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Near-perfect republic (Quotation)

Quotation: "Yes, we did produce a near-perfect republic. But will they keep it? Or will they, in the enjoyment of plenty, lose the memory of freedom? Material abundance without character is the path of destruction."

Variations:

  1. "Yes, we did produce a near-perfect republic. But will they keep it? Or will they, in the enjoyment of plenty, lose the memory of freedom? Material abundance without character is the surest way to destruction."

Sources consulted: Searching on the phrases "near-perfect republic," "enjoyment of plenty," "memory of freedom," "material abundance without character," "path of destruction," and "surest way to destruction"

  1. Monticello website
  2. Ford's Works of Thomas Jefferson
  3. L&B (CD-ROM version)
  4. UVA EText Jefferson Digital Archive: Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, Thomas Jefferson on Politics and Government, Texts by or to Thomas Jefferson from the Modern English Collection
  5. Thomas Jefferson Retirement Papers
  6. Quotable Jefferson (searching in the index under "republic," "freedom," "materialism")
  7. Bartleby.com: Quotations

Earliest known appearance in print: 1960[1][2]

Other attributions: None known

Status: We currently have no evidence to confirm that Thomas Jefferson ever said or wrote, "Yes, we did produce a near-perfect republic. But will they keep it? Or will they, in the enjoyment of plenty, lose the memory of freedom? Material abundance without character is the path of destruction," or any variations thereof.

Comments: Several of the phrases from this quotation are drawn from a passage from Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: "...it was artfully contrived by Augustus that, in the enjoyment of plenty, the Romans should lose the memory of freedom."[3] Thomas Jefferson owned the 1783 "New Edition" of this work printed for Strahan and Cadell in London.[4]

Footnotes

  1. Sidney L. De Love, The Quiet Betrayal (Chicago: Normandie House, 1960), 3,4.
  2. To establish the earliest known appearance of this phrase in print, the following sources were searched for the phrases, "near-perfect republic," "enjoyment of plenty," "memory of freedom," and "material abundance without character": Google Books, Google Scholar, Amazon.com, America's Historical Newspapers, American Broadsides and Ephemera Series I, Early American Imprints Series I and II, Early English Books Online, Eighteenth Century Collections Online, Making of the Modern World, 19th Century U.S. Newspapers, American Founding Era Collection, American Periodicals Series Online, JSTOR.
  3. Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (London: John Murray, 1838), III:26.
  4. Sowerby no. 101.

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