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Spurious Quotations

A collection of quotations commonly misattributed to Thomas Jefferson.



Here's the link to the page I noted on my recent query:


This has come up linked to a page calling itself "The Federalist Papers." This quote is about midway through a letter from TJ to James Sullivan of Massachusetts, May 21, 1805. Is it genuine?
"The patriot, like the Christian, must learn that to bear revielings & persecutions is a part of his duty; and in proportion as the trial is severe, firmness under it becomes more requisite & praiseworthy. It requires, indeed, self-command. But that will be fortified in proportion as the calls for it’s exercise are repeated."


Hi Steve,

This is a genuine Jefferson quote. Here's the Princeton transcription - not in finished form yet, but available through the Early Access documents program:


A supposed Thomas Jefferson quote I've seen tossed around a lot in the wake of the shutdown and near default goes something like "you get the government you deserve" or "citizens get the government they deserve."

I don't find it under real quotes or spurious ones. Can you help?


Hi Michael - this is not Jefferson, but according to the Yale Book of Quotations, Joseph de Maistre: "Toute nation a le gouvernement qu'elle mérite." ("Every country has the government it deserves.") - Lettres et Opuscules Inédits vol. I., no. 53 (1851) (letter of 15 Aug. 1811)



Two versions, neither of which I can confirm, but which are all over the internet now (immigration debate must be heating up):

Version 1: A country without secure borders is no country.

Version 2: A nation without secure borders is no nation.

Am I safe in saying either version is probably bogus?


Yes, I think it's safe to say this isn't Jefferson - I don't find this in any of his writings.


"Experience demands that man is the only animal which devours its own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich upon the poor."
Jefferson, or not?


"It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions; and experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe, and to the general prey of the rich on the poor."


Yes, that is a genuine Jefferson quote. Generally, when you see a recipient name and a date, you can assume that someone has done their homework. Still it's always best to confirm, so here's a link to the full text of the letter at the Founders Online, which just opened to the public this month:

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