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Thomas Jefferson Quotes

These Thomas Jefferson Quotes are from his own writings and personal letters between 1790 and 1798. During this time, Jefferson served as Secretary of State under President George Washington and Vice-President under President John Adams. Many of these Thomas Jefferson Quotes come from letters to such people as George Washington, Noah Webster and Elbridge Gerry. Others come from his writings on such topics as the Constitutionality of a National Bank and the Kentucky Resolutions, which advocated the position that the federal government could not do anything it was not delegated in the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson is one of the great heros of the Revolutionary War. He was the main author of the Declaration of Independence and served as Ambassador to France, Secretary of State, Vice President and 3rd President of the United States. These Thomas Jefferson Quotes are listed chronologically with links to more both before and after this time period at the bottom.


Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson


Thomas Jefferson Quotes

"It had become an universal and almost uncontroverted Position in the several States, that the purposes of society do not require a surrender of all our rights to our ordinary governors: that there are certain portions of right not necessary to enable them to carry on an effective government, and which experience has nevertheless proved they will be constantly encroaching on, if submitted to them: that there are also certain fences which experience has proved peculiarly efficacious against wrong, and rarely obstructive of right, which yet the governing powers have ever shown a disposition to weaken and remove. Of the first kind, for instance, is freedom of religion: of the second, trial by jury, habeus corpus laws, free presses." - Letter to Noah Webster, December 4, 1790

"It is not honorable to take mere legal advantage, when it happens to be contrary to justice." - Opinion on Debts Due to Soldiers, 1790

"Hamilton was indeed a singular character. Of acute understanding, disinterested, honest, and honorable in all private transactions, amiable in society, and duly valuing virtue in private life, yet so bewitched & perverted by the British example, as to be under thoro' conviction that corruption was essential to the government of a nation." - On Alexander Hamilton in The Anas, 1791-1806

"It is an established rule of construction, where a phrase will bear either of two meanings to give it that which will allow some meaning to the other parts of the instrument, and not that which will render all the others useless. Certainly no such universal power was meant to be given to them. It was intended to lace them up straightly with in the enumerated powers, and those without which, as means, these powers could not be carried into effect." - Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank, February 15, 1791

"The incorporation of a bank and the powers assumed (by legislation doing so) have not, in my opinion, been delegated to the United States by the Constitution. They are not among the powers specially enumerated." - Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank, February 15, 1791

"They are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare, but only to lay taxes for that purpose. To consider the latter phrase not as describing the purpose of the first, but as giving a distinct and independent power to do any act they please which may be good for the Union, would render all the preceding and subsequent enumerations of power completely useless. It would reduce the whole instrument to a single phrase, that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the United States; and as they sole judges of the good or evil, it would be also a power to do whatever evil they please... Certainly no such universal power was meant to be given them. It was intended to lace them up straightly within the enumerated powers and those without which, as means, these powers could not be carried into effect." - Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank, February 15, 1791

"I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground that 'all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states or to the people.' To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power not longer susceptible of any definition." - Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank, February 15, 1791

"It would reduce the whole instrument to a single phrase, that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the United States; and as they would be the sole judges of the good or evil, it would be also a power to do whatever evil they please. Certainly no such universal power was meant to be given them. It (the Constitution) was intended to lace them up straightly within the enumerated powers and those without which, as means, these powers could not be carried into effect." - Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank, February 15, 1791

"On the whole I find nothing any where else in point of climate which Virginia need envy to any part of the world... Spring and autumn, which make a paradise of our country, are rigorous winter with them (New Englanders)... When we consider how much climate contributes to the happiness of our condition, by the fine sensations it excites, and the productions it is the parents of, we have reason to value highly the accident of birth in such an one as that of Virginia." - Letter to Thomas Mann Randolph, May 31, 1791

"New England botanical specimens "either unknown or rare in Virginia" include "an Azalea very different from the Nudiflora, with very large clusters of flowers, more thickly set on the branches, of a deeper red and high pink fragrance. It is the richest shrub I have seen." - Letter to Thomas Mann Randolph, June 5, 1791

"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniencies attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it." - Letter to Archibald Stewart, December 23, 1791

"Let what will be said or done, preserve your sang-froid immovably, and to every obstacle, oppose patience, perseverance, and soothing language." - Letter to William Short, March 18, 1792

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Thomas Jefferson Quotes

Monticello - Home of Thomas Jefferson
Monticello - Home of
Thomas Jefferson
"Good husbandry with us consists in abandoning Indian corn and tobacco, tending small grain, some red clover following, and endeavoring to have, while the lands are at rest, a spontaneous cover of white clover. I do not present this as a culture judicious in itself, but as good in comparison with what most people there pursue." - Letter to George Washington, June 28, 1793

"The President was much inflamed; got into one of those passions when he cannot command himself; ran on much on the personal abuse which had been bestowed on him: defied any man on earth to produce one single act of his since he had been in the government, which was not done on the purest motives; that he had never repented but once the having slipped the moment of resigning his office, and that was every moment since: that by God he had rather be in his grave than in his situation ; that be had rather be On his farm than to be made Emperor of the world; and yet that they were charging him with wanting to be a King." - Personal Notes, August 2, 1793

"I am sorry La Motte has put me to the expense of one hundred and forty livres for a French translation of an English poem, as I make it a rule never to read translations where I can read the original." - Letter to Edmund Randolph, February 3, 1794

"It (agriculture) is at the same time the most tranquil, healthy, and independent (occupation)." - Letter to Jean Nicolas Démeunier, April 29, 1795

"In our private pursuits it is a great advantage that every honest employment is deemed honorable. I am myself a nail-maker." - Letter to Jean Nicolas Démeunier, April 29, 1795

"I am become the most industrious and ardent farmer of the canton..." - Letter to Madame de Tesse, September 8, 1795

"The President, who errs as other men do, but errs with integrity." - Letter to William Branch Giles, December 31, 1795

"The second office of this government is honorable & easy, the first is but a splendid misery." - Letter to Elbridge Gerry, May 13, 1797

"I have been happy, however, in believing, from the stifling of this effort, that that dose was found too strong, & excited as much repugnance there as it did horror in other parts of our country, & that whatever follies we may be led into as to foreign nations, we shall never give up our Union, the last anchor of our hope, & that alone which is to prevent this heavenly country from becoming an arena of gladiators. Much as I abhor war, and view it as the greatest scourge of mankind, and anxiously as I wish to keep out of the broils of Europe, I would yet go with my brethren into these, rather than separate from them. But I hope we may still keep clear of them, notwithstanding our present thraldom, & that time may be given us to reflect on the awful crisis we have passed through, and to find some means of shielding ourselves in future from foreign influence, political, commercial, or in whatever other form it may be attempted. I can scarcely withhold myself from joining in the wish of Silas Deane, that there were an ocean of fire between us & the old world." - Letter to Elbridge Gerry, May 13, 1797

"War is not the best engine for us to resort to; nature has given us one in our commerce, which if properly managed, will be a better instrument for obliging the interested nations of Europe to treat us with justice." - Letter to Thomas Pinckney, May 29, 1797

"Harmony in the married state is the very first object to be aimed at." - Letter to Mary Jefferson Eppes, January 7, 1798

"Every State has a natural right in cases not within the compact (casus non faederis) to nullify of their own authority all assumptions of power by others within their limits. Without this right, they would be under the dominion, absolute and unlimited, of whosoever might exercise this right of judgment for them." - Draft of Kentucky Resolutions, October, 1798

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Did you enjoy these Thomas Jefferson Quotes? Check out these inspirational quotations from some other Founding Fathers



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