1781-1824. (Isaac Jefferson, slave at Monticello) "Mr. Jefferson was a tall, straight-bodied man as ever you see, right square-shouldered. Nary a man in this town [Petersburg] walked so straight as my Old Master. Neat a built man as ever was seen in Vaginny . . . .
A patron asked us about a very unusual quotation the other day: apparently someone, sometime said that Thomas Jefferson was "...a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father..."; this was supposedly a comment made by Jefferson's political opponents in the election of 1800. But who actually said this? One of my neighbors in grad school once gushed that librarians were "like wolverines, man! I mean, you ask them a question and they just WON'T LET GO until they answer it!" He wasn't kidding.
One of our alert former fellows brought Hillary Clinton's quotation of Jefferson during her recent Secretary of State confirmation hearings to my attention. Of course I can't help myself from checking to make sure that famous people quoting TJ have actually gotten their quotes correct, because a) I'm a stickler, and b) someone else will surely ask about it.
Increasingly I'm coming to believe that I'm totally wasting my time in assiduously searching all sorts of websites, databases and books to figure out whether or not Thomas Jefferson is the source of a given quote. Really (I tell myself), if it quacks like a duck, it's most likely a duck. Or, in my case, if it sounds like a Hallmark card or a self-help book, it's probably not from the pen of Thomas Jefferson.
Just to entertain you, here are some of my favorite silly quotes that people have attributed to Jefferson: