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Quotes by Thomas Jefferson

These Quotes by Thomas Jefferson come from his own personal correspondence with such people as John Adams, James Monroe and James Madison from the years 1821 to 1824. At this period, Jefferson is an old man and will die within two years. Some of these quotes are also taken from his autobiography. These Quotes by Thomas Jefferson cover such topics as his fear that the judiciary would unravel the fabric of the nation, his hope that slavery would be abolished and his desire that the Founders' intent be examined when there were questions about the meaning of the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson was one of the great leaders of the Revolutionary War. He wrote the Declaration of Independence and eventually became the 3rd President of the United States. These Quotes by Thomas Jefferson are listed chronologically with links to more at the bottom.

Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson

Quotes by Thomas Jefferson

"With respect to the boys I never till lately doubted but that I should be able to give them a competence as comfortable farmers, and no station is more honorable or happy than that." - Letter to Thomas Mann Randolph, July 30, 1821

"t has long, however, been my opinion, and I have never shrunk from its expression, (although I do not choose to put it into a newspaper, nor, like a Priam in armor, offer myself its champion,) the germ of dissolution of our federal government is in the constitution of the federal judiciary: an irresponsible body, (for impeachment is scarcely a scare-crow,) working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little to-day and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction until all shall be usurped from the States, and the government of all be consolidated into one. To this I am opposed; because, when all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the centre of all it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated." - Letter to Charles Hammond, August 18, 1821

"And even should the cloud of barbarism and despotism again obscure the science and libraries of Europe, this country remains to preserve and restore light and liberty to them. In short, 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." - Letter to John Adams, September 12, 1821

"In 1769, I became a member of the legislature by the choice of the county in which I live (Albemarle County, Virginia), and so continued until it was closed by the Revolution. I made one effort in that body for the permission of the emancipation of slaves, which was rejected: and indeed, during the regal government, nothing (like this) could expect success." - Autobiography, 1821

"Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free." - Autobiography, 1821

"Were we directed from Washington when to sow, and when to reap, we should soon want bread." - Autobiography, 1821

"If the present Congress errs in too much talking, how can it be otherwise in a body to which the people send 150 lawyers, whose trade it is to question everything, yield nothing, & talk by the hour? That 150 lawyers should do business together ought not to be expected." - Autobiography, 1821

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Quotes by Thomas Jefferson!

Monticello - Home of Thomas Jefferson
Monticello - Home of
Thomas Jefferson
"Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the spot of every wind. With such persons, gullability, which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason and the mind becomes a wreck." - Letter to James Smith, December 8, 1822

"It is a duty certainly to give our sparings to those who want; but to see also that they are faithfully distributed, and duly apportioned to the respective wants of those receivers. And why give through agents whom we know not, to persons whom we know not, and in countries from which we get no account, where we can do it at short hand, to objects under our eye, through agents we know, and to supply wants we see?" - Letter to Michael Megear, May 29, 1823

"Laws are made for men of ordinary understanding and should, therefore, be construed by the ordinary rules of common sense. Their meaning is not to be sought for in metaphysical subtleties which may make anything mean everything or nothing at pleasure." - Letter to Justice William Johnson, June 12, 1823

"To preserve the republican form and principles of our Constitution and cleave to the salutary distribution of powers which that has established. These are the two sheet anchors of our Union. If driven from either, we shall be in danger of foundering." - Letter to Justice William Johnson, June 12, 1823

"On every question of construction carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed." - Letter to Justice William Johnson, June 12, 1823

"The Court determined at once, that being an original process, they had no Cognizance of it; and therefore the question before them was ended. But the Chief Justice went to lay down what the law would be, had they jurisdiction of the case, to-wit: that they should command the delivery. The object was clearly to instruct any other court having the jurisdiction, what they should do if Marbury should apply to them. Besides the impropriety of this gratuitous interference, could anything exceed the perversion of law?" - Letter to Justice William Johnson, June 12, 1823

"The States can best govern our home concerns and the general government our foreign ones. I wish, therefore... never to see all offices transferred to Washington, where, further withdrawn from the eyes of the people, they may more secretly be bought and sold at market." - Letter to Justice William Johnson, June 12, 1823

"I know only that I turned to neither book nor pamphlet while writing it. I did not consider it as any part of my charge to invent new ideas altogether, and to offer no sentiment which had ever been expressed before." - Letter to James Madison, commenting on the Declaration of Independence, August 30, 1823

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Quotes by Thomas Jefferson

"I agree with you that it is the duty of every good citizen to use all the opportunities, which occur to him, for preserving documents relating to the history of our country." - Letter to Hugh P. Taylor, October 4, 1823

"Whatever enables us to go to war, secures our peace." - Letter to James Monroe, October 24, 1823

"At the establishment of our constitutions, the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the government. Experience, however, soon showed in what way they were to become the most dangerous; that the insufficiency of the means provided for their removal gave them a freehold and irresponsibility in office; that their decisions, seeming to concern individual suitors only, pass silent and unheeded by the public at large; that these decisions, nevertheless, become law by precedent, sapping, by little and little, the foundations of the constitution, and working its change by construction, before any one has perceived that that invisible and helpless worm has been busily employed in consuming its substance. In truth, man is not made to be trusted for life, if secured against all liability to account." - Letter to Monsieur A. Coray, October 31, 1823

"A rigid economy of the public contributions and absolute interdiction of all useless expenses will go far towards keeping the government honest and unoppressive." - Letter to the Marquis de Lafayette, 1823

"In my catalogue, considering ethics, as well as religion, as supplements to law in the government of man, I had placed them in that sequence." - Letter to Judge Augustus Woodward, March 24, 1824

"I should consider the speeches of Livy, Sallust, and Tacitus, as preeminent specimens of logic, taste and that sententious brevity which, using not a word to spare, leaves not a moment for inattention to the hearer. Amplification is the vice of modern oratory." - Letter to David Harding, April 20, 1824

"The Declaration of Independence... (is the) declaratory charter of our rights, and the rights of man." - Letter to Samuel Adams Wells, May 12, 1821

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