From the mouth and writings of
"No government can be maintained without the principle of fear as well as duty. Good men will obey the last, but bad ones the former only. If our government ever fails, it will be from this weakness."
--Thomas Jefferson to John Wayles Eppes, 1814. =Freedom of the Press= "The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and 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." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 1787. "Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe." --Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816. "Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it." -- Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, 1786 "I am... for freedom of the press, and against all violations of the Constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents." --Thomas Jefferson to Elbridge Gerry, 1799. "Lethargy is the forerunner of death to the public liberty." - -Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, 1787. "The art of printing secures us against the retrogradation of reason and information." --Thomas Jefferson to Pierre Paganel, 1811. "Considering the great importance to the public liberty of the freedom of the press, and the difficulty of submitting it to very precise rules, the laws have thought it less mischievous to give greater scope to its freedom than to the restraint of it." --Thomas Jefferson to the Spanish Commissioners, 1793. "No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804. "This formidable censor of the public functionaries [the press], by arraigning them at the tribunal of public opinion, produces reform peaceably, which must otherwise be done by revolution. It is also the best instrument for enlightening the mind of man and improving him as a rational, moral, and social being." --Thomas Jefferson to A. Coray, 1823. "Our citizens may be deceived for awhile, and have been deceived; but as long as the presses can be protected, we may trust to them for light." --Thomas Jefferson to Archibald Stuart. 1799. "The press is impotent when it abandons itself to falsehood." --Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Seymour, 1807. "God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion... We have had thirteen States independent for eleven years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century and a half, for each State. What country before ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion?" - -Thomas Jefferson to William S. Smith, 1787. ME 6:372 "I do verily believe that..a single, consolidated government would become the most corrupt government on the earth." -- Thomas Jefferson to Gideon Granger, 1800. "It is a happy circumstance in human affairs that evils which are not cured in one way will cure themselves in some other." --Thomas Jefferson to John Sinclair, 1791. "The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest." --Thomas Jefferson: Rights of British America, 1774. ME 1:209, Papers 1:134 "I hold it that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms are 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 their punishment of rebellions, as not to discourage them too much. It is medicine necessary for the sound health of government." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1787. ME 6:65 "It is more honorable to repair a wrong than to persist in it." --Thomas Jefferson: Address to Cherokee Nation, 1806. "[It is] by their votes the people exercise their sovereignty." --Thomas Jefferson: written note in Montesquieu's Spirit of the Laws. "Experience [has] shown that, even under the best forms [of government], those entrusted with power have, in time and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny." --Thomas Jefferson: Diffusion of Knowledge Bill, 1779. "In truth, man is not made to be trusted for life if secured against all liability to account." --Thomas Jefferson to A. Coray, 1823. "I love to see honest and honorable men at the helm, men who will not bend their politics to their purses nor pursue measures by which they may profit and then profit by their measures." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Rutledge, 1796. "An honest man can feel no pleasure in the exercise of power over his fellow citizens... Power is not alluring to pure minds and is not with them the primary principle of contest." --Thomas Jefferson to John Melish, 1813. "Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on [offices] a rottenness begins in his conduct." --Thomas Jefferson to Tench Coxe, 1799. "It would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights. Confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism. Free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence." --Thomas Jefferson: Draft, Kentucky Resolutions, 1798. "To inform the minds of the people, and to follow their will, is the chief duty of those placed at their head." -- Thomas Jefferson to C. W. F. Dumas, 1787. "Let nothing be spared of either reason or passion to preserve the public confidence entire as the only rock of our safety." --Thomas Jefferson to Caesar Rodney, 1810. "It is the old practice of despots to use a part of the people to keep the rest in order; and those who have once got an ascendency and possessed themselves of all the resources of the nation, their revenues and offices, have immense means for retaining their advantages." --Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor, 1798. "[No] degree of power in the hands of government [will] prevent insurrections." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1787. Papers 12:442. "Our children will be as wise as we are and will establish in the fulness of time those things not yet ripe for establishment." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1810. "Looking forward with anxiety to [the] future destinies [of my fellow citizens], I trust that, in their steady character unshaken by difficulties, in their love of liberty, obedience to law, and support of the public authorities, I see a sure guaranty of the permanence of our republic." -- Thomas Jefferson: 8th Annual Message, 1808. ME 3:485 "The framers of our constitution certainly supposed they had guarded, as well their government against destruction by treason, as their citizens against oppression under pretence of it; and if these ends are not attained, it is of importance to inquire by what means, more effectual, they may be secured." --Thomas Jefferson: 7th Annual Message, 1807. ME 3:452 "The great object of my fear is the Federal Judiciary. That body, like gravity, ever acting with noiseless foot and unalarming advance, gaining ground step by step and holding what it gains, is engulfing insidiously the special governments into the jaws of that which feeds them." -- Thomas Jefferson to Spencer Roane, 1821. "The liberty of speaking and writing guards our other liberties." --Thomas Jefferson: Reply to Address, 1808. "We are bound, you, I, and every one to make common cause, even with error itself, to maintain the common right of freedom of conscience." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Dowse, 1803. "The press is impotent when it abandons itself to falsehood." --Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Seymour, 1807. "[An occasional insurrection] will not weigh against the inconveniences of a government of force, such as are monarchies and aristocracies." --Thomas Jefferson to T. B. Hollis, July 2, 1787. (*) ME 6:155 "The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere." --Thomas Jefferson to Abigail Adams, 1787. "We, too, shall encounter follies; but if great, they will be short, if long, they will be light; and the vigor of our country will get the better of them." --Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Digges, 1806. ME 11:113 "Confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism. Free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence." - - Thomas Jefferson: Draft, Kentucky Resolutions, 1798. "Leave no authority existing not responsible to the people." - -Thomas Jefferson to Isaac H. Tiffany, 1816. "The elective franchise, if guarded as the ark of our safety, will peaceably dissipate all combinations to subvert a Constitution, dictated by the wisdom, and resting on the will of the people." --Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Waring, 1801. "Unless the mass retains sufficient control over those entrusted with the powers of their government, these will be perverted to their own oppression, and to the perpetuation of wealth and power in the individuals and their families selected for the trust. Whether our Constitution has hit on the exact degree of control necessary, is yet under experiment." --Thomas Jefferson to M. van der Kemp, 1812. "A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular; and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inferences." -- Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1787. "A bill of rights [will] guard liberty against the legislative as well as the executive branches of the government." --Thomas Jefferson to Francis Hopkinson, 1789. "By a declaration of rights, I mean one which shall stipulate freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of commerce against monopolies, trial by juries in all cases, no suspensions of the habeas corpus, no standing armies. These are fetters against doing evil which no honest government should decline." --Thomas Jefferson to Alexander Donald, 1788. "I sincerely wish we could see our government so secured as to depend less on the character of the person in whose hands it is trusted. Bad men will sometimes get in and with such an immense patronage may make great progress in corrupting the public mind and principles. This is a subject with which wisdom and patriotism should be occupied." -- Thomas Jefferson to Moses Robinson, 1801. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends [i.e., securing inherent and inalienable rights, with powers derived from the consent of the governed], it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness." -- Thomas Jefferson: Declaration of Independence, 1776. ME 1:29, Papers 1:315 "This I hope will be the age of experiments in government, and that their basis will be founded in principles of honesty, not of mere force." --Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1796. FE 7:56 "I like to see the people awake and alert. The good sense of the people will soon lead them back if they have erred in a moment of surprise." --Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1786. "We are all... in agitation, even in our peaceful country. For in peace as well as in war, the mind must be kept in motion." --Thomas Jefferson to Lafayette, 1823. ME 15:491 "History, in general, only informs us what bad government is." --Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell, 1807. ME 11:223 "I will not believe our labors are lost. I shall not die without a hope that light and liberty are on steady advance." --Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1821. ME 15:334 "The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves in all cases to which they think themselves competent (as in electing their functionaries executive and legislative, and deciding by a jury of themselves in all judiciary cases in which any fact is involved), or they may act by representatives, freely and equally chosen; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed; that they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of the press." --Thomas Jefferson to John Cartwright, 1824. ME 16:45 Most codes extend their definitions of treason to acts not really against one's country. They do not distinguish between acts against the government, and acts against the oppressions of the government. The latter are virtues, yet have furnished more victims to the executioner than the former, because real treasons are rare; oppressions frequent. The unsuccessful strugglers against tyranny have been the chief martyrs of treason laws in all countries." -- Thomas Jefferson: Report on Spanish Convention, 1792. "To constrain the brute force of the people, [the European governments] deem it necessary to keep them down by hard labor, poverty and ignorance, and to take from them, as from bees, so much of their earnings, as that unremitting labor shall be necessary to obtain a sufficient surplus to sustain a scanty and miserable life." --Thomas Jefferson to William Johnson, 1823. ME 15:440 "We are to guard against ourselves; not against ourselves as we are, but as we may be; for who can imagine what we may become under circumstances not now imaginable?" -- Thomas Jefferson to Jedidiah Morse, 1822. ME 15:360 "Whenever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force." -- Thomas Jefferson: Kentucky Resolutions, 1798. "Government as well as religion has furnished its schisms, its persecutions, and its devices for fattening idleness on the earnings of the people." --Thomas Jefferson to Charles Clay, 1815. ME 14:233 "Were we directed from Washington when to sow and when to reap, we should soon want bread." --Thomas Jefferson: Autobiography, 1821. ME 1:122 "Anarchy [is] necessarily consequent to inefficiency." -- Thomas Jefferson to George Mason, 1790. ME 8:35 "We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude." --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1816. ME 15:39 "We are now vibrating between too much and too little government, and the pendulum will rest finally in the middle." --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Smith, 1788. FE 5:3 "A just mean [would be] a government of laws addressed to the reason of the people and not to their weaknesses." -- Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph, 1793. ME 9:13 I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive. It places the governors indeed more at their ease, at the expense of the people." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1787. (Forrest version) ME 6:391 "The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 1788. ME 7:37 "It was by the sober sense of our citizens that we were safely and steadily conducted from monarchy to republicanism, and it is by the same agency alone we can be kept from falling back." --Thomas Jefferson to Arthur Campbell, 1797. ME 9:421 "The boisterous sea of liberty indeed is never without a wave." --Thomas Jefferson to Lafayette, 1820. ME 15:300 "[It is] in maintenance of [our] principles... I verily believe the future happiness of our country essentially depends." --Thomas Jefferson to Spencer Roane, 1819. ME 15:216 "Whenever our own dissensions shall let [monarchism and Anglicism] in upon us, the last ray of free government closes on the horizon of the world." --Thomas Jefferson to William Duane, 1811. ME 13:66 "So long as [the principles of our revolution] prevail, we are safe from everything which can assail us from without or within." --Thomas Jefferson to William Lambert, 1810. ME 12:397 "The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the first and only legitimate object of good government." --Thomas Jefferson to Maryland Republicans, 1809. ME 16:359 "The energies of the nation... shall be reserved for improvement of the condition of man, not wasted in his destruction." --Thomas Jefferson: Reply to Address, 1801. ME 10:248 "All religions are equally independent here, our laws knowing no distinction of country, of classes among individuals and with nations, our [creed] is justice and reciprocity." --Thomas Jefferson to the Emperor of Morocco, 1803. ME 19:136 "The only orthodox object of the institution of government is to secure the greatest degree of happiness possible to the general mass of those associated under it." --Thomas Jefferson to M. van der Kemp, 1812. ME 13:135 "The first object of human association [is] the full improvement of their condition." --Thomas Jefferson: Declaration and Protest of Virginia, 1825. ME 17:444 "May [our Declaration of Independence] be to the world, what I believe it will be (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all), the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self- government... All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man." - - Thomas Jefferson to Roger C. Weightman, 1826. ME 16:181 "The happiness of governments like ours wherein the people are truly the mainspring is that they are never to be despaired of. When an evil becomes so glaring as to strike them generally, they arouse themselves, and it is redressed. He only is then the popular man and can get into office who shows the best dispositions to reform the evil. This truth was obvious on several occasions during the [Revolutionary] war, and this character in our government saved us. Calamity [is] our best physician." --Thomas Jefferson to Richard Price, 1785. Papers 7:630 "We exist and are quoted as standing proofs that a government so modeled as to rest continually on the will of the whole society is a practicable government. Were we to break in pieces, it would damp the hopes and the efforts of the good and give triumph to those of the bad [throughout] the whole enslaved world. As members, therefore, of the universal society of mankind and standing in high and responsible relation with them, it is our sacred duty to suppress passion among ourselves and not to blast the confidence we have inspired of proof that a government of reason is better than one of force." --Thomas Jefferson to Richard Rush, 1820. ME 15:284 "Time indeed changes manners and notions, and so far we must expect institutions to bend to them. But time produces also corruption of principles, and against this it is the duty of good citizens to be ever on the watch, and if the gangrene is to prevail at last, let the day be kept off as long as possible." --Thomas Jefferson to Spencer Roane, 1821. ME 15:325 "I have never dreamed that all opposition was to cease. The clergy, who have missed their union with the State, the Anglomen, who have missed their union with England, and the political adventurers, who have lost the chance of swindling and plunder in the waste of public money, will never cease to bawl on the breaking up of their sanctuary." - -Thomas Jefferson to Gideon Granger, 1801. ME 10:259 "Whenever our own dissensions shall let [monarchism and Anglicism] in upon us, the last ray of free government closes on the horizon of the world." --Thomas Jefferson to William Duane, 1811. ME 13:66 "So long as [the principles of our revolution] prevail, we are safe from everything which can assail us from without or within." --Thomas Jefferson to William Lambert, 1810. ME 12:397 "[We] should look forward to a time, and that not a distant one, when corruption in this as in the country from which we derive our origin will have seized the heads of government and be spread by them through the body of the people; when they will purchase the voices of the people and make them pay the price. Human nature is the same on every side of the Atlantic and will be alike influenced by the same causes." - - Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XIII, 1782. ME 2:164 "How long we can hold our ground, I do not know. We are not incorruptible; on the contrary, corruption is making sensible though silent progress." --Thomas Jefferson to Tench Coxe, 1799 "Even in this, the birth of our government, some members [of the Legislature] were found sordid enough to bend their duty to their interests and to look after personal rather than public good." -- Thomas Jefferson: The Anas, 1818. ME 1:271 "[Montesquieu wrote in Spirit of the Laws, VIII,c.12:] 'When once a republic is corrupted, there is no possibility of remedying any of the growing evils but by removing the corruption and restoring its lost principles; every other correction is either useless or a new evil.'" - -Thomas Jefferson: copied into his Commonplace Book. "The time to guard against corruption and tyranny is before they shall have gotten hold of us. It is better to keep the wolf out of the fold, than to trust to drawing his teeth and talons after he shall have entered." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XIII, 1782. ME 2:165 "[We] owe to republicanism, and indeed to the future hopes of man, a faithful record of the march of this government, which may encourage the oppressed to go and do so likewise." - -Thomas Jefferson to Joel Barlow, 1810. ME 12:351 "The system of government which shall keep us afloat amidst the wreck of the world, will be immortalized in history." -- Thomas Jefferson to Walter Jones, 1810. ME 12:372 "With all the imperfections of our present government, it is without comparison the best existing, or that ever did exist." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 1787. ME 6:227 "In the hour of death we shall have the consolation to see established in the land of our fathers the most wonderful work of wisdom and disinterested patriotism that has ever yet appeared on the globe." --Thomas Jefferson to George Clinton, 1803. ME 10:440 "The flames kindled on the Fourth of July, 1776, have spread over too much of the globe to be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism; on the contrary, they will consume these engines and all who work them." --Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1821. ME 15:334 "The spirit of our citizens,... rising with a strength and majesty which show the loveliness of freedom, will make this government in practice what it is in principle, a model for the protection of man in a state of freedom and order." -- Thomas Jefferson to Thaddeus Kosciusko, 1799. ME 10:116 "We can no longer say there is nothing new under the sun. For this whole chapter in the history of man is new. The great extent of our republic is new. Its sparse habitation is new. The mighty wave of public opinion which has rolled over it is new." -- Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Priestley, 1801. ME 10:229 "The main body of our citizens... remain true to their republican principles; the whole landed interest is republican, and so is a great mass of talents. Against us are... all timid men who prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty... We are likely to preserve the liberty we have obtained only by unremitting labors and perils. But we shall preserve it, and our mass of weight and wealth on the good side is so great as to leave no danger that force will ever be attempted against us." -- Thomas Jefferson to Philip Mazzei, 1796. ME 9:336 Trusting the Wisdom of the Future "The daily advance of science will enable [the existing generation] to administer the commonwealth with increased wisdom." --Thomas Jefferson to Lafayette, 1823. ME 15:494 "Those who will come after us will be as wise as we are, and as able to take care of themselves as we have been." -- Thomas Jefferson to Pierre Samuel Dupont de Nemours, 1811. ME 13:40 "The rising race are all republicans. We were educated in royalism; no wonder, if some of us retain that idolatry still. Our young people are educated in republicanism; an apostasy from that to royalism is unprecedented and impossible." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789. ME 7:312 When the Nation is Duped "Every nation is liable to be under whatever bubble, design, or delusion may puff up in moments when off their guard." --Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816. ME 14:381 "The spirit of 1776 is not dead. It has only been slumbering. The body of the American people is substantially republican. But their virtuous feelings have been played on by some fact with more fiction; they have been the dupes of artful maneuvers, and made for a moment to be willing instruments in forging chains for themselves. But times and truth dissipated the delusion, and opened their eyes." -- Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Lomax, 1799. ME 10:123 "The unquestionable republicanism of the American mind will break through the mist under which it has been clouded, and will oblige its agents to reform the principles and practices of their administration." --Thomas Jefferson to Elbridge Gerry, 1799. ME 10:83 "Every people may establish what form of government they please, and change it as they please, the will of the nation being the only thing essential." --Thomas Jefferson: The Anas, 1792. ME 1:330 "[The proposal to establish a new] form of government... is a work of the most interesting nature, and such as every individual would wish to have his voice in... Should a bad government be instituted for us in future, it had been as well to have accepted at first the bad one offered to us from beyond the water without the risk and expense of contest." --Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Nelson, 1776. ME 4:254, "The excellence of every government is its adaptation to the state of those to be governed by it." --Thomas Jefferson to Pierre Samuel Dupont de Nemours, 1816. ME 14:487 "Shall we mould our citizens to the law, or the law to our citizens? And in solving this question their peculiar character is an element not to be neglected." --Thomas Jefferson to John Quincy Adams, 1817. ME 15:145 "The laws... which must effect [a people's happiness] must flow from their own habits, their own feelings, and the resources of their own minds. No stranger to these could possibly propose regulations adapted to them. Every people have their own particular habits, ways of thinking, manners, etc., which have grown up with them from their infancy, are become a part of their nature, and to which the regulations which are to make them happy must be accommodated." -- Thomas Jefferson to William Lee, 1817. ME 15:101 "My confidence in our present high functionaries, as well as in my countrymen generally, leaves me without much fear for the future." -- Thomas Jefferson to James Fishback, 1809. ME 12:315 ME, FE = Memorial Edition, Ford Edition. See Sources. Sources. http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/jefferson/quotations/jeffbibl .htm#source --Quotations from the Writings of Thomas Jefferson ------ Compiled and Edited by Eyler Robert Coates, Sr. Metairie, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana