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Thomas Jefferson Quotes

These Thomas Jefferson Quotes are from the years 1798 to 1801 and are taken from his own letters, speeches and writings. This is the period when Thomas Jefferson was Vice President under John Adams up to the Inauguration of his first term as the 3rd President. Many of these Thomas Jefferson Quotes come from his First Inaugural Address and from the Kentucky Resolutions, which advocated the position that the federal government had no authority to do anything it was not delegated in the Constitution. They cover such topics as the tendency of men in power to abuse it, his opposition to the establishing of a state church and the necessity of the citizens requiring the government to follow the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence and 3rd President of the United States. These Thomas Jefferson Quotes are listed chronologically and there are links to more before and after this period at the bottom of the page.


Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson


Thomas Jefferson Quotes

"Whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force." - Draft of Kentucky Resolutions, October, 1798

"Resolved, That the construction applied by the General Government (as is evidenced by sundry of their proceedings) to those parts of the Constitution of the United States which delegate to Congress a power "to lay and collect taxes, duties, imports, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States," and "to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the powers vested by the Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof," goes to the destruction of all limits prescribed to their power by the Constitution: that words meant by the instrument to be subsidiary only to the execution of limited powers, ought not to be so construed as themselves to give unlimited powers, nor a part to be so taken as to destroy the whole residue of that instrument: that the proceedings of the General Government under color of these articles, will be a fit and necessary subject of revisal and correction, at a time of greater tranquillity, while those specified in the preceding resolutions call for immediate redress." - Draft of Kentucky Resolutions, October, 1798

"No power over the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, or freedom of the press being delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, all lawful powers respecting the same did of right remain, and were reserved to the States or the people: that thus was manifested their determination to retain to themselves the right of judging how far the licentiousness of speech and of the press may be abridged without lessening their useful freedom, and how far those abuses which cannot be separated from their use should be tolerated, rather than the use be destroyed. And thus also they guarded against all abridgment by the United States of the freedom of religious opinions and exercises, and retained to themselves the right of protecting the same, as this State, by a law passed on the general demand of its citizens, had already protected them from all human restraint or interference. And that in addition to this general principle and express declaration, another and more special provision has been made by one of the amendments to the Constitution, which expressly declares, that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press," thereby guarding in the same sentence, and under the same words, the freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press: insomuch, that whatever violated either, throws down the sanctuary which covers the others, and that libels, falsehood, and defamation, equally with heresy and false religion, are withheld from the cognizance of federal tribunals." - Draft of Kentucky Resolutions, October, 1798

"It would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights: that confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism -- free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence; it is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power: that our Constitution has accordingly fixed the limits to which, and no further, our confidence may go; and let the honest advocate of confidence read the Alien and Sedition acts, and say if the Constitution has not been wise in fixing limits to the government it created, and whether we should be wise in destroying those limits, Let him say what the government is, if it be not a tyranny, which the men of our choice have conferred on our President, and the President of our choice has assented to, and accepted over the friendly stranger to whom the mild spirit of our country and its law have pledged hospitality and protection: that the men of our choice have more respected the bare suspicion of the President, than the solid right of innocence, the claims of justification, the sacred force of truth, and the forms and substance of law and justice. In questions of powers, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." - Draft of Kentucky Resolutions, October, 1798

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Thomas Jefferson Quotes

Monticello - Home of Thomas Jefferson
Monticello - Home of
Thomas Jefferson
"Excessive taxation will carry reason & reflection to every man's door, and particularly in the hour of election." - Letter to John Taylor, November 26, 1798

"To preserve the freedom of the human mind then 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." - Letter to William Green Mumford, June 18, 1799

"Some of the most agreeable moments of my life have been spent in reading works of imagination which have this advantage over history that the incidents of the former may be dressed in the most interesting form, while those of the latter must be confined to fact. They cannot therefore present virtue in the best and vice in the worst forms possible, as the former may." - Letter to Charles Brockden Brown, January 15, 1800

"The clause of the Constitution which, while it secured the freedom of the press, covered also the freedom of religion, had given to the clergy a very favorite hope of obtaining an establishment of a particular form of Christianity through the United States; and as every sect believes its own form the true one, every one perhaps hoped for his own, but especially the Episcopalians and Congregationalists. The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes and they believe that any portion of power confided to me will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion." - Letter to Benjamin Rush, on the efforts of some clergy members to establish an official form of Christianity in the nation, September 23, 1800

More Thomas Jefferson Quotes for you!

"During the contest of opinion through which we have passed the animation of discussions and of exertions has sometimes worn an aspect which might impose on strangers unused to think freely and to speak and to write what they think; but this being now decided by the voice of the nation, announced according to the rules of the Constitution, all will, of course, arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in common efforts for the common good. All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression." - First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

"It is proper you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our Government... Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever persuasion, religious or political..." - First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

"Error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it." - First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

"And let us reflect, that having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little, if we countenance a political intolerance, as despotic, as wicked, and as capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions. During the throes and convulsions of the ancient world, during the agonizing spasms of infuriated man, seeking through blood and slaughter his Long-lost liberty, it was not wonderful that the agitation of the billows should reach even this distant and peaceful shore: that this should be more felt and feared by some, and less by others, and should divide opinions as to measures of safety; but every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans: We are all Federalists. If there be any among us who wish to dissolve this union, or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this Government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this Government, the world's best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest Government on earth. I believe it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern. Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question." - First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

Read on for more Thomas Jefferson Quotes

"Let us then, with courage and confidence, pursue our own federal and republican principles; our attachment to union and representative government? Kindly separated by nature and a wide ocean from the exterminating havoc of one quarter of the globe: too high-minded to endure the degradation of the others, possessing a chosen country, with room enough for our descendants to the thousandth and thousandth generation, entertaining a due sense of our equal right to the use of our own faculties, to the acquisition of our own industry, to honor and confidence from our fellow-citizens, resulting not from birth, but from our actions and their sense of them, enlightened by a benign religion, professed in deed and practised in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man, acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which, by all its dispensations, proves that it delights in the happiness of man here, and his greater happiness hereafter; with all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow-citizens, a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government; and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities." - First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

"And may that infinite power which rules the destinies of the universe lead our councils to what is best, and give them a favorable issue for your peace and prosperity." - First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

"Let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it." - First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

"A wise and frugal government... shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government." - First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

"Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none." - First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

StarIf you liked our Thomas Jefferson Quotes, you will also like to check out our Thomas Jefferson Facts page.

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Star You can read Thomas Jefferson's complete First Inaugural Address here.

Star Learn about Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence here.


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