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Top 10: Misconceptions about Jefferson

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Spurious Quotations

A collection of quotations commonly misattributed to Thomas Jefferson.



Thanks, very belatedly.



I've seen the following quote attributed to Jefferson in a couple of locations online and would like to know if it is legit:

The only thing a man can take beyond this lifetime is his ethics.



Is this a new spurious attribution? "The greatest danger to american freedom is a government that ignores the constitution."


Joshua - yes, this is spurious. I've created a page on it here, although as of yet there's not much we can say about it, other than the fact that we have no evidence that Jefferson wrote it. Perhaps more information will come to light in the future...


This is the most recent dubious Jefferson quotation I have seen on Facebook:

“When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.”

Some sources say that it actually dates to the Civil War and was a Confederate saying.


Rickey, someone else just asked about this as well - I've created a page on it here: You are correct, it is not a Jefferson quotation.


I've read this several places, though I've found three different attributions as to where or to whom it was said... is this indeed a real quote, and to whom was it addressed? Cheers in advance!

"...or they may act by representatives, freely and equally chosen; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed [...]"


You can see this and other interesting quotes on government from TJ's letter to John Cartwright, 5 June 1824, as verified by Monticello's Retirement Series editorial staff, here:


This is from a letter to John Cartwright, 5 June 1824 - Here it is in the Lipscomb-Bergh edition of Jefferson’s writings:;view=1up;seq=91.


I've seen this one floating around:

"In a free society with a government based on reason, it is inevitable that there will be no uniform opinion about important issues. Those accustomed to suppression and control by governmental authority see this as leading only to chaos. But a government of the people requires difference of opinion in order to discover truth and to take advantage of the opportunity that only understanding brings."

As yet I have been unable to locate an actual cite for the quotation. Even on the old UVa quotations site, it was provided with no reference, and any place I find it the people link back to that source as opposed to indicating a letter or speech or something.

The only other place I've seen anything close was a speech during executive session in the Senate on May 23, 2005, by Diane Feinstein wherein she alludes to Jefferson, but does not appear to actually quote him.

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