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Thomas Jefferson Quotes

The Thomas Jefferson Quotes on this page are listed in chronological order beginning in 1762 and going through 1781. They are taken from his personal letters and writings. This time period covers the buildup to the American Revolution and much of the war itself. Many of these Thomas Jefferson Quotes are from his works A Summary View of the Rights of British America, written in 1774 to explain the offenses of England against the colonists and Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson's only published book. These quotes cover such topics as the inhumanity of slavery, his love of music and the importance of learning from history. Thomas Jefferson was one of the great leaders of the American Revolution. He wrote the Declaration of Independence and eventually became the 3rd President of the United States. These Thomas Jefferson Quotes are in chronological order and there are links to more after this time period below.

Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson Quotes

"And as for admiration I am sure the man who powders most, parfumes most, embroiders most, and talks most nonsense, is most admired." - Letter to J. Page, December 25, 1762

"A little attention however to the nature of the human mind evinces that the entertainments of fiction are useful as well as pleasant. That they are pleasant when well written every person feels who reads. But wherein is its utility asks the reverend sage, big with the notion that nothing can be useful but the learned lumber of Greek and Roman reading with which his head is stored? I answer, everything is useful which contributes to fix in the principles and practices of virtue." - Letter to Robert Skipwith, August 3, 1771

"There we should talk over the lessons of the day, or lose them in Musick, Chess, or the merriments of our family companions. The heart thus lightened, our pillows would be soft, and health and long life would attend the happy scene." - Letter to Robert Skipwith, August 3, 1771

"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." - Letter to Robert Skipwith, August 3, 1771

"It behooves you, therefore, to think and act for yourself and your people. The great principles of right and wrong are legible to every reader; to pursue them requires not the aid of many counselors. The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest. Only aim to do your duty, and mankind will give you credit where you fail." - A Summary View of the Rights of British America, August, 1774

"That these are our grievances which we have thus laid before his majesty, with that freedom of language and sentiment which becomes a free people claiming their rights as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate." - A Summary View of the Rights of British America, August, 1774

"The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them." - A Summary View of the Rights of British America, August, 1774

"Our properties within our own territories [should not] be taxed or regulated by any power on earth but our own." - A Summary View of the Rights of British America, August, 1774

"Our attachment to no nation upon earth should supplant our attachment to liberty." - Declaration of the Causes and Necessity for Taking Up Arms, June 26-July 6, 1775

"Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them if we basely entail hereditary bondage on them." - Declaration of the Causes and Necessities of Taking up Arms, July 6, 1775

"He (King George III) has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, & murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another..." - Original draft of the Declaration of Independence, June, 1776

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Thomas Jefferson Quotes

Monticello - Home of Thomas Jefferson
Monticello - Home of
Thomas Jefferson
"All persons shall have full and free liberty of religious opinion; nor shall any be compelled to frequent or maintain any religious institution." - Draft Constitution for the State of Virginia, June, 1776

"No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms [within his own lands]." - Draft Constitution for the State of Virginia, June, 1776

"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." - Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

"The children of Israel in the wilderness, led by a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night." - Proposal for the Seal of the new nation, 1776

"If there is a gratification which I envy any people in this world it is to your country [Italy] its music. This is the favorite passion of my soul, and fortune has cast my lot in a country where it is in a state of deplorable barbarism... The bounds of an American fortune will not admit the indulgence of a domestic band of musicians. Yet I have thought that a passion for music might be reconciled with that oeconomy which we are obliged to observe... In a country where, like yours, music is cultivated and practised by every class of men I suppose there might be found persons of those trades [gardener, weaver, cabinetmaker, stonecutter] who could perform on the French horn, clarinet, or hautboy and bassoon, so that one might have a band of two French horns, two clarinets, and hautboys and a bassoon, without enlarging their domest[ic] expenses." - Letter to Giovanni Fabbroni, June 8, 1778

"Were parties here divided merely by a greediness for office, as in England, to take part with either would be unworthy of a reasonable or moral man." - Letter to William Giles, December 31, 1779

"To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical." - Virginia Statutes of Religious Freedom, 1779

"Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong." - Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 6, 1781

"On every unauthoritative exercise of power by the legislature must the people rise in rebellion or their silence be construed into a surrender of that power to them? If so, how many rebellions should we have had already?" - Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 12, 1781

"An elective despotism was not the government we fought for, but one which should not only be founded on true free principles, but in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among general bodies of magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits without being effectually checked and restrained by the others. - Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 13, 1781

"[The purpose of a written constitution is] to bind up the several branches of government by certain laws, which, when they transgress, their acts shall become nullities; to render unnecessary an appeal to the people, or in other words a rebellion, on every infraction of their rights, on the peril that their acquiescence shall be construed into an intention to surrender those rights." - Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 13, 1781

"Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories." - Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 14, 1781

"History by apprising citizens of the past will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views." - Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 14, 1781

StarIf you liked our Thomas Jefferson Quotes, you can learn more about Thomas Jefferson at our Thomas Jefferson Facts page.

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