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Thomas Jefferson Quotes

Thomas Jefferson Quotes from his own letters and writings from 1787 to 1790. These years cover the latter half of Jefferson's years as America's Ambassador to France and the very beginning of his term as Secretary of State under President Washington. Most of these Thomas Jefferson Quotes come from letters to such people as James Madison, the Marquis de Lafayette and Peter Carr, Jefferson's nephew, to whom he wrote many letters giving him advice as a young man. Topics covered in these quotes include such things as his recommendations on how to study the Bible, the necessity of armed rebellion against tyranny and his love of his family and home, Monticello. Thomas Jefferson was one of the great leaders of the American Revolution. He wrote the Declaration of Independence, served as Ambassador to France, Secretary of State, Vice President and later became the 3rd President of the United States. These Thomas Jefferson Quotes are listed chronologically with links to more from both before and after this time period at the bottom of the page.

Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson Quotes

"You will next read the new testament. It is the history of a personage called Jesus. Keep in your eye the opposite pretensions I. of those who say he was begotten by god, born of a virgin, suspended & reversed the laws of nature at will, & ascended bodily into heaven: and 2. of those who say he was a man of illegitimate birth, of a benevolent heart, enthusiastic mind, who set out without pretensions to divinity, ended in believing them, & was Punished capitally for sedition by being gibbeted according to the Roman law which punished the first commission of that offence by whipping, & the second by exile or death in furcâ." - Letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787

"Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it ends in a belief that there is no god, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise, and the love of others which it will procure you. If you find reason to believe there is a God, a consciousness that you are acting under his eye, and that he approves you, will be a vast additional incitement; if that there be a future state, the hope of a happy existence in that increases the appetite to deserve it; if that Jesus was also a god, you will be comforted by a belief of his aid and love." - Letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787

"In fine, I repeat, you must lay aside all prejudice on both sides, and neither believe nor reject anything, because any other persons, or description of persons, have rejected or believed it. Your own reason is the only oracle given you by heaven, and you are answerable, not for the rightness, but uprightness of the decision." - Letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787

"When speaking of the new testament that you should read all the histories of Christ, as well of those whom a council of ecclesiastics have decided for us to be Pseudo-evangelists, as those they named Evangelists. Because these Pseudo-evangelists pretended to inspiration as much as the others, and you are to judge their pretensions by your own reason, & not by the reason of those ecclesiastics. Most of these are lost. There are some however still extant, collected by Fabricius which I will endeavor to get & send you." - Letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787

"I am as happy no where else and in no other society, and all my wishes end, where I hope my days will end, at Monticello. Too many scenes of happiness mingle themselves with all the recollections of my native woods and fields, to suffer them to be supplanted in my affection by any other." - Letter to George Gilmer, August 12, 1787

"God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, & 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. We have had 13. states independent 11. years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century & a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century & half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve it's liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it's natural manure. Our Convention has been too much impressed by the insurrection of Massachusetts: and in the spur of the moment they are setting up a kite to keep the hen-yard in order. I hope in God this article will be rectified before the new constitution is accepted." - Letter to William Stephens Smith, November 13, 1787

"I think our governments will remain virtuous for many centuries; as long as they are chiefly agricultural." - Letter to James Madison, December 20, 1787

"In a world which furnishes so many employments which are useful, so many which are amusing, it is our own fault if we ever know what ennui (boredom) is, or if we are ever driven to the miserable resources of gaming, which corrupts our dispositions, and teaches us a habit of hostility against all mankind." - Letter to Martha Jefferson, 1787

"I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give." - Letter to Alexander Donald, February 7, 1788

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Thomas Jefferson Quotes

Monticello - Home of Thomas Jefferson
Monticello - Home of
Thomas Jefferson
"I have been planning what I would shew you: a flower here, a tree there; yonder a grove, near it a fountain; on this side a hill, on that a river. Indeed, madam, I know nothing so charming as our own country. The learned say it is a new creation; and I believe them; not for their reasons, but because it is made on an improved plan." - Letter to Angelica Church, February 17, 1788

"The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground." - Letter to Col. Edward Carrington, May 27, 1788

"Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights." - Letter to Richard Price, January 8, 1789

"The example of changing a constitution by assembling the wise men of the state, instead of assembling armies, will be worth as much to the world as the former examples we had given them. The constitution, too, which was the result of our deliberation, is unquestionably the wisest ever yet presented to men." - Letter to David Humphreys, March 18, 1789

"We have spent the prime of our lives in procuring (young men) the precious blessing of liberty. Let them spend theirs in shewing that it is the great parent of science and of virtue; and that a nation will be great in both always in proportion as it is free." - Letter to Joseph Willard, March 24, 1789

"Were I called upon to decide whether the people had best be omitted in the Legislative or Judiciary department, I would say it is better to leave them out of the Legislative. The execution of the laws is more important than the making them." - Letter to the Abbe Arnoux, July 19, 1789

"The will of the majority is the natural law of every society and is the only sure guardian of the rights of man. Perhaps even this may sometimes err. But its errors are honest, solitary and short-lived." - Response to the Citizens of Albemarle, February 12, 1790

"The republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind." - Letter to William Hunter, March 11, 1790

"The study of the law is useful in a variety of points of view. It qualifies a man to be useful to himself, to his neighbours, and to the public." - Letter to Thomas Mann Randolph, May 30, 1790

"We are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty in a featherbed." - Letter to the Marquis de Lafayette, April 2, 1790

"Do not neglect your music. It will be a companion which will sweeten many hours of life to you." - Letter to Martha Jefferson, daughter, April 4, 1790

"The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have past at home in the bosom of my family." - Letter to Francis Willis, Jr., April 18, 1790

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