Thomas Jefferson Quotes
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.
It is error alone which needs the
support of government. Truth can stand by itself.
When the people fear their government,
there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is
I find that the harder I work, the more
luck I seem to have.
I'm a great believer in luck and I find
the harder I work, the more I have of it.
Government can do something for the
people only in proportion as it can do something to the people.
The democracy will cease to exist when
you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who
Rightful liberty is unobstructed action
according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights
of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is
often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights
of the individual.
The natural progress of things is for
liberty to yield and government to gain ground.
The republican is the only form of
government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights
Timid men prefer the calm of despotism
to the tempestuous sea of liberty.
To compel a man to furnish funds for the
propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.
Nothing is unchangeable but the inherent
and unalienable rights of man.
One man with courage is a majority.
The God who gave us life, gave us
liberty at the same time.
That government is best which governs
the least, because its people discipline themselves.
A Bill of Rights is what the people are
entitled to against every government, and what no just government should
refuse, or rest on inference.
Never put off till tomorrow what you can
Never spend your money before you have
Sometimes it is said that man cannot be
trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then be trusted with the
government of others? Or have we found angels in the form of kings to
govern him? Let history answer this question.
The spirit of resistance to government
is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept
A coward is much more exposed to
quarrels than a man of spirit.
A democracy is nothing more than mob
rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of
the other forty-nine.
A wise and frugal government, which
shall leave men 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.
He who knows nothing is closer to the
truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.
My reading of history convinces me that
most bad government results from too much government.
Liberty is to 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.
It is always better to have no ideas
than false ones; to believe nothing, than to believe what is wrong.
History, in general, only informs us of
what bad government is.
Honesty is the first chapter in the book
All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is
for people of good conscience to remain silent.
Force is the vital principle and
immediate parent of despotism.
I would rather be exposed to the
inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small
a degree of it.
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.
Always take hold of things by the smooth
Advertisements contain the only truths
to be relied on in a newspaper.
An association of men who will not
quarrel with one another is a thing which has never yet existed, from
the greatest confederacy of nations down to a town meeting or a vestry.
An enemy generally says and believes
what he wishes.
An injured friend is the bitterest of
As our enemies have found we can reason
like men, so now let us show them we can fight like men also.
Be polite to all, but intimate with few.
Bodily decay is gloomy in prospect, but
of all human contemplations the most abhorrent is body without mind.
Books constitute capital. A library book
lasts as long as a house, for hundreds of years. It is not, then, an
article of mere consumption but fairly of capital, and often in the case
of professional men, setting out in life, it is their only capital.
But friendship is precious, not only in
the shade, but in the sunshine of life, and thanks to a benevolent
arrangement the greater part of life is sunshine.
Commerce with all nations, alliance with
none, should be our motto.
Conquest is not in our principles. It is
inconsistent with our government.
Delay is preferable to error.
Dependence begets subservience and
venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the
designs of ambition.
Determine never to be idle. No person
will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any.
It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing.
Difference of opinion is advantageous in
religion. The several sects perform the office of a Censor - over each
Do not bite at the bait of pleasure,
till you know there is no hook beneath it.
Do you want to know who you are? Don't
ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.
Don't talk about what you have done or
what you are going to do.
Educate and inform the whole mass of the
people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our
Enlighten the people generally, and
tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits
at the dawn of day.
Errors of opinion may be tolerated where
reason is left free to combat it.
Every citizen should be a soldier. This
was the case with the Greeks and Romans, and must be that of every free
Every generation needs a new revolution.
Every government degenerates when
trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its
only safe depositories.
Experience demands that man is the only
animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the
general prey of the rich on the poor.
Experience hath shewn, that even under
the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time,
and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.
Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call
to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. 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.
For a people who are free, and who mean
to remain so, a well-organized and armed militia is their best security.
Friendship is but another name for an
alliance with the follies and the misfortunes of others. Our own share
of miseries is sufficient: why enter then as volunteers into those of
Happiness is not being pained in body or
troubled in mind.
He who knows best knows how little he
How much pain they have cost us, the
evils which have never happened.
I abhor war and view it as the greatest
scourge of mankind.
I am an Epicurean. I consider the
genuine (not the imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything
rational in moral philosophy which Greek and Roman leave to us.
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.
I believe that every human mind feels
pleasure in doing good to another.
I cannot live without books.
I do not find in orthodox Christianity
one redeeming feature.
I do not take a single newspaper, nor
read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely the happier for it.
I find that he is happiest of whom the
world says least, good or bad.
I have no ambition to govern men; it is
a painful and thankless office.
I have no fear that the result of our
experiment will be that men may be trusted to govern themselves without
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 have seen enough of one war never to
wish to see another.
I have sworn upon the altar of God,
eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.
I hope our wisdom will grow with our
power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will
I hope we shall crush in its birth the
aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge
our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of
I know of 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.
I like the dreams of the future better
than the history of the past.
I never considered a difference of
opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for
withdrawing from a friend.
I never will, by any word or act, bow to
the shrine of intolerance or admit a right of inquiry into the religious
opinions of others.
I own that I am not a friend to a very
energetic government. It is always oppressive.
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 think with the Romans, that the
general of today should be a soldier tomorrow if necessary.
I tremble for my country when I reflect
that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.
I was bold in the pursuit of knowledge,
never fearing to follow truth and reason to whatever results they led,
and bearding every authority which stood in their way.
If a nation expects to be ignorant and
free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never
If God is just, I tremble for my
If the present Congress errs in too much
talking, how can it be otherwise in a body to which the people send one
hundred and fifty lawyers, whose trade it is to question everything,
yield nothing, and talk by the hour?
If there is one principle more deeply
rooted in the mind of every American, it is that we should have nothing
to do with conquest.
Ignorance is preferable to error, and he
is less remote from the truth who believes nothing than he who believes
what is wrong.
In every country and every age, the
priest had been hostile to Liberty.
In matters of style, swim with the
current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.
In truth, politeness is artificial good
humor, it covers the natural want of it, and ends by rendering habitual
a substitute nearly equivalent to the real virtue.
Information is the currency of
It behooves every man who values liberty
of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of
others: or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own.
It does me no injury for my neighbor to
say there are twenty gods or no God.
It is in our lives and not our words
that our religion must be read.
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 more dangerous that even a guilty
person should be punished without the forms of law than that he should
It is neither wealth nor splendor; but
tranquility and occupation which give you happiness.
It is our duty still to endeavor to
avoid war; but if it shall actually take place, no matter by whom
brought on, we must defend ourselves. If our house be on fire, without
inquiring whether it was fired from within or without, we must try to
It takes time to persuade men to do even
what is for their own good.
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.
Leave no authority existing not
responsible to the people.
Mankind are more disposed to suffer,
while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the
forms to which they are accustomed.
Merchants have no country. The mere spot
they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from
which they draw their gains.
Money, not morality, is the principle
commerce of civilized nations.
My only fear is that I may live too
long. This would be a subject of dread to me.
My theory has always been, that if we
are to dream, the flatteries of hope are as cheap, and pleasanter, than
the gloom of despair.
No duty the Executive had to perform was
so trying as to put the right man in the right place.
No free man shall ever be debarred the
use of arms.
No government ought to be without
censors; and where the press is free no one ever will.
No man will ever carry out of the
Presidency the reputation which carried him into it.
No occupation is so delightful to me as
the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the
Nothing can stop the man with the right
mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the
man with the wrong mental attitude.
Nothing gives one person so much
advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all
One travels more usefully when alone,
because he reflects more.
Only aim to do your duty, and mankind
will give you credit where you fail.
Our country is now taking so steady a
course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit: by
consolidation of power first, and then corruption, its necessary
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.
Peace and abstinence from European
interferences are our objects, and so will continue while the present
order of things in America remain uninterrupted.
Peace and friendship with all mankind is
our wisest policy, and I wish we may be permitted to pursue it.
Peace, commerce and honest friendship
with all nations; entangling alliances with none.
Politics is such a torment that I advise
everyone I love not to mix with it.
Power is not alluring to pure minds.
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 blind-folded fear.
Resort is had to ridicule only when
reason is against us.
So confident am I in the intentions, as
well as wisdom, of the government, that I shall always be satisfied that
what is not done, either cannot, or ought not to be done.
Speeches that are measured by the hour
will die with the hour.
Taste cannot be controlled by law.
That government is the strongest of
which every man feels himself a part.
The advertisement is the most truthful
part of a newspaper.
The boisterous sea of liberty is never
without a wave.
The care of human life and happiness,
and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good
The Creator has not thought proper to
mark those in the forehead who are of stuff to make good generals. We
are first, therefore, to seek them blindfold, and then let them learn
the trade at the expense of great losses.
The earth belongs to the living, not to
The glow of one warm thought is to me
worth more than money.
The good opinion of mankind, like the
lever of Archimedes, with the given fulcrum, moves the world.
The man who reads nothing at all is
better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.
The moment a person forms a theory, his
imagination sees in every object only the traits which favor that
The most successful war seldom pays for
The natural cause of the human mind is
certainly from credulity to skepticism.
The second office in the government is
honorable and easy; the first is but a splendid misery.
The spirit of this country is totally
adverse to a large military force.
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.
The tree of liberty must be refreshed
from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
The way to silence religious disputes is
to take no notice of them.
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 submissions on the
other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it.
The world is indebted for all triumphs
which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression.
There is a natural aristocracy among
men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents.
There is not a sprig of grass that
shoots uninteresting to me.
There is not a truth existing which I
fear... or would wish unknown to the whole world.
To penetrate and dissipate these clouds
of darkness, the general mind must be strengthened by education.
Truth is certainly a branch of morality
and a very important one to society.
Walking is the best possible exercise.
Habituate yourself to walk very fast.
War is an instrument entirely
inefficient toward redressing wrong; and multiplies, instead of
We are not to expect to be translated
from despotism to liberty in a featherbed.
We did not raise armies for glory or for
We may consider each generation as a
distinct nation, with a right, by the will of its majority, to bind
themselves, but none to bind the succeeding generation, more than the
inhabitants of another country.
We never repent of having eaten too
Were it left to me to decide whether we
should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a
government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.
When a man assumes a public trust he
should consider himself a public property.
When angry count to ten before you
speak. If very angry, count to one hundred.
When we get piled upon one another in
large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe.
When you reach the end of your rope, tie
a knot in it and hang on.
Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on
offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct.
Whenever the people are well-informed,
they can be trusted with their own government.
Whenever you do a thing, act as if all
the world were watching.
Where the press is free and every man
able to read, all is safe.
Wisdom I know is social. She seeks her
fellows. But Beauty is jealous, and illy bears the presence of a rival.