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Top 10: Misconceptions about Jefferson

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Spurious Quotations

A collection of quotations commonly misattributed to Thomas Jefferson.


says luck in tracking this one down?


This is actually a description of a selection of Jefferson quotes, written by Eyler Robert Coates, Sr. Coates did a compilation of quotes on "Jefferson on Politics & Government," arranging the quotes by category. On each category page he did a little summary at the top - these are often mistaken for Jefferson quotes themselves. "Jefferson on Politics & Government" used to be hosted on the UVA EText Jefferson pages, but it is now hosted here:


Aha, thank you so much! He apparently did a good enough job capturing the spirit of the quotations to fool a lot of people...


This one is spreading around the Internet; I think it is spurious. Can you confirm that?

"When asked to read between the lines to find implied powers, Thomas Jefferson responded that he had done that, and he 'found only blank space.'"


Is this quotation attributed to Thomas Jefferson accurate? "We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must (choose) between economy & liberty or profusion & servitude."

If accurate, it is ironic, given in how much debt Jefferson lived most of his life.


Hello Robert, yep this one's real, tho slightly different than the version you cite. In a letter to H. Tompkinson (pseudonym for Samuel Kercheval),12 July 1816, Jefferson wrote: "I am not among those who fear the people. they and not the rich, are our dependance for continued freedom. and, to preserve their independance, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. we must make our election between economy & liberty, or profusion and servitude." Other quotes from the same letter can be found here:, and the entire letter will be published in Volume 10 of the Retirement Series.


FOX News contributor Dr. Keith Ablow cites the following today - is it spurious?

As Thomas Jefferson wrote to his nephew Peter Carr in 1785, "A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives a moderate exercise to the Body, it gives boldness, enterprise, and independence to the mind . . . "

Read more:


Carloz, see our article on firearms for the full citation for this quote.


Hello Carloz, Jefferson did indeed write this in a letter to Peter Carr, 19 Aug. 1785. Jefferson was advocating walking as the best possible exercise and urging Carr to do so daily, gun in hand (presumably for hunting), for "There is no habit you will value so much as that of walking far without fatigue." Jefferson suggested this same exercise in 1815 as a restorative for his troubled grandson-in-law Charles Bankhead.


Thanks to you both, Anna and Lisa.

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