Thomas Jefferson Quotes
These famous Thomas Jefferson Quotes come from his own letters,
writings and speeches from 1801-1802. This period covers the first two
years of Jefferson's first term as President. These Thomas Jefferson
Quotes come from correspondence with such influential people as
John Dickinson, Elbridge Gerry, a future vice-president and Francis Hopkinson,
alleged creator of the 13 Star Flag. These
quotes also include Jefferson's famous letter to the Danbury Baptist Association.
This letter is the source of the phrase "separation of church and state." Note
that the phrase is not found in the US Constitution. The context of the phrase
is that Jefferson was assuring the Danbury Baptists that the government would
not choose one Christian denomination as an official state church. He was not,
as is commonly believed, saying that public expressions of faith were
"unconstitutional." These Thomas Jefferson Quotes are listed
chronologically with links to more both before and after this period at the
bottom of the page.
Thomas Jefferson Quotes
"Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion,
religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all
nations, entangling alliances with none...
Freedom of religion; freedom
of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeus
trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form
the bright constellation which has gone before us, and guided our steps
through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages
and the blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment.
They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civil
instruction, the touchstone by which we try the services of those we
trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or alarm,
let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone
leads to peace, liberty, and safety." - First Inaugural
Address, March 4, 1801
"I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any
party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in
anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an
addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent."
- Letter to Francis Hopkinson, March 4, 1801
"Those who live by mystery & charlatanerie, fearing you would render
them useless by simplifying the Christian philosophy, -- the most
sublime & benevolent, but most perverted system that ever shone on
man, -- endeavored to crush your well-earnt & well-deserved fame."
- Letter to Dr. Joseph Priestly, March 21, 1801
"The Christian Religion, when divested of the rags in which they (the clergy)
have enveloped it, and brought to the original purity and simplicity of its
benevolent institutor, is a religion of all others most friendly to liberty,
science, and the freest expansion of the human mind." - Letter to Moses
Robinson, March 23, 1801
on which our Union rests, shall be administered by me (as
President) according to the safe and honest meaning contemplated by the
plain understanding of the people of the United States at the time of its
adoption - a meaning to be found in the explanations of those who advocated,
not those who opposed it, and who opposed it merely lest the construction
should be applied which they denounced as possible." - Letter to Messrs.
Eddy, Russel, Thurber, Wheaton and Smith, March 27, 1801
"The steady character of our countrymen is a rock to which we may safely
moor; and notwithstanding the efforts of the papers to disseminate early
discontents, I expect that a just, dispassionate and steady conduct, will
at length rally to a proper system the great body of our country.
Unequivocal in principle, reasonable in manner, we shall be able I hope
to do a great deal of good to the cause of freedom & harmony." -
Letter to Elbridge Gerry, March 29, 1801
Read on for more
Thomas Jefferson Quotes
"Of the various executive abilities, no one excited more anxious concern
than that of placing the interests of our fellow-citizens in the hands of
honest men, with understanding sufficient for their stations. No duty
is at the same time more difficult to fulfil. The knowledge of character
possessed by a single individual is of necessity limited. To seek out the
best through the whole Union, we must resort to the information which from
the best of men, acting disinterestedly and with the purest motives, is
sometimes incorrect... No duty the Executive had to perform was so trying
as to put the right man in the right place." - Letter to Elias Shipman, July 12, 1801
Monticello - Home of
"If a due participation of office is a matter of right, how are vacancies
to be obtained? Those by death are few; by resignation, none." - Letter
to Elias Shipman, July 12, 1801
"The greatest good we can do our country is to heal its party divisions
and make them one people." - Letter to John Dickinson, July 23, 1801
"Born in other countries, yet believing you could be happy in this, our
laws acknowledge, as they should do, your right to join us in society,
conforming, as I doubt not you will do, to our established rules. That
these rules shall be as equal as prudential considerations will admit,
will certainly be the aim of our legislatures, general and particular."
- Letter to Hugh White, May 2, 1801
"The liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most agreeable
to His will is a liberty deemed in other countries incompatible with good
government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support."
- Letter to Captain John Thomas, November 18, 1801
"I join cordially in admiring and revering the Constitution of the United
States, the result of the collected wisdom of our country. That wisdom has
committed to us the important task of proving by example that a government,
if organized in all its parts on the Representative principle unadulterated
by the infusion of spurious elements, if founded, not in the fears &
follies of man, but on his reason, on his sense of right, on the predominance
of the social over his dissocial passions, may be so free as to restrain him
in no moral right, and so firm as to protect him from every moral wrong."
- Letter to Amos Marsh, November 20, 1801
"Gentlemen,-The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which
you are so good as to express towards me on behalf of the Danbury Baptist
Association give me the highest satisfaction... Believing with you that
religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he
owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative
powers of government reach actions only and not opinions, I contemplate with
sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared
that their legislature should "make no
law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise
thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.
Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of
the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress
of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights,
convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties. I
reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common
Father and Creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious
association assurances of my high respect and esteem." - Letter
to Danbury Baptist Association, January 1, 1802
"Newspapers... serve as chimnies to carry off noxious vapors and smoke."
- Letter to Thaddeus Kosciusko, April 2, 1802
"One passage in the paper you enclosed me must be corrected. It is the
following, "And all say it was yourself more than any other individual,
that planned and established it," i.e., the Constitution. I was in Europe
when the Constitution was planned, and never saw it
till after it was established. On receiving it I wrote strongly to Mr.
Madison, urging the want of provision for the freedom of religion, freedom
of the press, trial by jury, habeas corpus, the substitution of militia for
a standing army, and an express reservation
to the States of all rights not specifically granted to the Union. He
accordingly moved in the first session of Congress for these amendments, which were agreed to and ratified
by the States as they now stand. This is all the hand I had in what related to
the Constitution." - Letter to Dr. Joseph Priestly, June 19, 1802
"If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people,
under the pretence of taking care of them, they must become happy."
- Letter to Thomas Cooper, November 29, 1802
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