Quotation: "Sir, no nation has ever yet existed or been governed without religion. Nor can be. The Christian religion is the best religion that has been given to man, and I as chief magistrate of this nation am bound to give it the sanction of my example."
Variations: None known.
Earliest appearance in print:
Earliest appearance in print, attributed to Jefferson:
Comments: This quotation appeared in Historical Sketch of Washington Parish, Washington City, 1794-1857, by Reverend Ethan Allen (1796-1897). The original quotation is as follows:
"Mr. J.P. Ingle says in his note of July 6, 1857, "Mr. Underwood and myself can both recollect that Mr. McCormick held service in a Tobacco House as early in 1803 when Mr. Jefferson attended there. The old Market which stood on the NW corner of the Virginia & New Jersey Avenues was often pointed out as the place also where Mr. McCormick officiated. Was the tobacco house near this? Here it was that Mr. Jefferson was coming one Sunday morning across the fields leading to it with his large red Prayer Book under his arm when a friend riding him after their mutual good morning said which way are you walking Mr. Jefferson - to which he replied to Church Sir - you going to church Mr. Jefferson? You do not believe a word in it - Sir said Mr. Jefferson no nation has yet existed or been governed without religion - nor can be - the Christian religion is the best religion that has been given to man & I as the chief magistrate of this nation am bound to give it the sanction of my example. Good morning Sir."
The story comes to us third-hand, and has not been confirmed by any references in Jefferson's papers or any other known sources. Its authenticity is questionable.