The two enemies of the people are criminals and government...(Quotation)

Quotation: "The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first."

Variations: None known.

Sources consulted: (searching on phrases "two enemies of the people" and "chains of the Constitution")

  1. Papers of Thomas Jefferson Digital Edition
  2. Thomas Jefferson Retirement Papers
  3. Thomas Jefferson: Papers collection in Hathi Trust Digital Library

Earliest appearance in print: 2002[1]

Earliest appearance in print, attributed to Thomas Jefferson: see above.

Status: This quotation has not been found in any of Thomas Jefferson's writings.  He did, however, employ the phrase "chains of the Constitution" at least once, in the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798: "...in questions of power then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution..." (from draft)[2] The quotation may be a conflation of Jefferson's "chains of the Constitution" comment with Ayn Rand's statement in her essay, "Man's Rights": "There are two potential violators of man’s rights: the criminals and the government. The great achievement of the United States was to draw a distinction between these two — by forbidding to the second the legalized version of the activities of the first."[3]

- Anna Berkes, 5/09; updated 9/18/14

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Discussion

says

This quotation is actually an altered version of a passage from Ayn Rand's 1963 essay "Man's Rights," which appears in two of Rand's book anthologies: *The Virtue of Selfishness* and *Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal*.

It goes: "There are two potential violators of man’s rights: the criminals and the government. The great achievement of the United States was to draw a distinction between these two — by forbidding to the second the legalized version of the activities of the first."

You can see that at http://ari.aynrand.org/issues/government-and-business/individual-rights .

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