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

"A great deal of love given to a few is better than a little to many."

"A jealous care of the right of election by the people--a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided--I deem [one of] the essential principles of our Government."

"A judiciary independent of a king or executive alone is a good thing; but independence of the will of the nation is a solecism, at least in a republican government."

"A judiciary independent of a king or executive alone, is a good thing; but independence of the will of the nation is a solecism, at least in a republican government."

"A lawyer without books would be like a workman without tools."

"A library book ... is not, then, an article of mere consumption, but fairly of capital, and often in the case of professional men, setting out in life, is their only capital."

"A library book lasts as long as a house, for hundreds of years. It is not an article for mere consumption, but fairly of capital, and often in the case of professional men, setting out in life, it is their only capital."

"A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt...If the game runs sometime against us at home, we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake."

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

"A lively and lasting sense of filial duty is more effectually impressed on the mind of a son or daughter by reading King Lear, than by all the dry volumes of ethics, and divinity, that ever were written."

"A man has a right to use a saw, an axe, a plane, separately; may he not combine their uses on the same piece of wood? He has a right to use his knife to cut his meat, a fork to hold it; may a patentee take from him the right to combine their use on the same subject? Such a law, instead of enlarging our conveniences, as was intended, would most fearfully abridge them, and crowd us by monopolies out of the use of the things we have."

"A Man's management of his own purse speaks volumes about character"

"A man's moral sense must be unusually strong if slavery does not make him a thief."

"A mind always employed is always happy. This is the true secret, the grand recipe, for felicity."

"A morsel of genuine history is a thing so rare as to be always valuable."

"A nation ceases to be republican...when the will of the majority ceases to be the law."

"A nation which expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, expects that which never was and never will be."

"A nation, as a society, forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society."

"A noiseless course, not meddling with the affairs of others, unattractive of notice, is a mark that society is going on in happiness. If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them, they must become happy."

"A representative government, responsible at short intervals of election... produces the greatest sum of happiness to mankind."

"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."

"A republican government is slow to move, yet when once in motion, its momentum becomes irresistible."

"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."

"A room without books is like a life without meaning."

"A sense of this necessity, and a submission to it, is to me a new and consolatory proof that wherever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights."

"A single good government becomes... a blessing to the whole earth, its welcome to the oppressed restraining within certain limits the measure of their oppressions. But should even this be counteracted by violence on the right of expatriation, the other branch of our example then presents itself for imitation: to rise on their rulers and do as we have done."

"A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will lose both, and deserve neither."

"A sound spirit of legislation... banishing all arbitrary and unnecessary restraint on individual action, shall leave us free to do whatever does not violate the equal rights of another."

"A spirit... of gambling in our public paper has seized on too many of our citizens, and we fear it will check our commerce, arts, manufactures, and agriculture, unless stopped."

"A strict observance of the written laws is doubtless one of the high duties 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."

"A system of general instruction, which shall reach every description of our citizens from the richest to the poorest, as it was the earliest, so will it be the latest of all the public concerns in which I shall permit myself to take an interest."

"A tour of duty, in whatever line he can be most useful to his country, is due from every individual."

"A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life."

"About to enter, fellow-citizens, on the exercise of duties which comprehend everything dear and valuable to you, it is proper you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our Government, and consequently those which ought to shape its Administration. I will compress them within the narrowest compass they will bear, stating the general principle, but not all its limitations. 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 the General Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad; a jealous care of the right of election by the people -- a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided; absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism; a well-disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace and for the first moments of war till regulars may relieve them; the supremacy of the civil over the military authority; economy in the public expense, that labor may be lightly burthened; the honest payment of our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith; encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid; the diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the 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. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety."

"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."

"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, and consider every act of this kind, as an exercise which will strengthen your moral faculties and increase your worth."

"Action by the citizens in person, in affairs within their reach and competence, and in all others by representatives, chosen immediately, and removable by themselves, constitutes the essence of a republic... All governments are more or less republican in proportion as this principle enters more or less into their composition."

"Adore God. Reverence and cherish your parents. Love your neighbor as yourself, and your country more than yourself. Be just. Be true. Murmur not at the ways of Providence. So shall the life into which you have entered be the portal to one of eternal and ineffable bliss."

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

"Against great land armies we cannot attempt defense but by equal armies. For these we must depend on a classified militia, which will give us the service of the class from twenty to twenty-six, in the nature of conscripts, comprising a body of about 250,000, to be specially trained. This measure, attempted at a former session, was pressed at the last, and might, I think, have been carried by a small majority. But considering that great innovations should not be forced on a slender majority, and seeing that the general opinion is sensibly rallying to it, it was thought better to let it lie over to the next session, when, I trust, it will be passed."

"Agriculture, manufactures, commerce and navigation, the four pillars of our prosperity, are the most thriving when left most free to individual enterprise. Protection from casual embarrassments, however, may sometimes be seasonably interposed."

"All authority belongs to the people."

"All experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."

"All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them. [Jefferson’s last letter]"

"All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights."

"All natural rights may be abridged or modified in [their] exercise by law."

"All persons shall have full and free liberty of religious opinion; nor shall any be compelled to frequent or maintain any religious institution."

"All power is inherent in the people."

"All religious sects dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight; and scowl on the fatal harbinger announcing the subversion of the duperies in which they live."

"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."