have never been able to conceive how any rational being could propose happiness to himself from the exercise of power over others."

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

"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."

"I never did, or countenanced, in public life, a single act inconsistent with the strictest good faith; having never believed there was one code of morality for a public, and another for a private man."

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

"Men are disposed to live honestly, if the means of doing so are open to them."

"Men are naturally divided into two parties: (1) those who fear and distrust the people... (2) those who identify themselves with people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider than as the most honest and safe."

"Never put off till to-morrow what you can do to-day. Never trouble another for what you can do yourself. Never spend your money before you have earned it. Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap. Pride costs more than hunger, thirst and cold. We seldom report of having eaten too little. Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly. How much pain evils have cost us that have never happened! Take things always by the smooth handle. When angry, count ten before you speak, if very angry, count a hundred."

"No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time, who never loses any."

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

"Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly."

"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."

"Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God."

"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, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

"We often repent of what we have said, but never, never, of that which we have not."

"Without virtue happiness cannot be."

"A little rebellion now and then... is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government."

"A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks. "

"All men are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights; among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

"Banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies."

"Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none; the support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns, and the surest bulwarks against anti-republican tendencies; the preservation of General Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad... freedom of religion, freedom of the press; freedom of person under the protection of habeas corpus; and trials 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."

"Equal rights for all, special privileges for none."

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."

"For God's sake, let us freely hear both sides!"

"He is happiest of whom the world says least, good or bad."

"He who knows most knows best how little he knows."

"Every man wishes to pursue his occupation and to enjoy the fruits of his labors 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."

"Every government degenerates when trusted to the rules of the people alone. The people themselves therefore are its only safe depositories."

"I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. Unsuccessful rebellions, indeed, generally establish the encroachments on the rights of the people which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in the punishment of rebellions as not to discourage them too much. It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government."

"Ignorance of the law is no excuse in any country. If it were, the laws would lose their effect, because it can be always pretended."

"In every government on earth is some trace of human weakness, some germ of corruption and degeneracy, which cunning will discover, and wickedness insensibly open, cultivate and improve. Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves therefore are its only safe depositories."

"It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself."

"Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times."

"Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap; it will be dear [costly] to you."

"One travels more usefully when alone, because he reflects more."

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

"The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government."

"I find as I grow older that I love those most whom I loved first."

"The earth belongs to the living and not to the dead."

"The execution of the laws is more important than the making them."

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

"The man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them, inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors."

"Victory and defeat are each of the same price."