Quotes by Thomas Jefferson

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He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and a third time till at length it becomes habitual.

The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time.
The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.
It is the trade of lawyers to question everything, yield nothing, and talk by the hour.
Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
That government is the strongest of which every man feels himself a part.
But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life; and thanks to a benevolent arrangement of things, the greater part of life is sunshine.
If there be one principle more deeply rooted than any other in the mind of every American, it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest.
Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.
How much pain worries have cost us that have never happened?
And to preserve their independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude.
I, however, place economy among the first and most important of republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared.
I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government to the genuine principles of its constitution; I mean an additional article, taking from the federal government the power of borrowing.
If, in my retirement to the humble station of a private citizen, I am accompanied with the esteem and approbation of my fellow citizens, trophies obtained by the bloodstained steel, or the tattered flags of the tented field, will never be envied. The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government.
It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.
Tranquility is the old man's milk.
The glow of one warm thought is to me worth more than money.
Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter.
Errors of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.
Peace and friendship with all mankind is our wisest policy, and I wish we may be permitted to pursue it.
When a man assumes a public trust he should consider himself a public property.
No man will ever bring out of the Presidency the reputation which carries him into it.
The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave.
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.
Take not from the mouth of labor the bread it as earned.
I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.
Whenever there are in any country uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labor and live on. The small landowners are the most precious part of a state.
The world is indebted for all triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression.
A coward is much more exposed to quarrels than a man of spirit.
A strict observance of the written laws is doubtless one of the high virtues 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.
It is part of the American character to consider nothing as desperate -- to surmount every difficulty by resolution and contrivance.
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.
There is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents.
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.
Nothing is more incumbent on the old, than to know when they shall get out of the way, and relinquish to younger successors the honors they can no longer earn and the duties they can no longer perform.
Peace with all nations, and the right which that gives us with respect to all nations, are our object.
Yet where does this anarchy exist? Where did it ever exist, except in the single instance of Massachusets? And can history produce an instance of a rebellion so honourably conducted? God forbid we should ever be 20. years without such a rebellion. The people can not be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty.
In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.
I am for a government rigorously frugal & simple, applying all the possible savings of the public revenue to the discharge of the national debt; and not for a multiplication of officers & salaries merely to make partisans, & for increasing, by every device, the public debt, on the principle of its being a public blessing.
Almighty God hath created the mind free. All attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship or ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion. 1 I know but one code of morality for men whether acting singly or collectively. 2
To preserve the freedom of the human mind and freedom of the press, every spirit should be ready to devote itself to martyrdom; for as long as we may think as we will, and speak as we think the condition of man will proceed in improvement. The generation which is going off the stage has deserved well of mankind for the struggles it has made, and for having arrested the course of despotism which had overwhelmed the world for thousands and thousands of years. If there seems to be danger that the ground they have gained will be lost again, that danger comes from the generation your contemporary. But that the enthusiasm which characterizes youth should lift its parricide hands against freedom and science would be such a monstrous phenomenon as I cannot place among possible things in this age and country.
I confess I have the same fears for our South American brethren; the qualifications for self-government in society are not innate. They are the result of habit and long training, and for these they will require time and probably much suffering.
If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretence of taking care of them, they must become happy.
Were we directed from Washington when to sow, & when to reap, we should soon want bread.
Perfect happiness I believe was never intended by the deity to be the lot of any one of his creatures in this world; but that he has very much put in our power the nearness of our approaches to it, is what I as stedfastly believe.
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.
Always take hold of things by the smooth handle.
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.
I have not observed men's honesty to increase with their riches.
While wading through the whimsies, the puerilities, and unintelligible jargon of this work [Plato's Republic], I laid it down often to ask myself how it could have been that the world should have so long consented to give reputation to such nonsense as this?
Politics are such a torment that I would advise every one I love not to mix with them.
Pride costs more than hunger, thirst and cold.
Public employment contributes neither to advantage nor happiness. It is but honorable exile from one's family and affairs.
The republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind.
Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
Resort is had to ridicule only when reason is against us.
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.
Speeches that are measured by the hour will die with the hour.
Taste cannot be controlled by law.

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