Quotation: "A government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have."
- “Any government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have."
- "Government that is big enough to give everything you need and want is also strong enough to take it away."
- "Any government powerful enough to give the people all that they want is also powerful enough to take from the people all that they have."
Earliest known appearance in print: 1959 (as variation #1)
Earliest known appearance in print, attributed to Jefferson: 2005
Comments: Neither this quotation nor any of its variant forms has been found in the writings of Thomas Jefferson. It was used perhaps most famously by Gerald R. Ford, in an address to a joint session of Congress on August 12, 1974. However, another variation of the same quotation was used a decade earlier by Barry Goldwater, and there is evidence that it is even older.
This quotation was not attributed to Jefferson until relatively recently. It is sometimes followed by, "The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases," which is most likely a misquotation of Jefferson's comment, "The natural progress of things is for liberty to yeild, and government to gain ground."
- Anna Berkes, 2007; revised 1/15/13
- Jefferson Library. "Finding Jefferson Quotations." Lists a number of sources helpful in locating specific Jefferson quotations, or quotations on a given topic.
- 1. Pennsylvania Medical Journal 62, pt. 1 (1959): 114. More detailed reference pending.
- 2. Robert G. Moscatelli, The Quote Manual (Bloomington, Ind.: AuthorHouse, 2005), 193.
- 3. Suzy Platt, ed., Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations Requested from the Congressional Research Service (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1989), 140. Available online at http://www.bartleby.com/73/714.html. See the text of Ford's speech at the American Presidency Project.
- 4. Quoted in Theodore H. White, The Making of the President, 1964 (New York: Atheneum, 1965), 337.
- 5. Note that "yeild" was Jefferson's original spelling.