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Eternal Vigilance

Much as I love debunking Jefferson quotations that were probably made up by college students last week on Facebook, it’s somewhat more intellectually stimulating to revisit some venerable old spurious quotes.  There’s a whole slew of these that are routinely attributed to Jefferson and various others, and you’ll see most of them dealt with in all the standard quotation references.  Whatever the apparent vintage of the spurious quote, however, I find that it behooves me to keep searching for them at regular intervals.  Those heroic scanne

A Little Piece of Monticello

Back in the 1920s, when the nascent Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation (my current employer, now called the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc., and not to be confused with the Monticello Association or the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association) was trying to scrape together the cash to purchase Monticello from Jefferson Monroe Levy, they found themselves a little short.   So they conceived a cunning plan, of course – they woul

A Puzzling Purchase

A while ago, I was perusing the Memorandum Books, which Marie Kimball very eloquently (but somewhat over-optimistically) described as “candid tattlers of Jefferson’s every move,” when I spotted something curious.

1776 Aug. 8. Pd. Dowig for mourning ring 45/  thimble 4/6.

Snowpocalypse 1772!

We are having some calamitous (for Virginia) weather lately - an astonishingly brutal winter altogether so far, in fact.  I'm told the kids are calling it "Snowpocalypse," or "Snowtorious B.I.G."   So I thought it would be nice to shamelessly mooch off some splendid research done by one of my colleagues and bring you a snow-themed post in honor of this snowy weekend; something to do for about 3 minutes while you're snowed in, or, if you are not snowed in, something to feel real good about.

Top 10: Misconceptions about Jefferson

Everybody loves countdowns, right?  Right.  So, I’ve come up with my own list of things people get wrong about Jefferson, based on my extensive observation of the stuff people put on the Internet or ask us about.  Here goes:

I think we're winning

If you've been following this blog, or even talking to me on a regular basis, you know that we went through an extraordinarily obnoxious patch a year or so ago in which we were getting fake Jefferson quotation questions about every 4 minutes or so.  This seemed to be largely due to some sort of chain-email thing that was making the rounds, although we've always done quite a brisk business in quotation debunking.  Some day I will compile some actual statistics on this, but off the top of my head I would venture to say that at least half of the questions we answer are to do with quo

Wishing on a lucky Jefferson

Several years ago, a visitor to Monticello emailed me and asked about something they'd seen in the Jefferson family graveyard, just a short walk down from Mulberry Row: Thomas Jefferson's gravestone seemed to be covered with coins.  What's that about?

That'll teach me

Increasingly I'm coming to believe that I'm totally wasting my time in assiduously searching all sorts of websites, databases and books to figure out whether or not Thomas Jefferson is the source of a given quote.  Really (I tell myself), if it quacks like a duck, it's most likely a duck.  Or, in my case, if it sounds like a Hallmark card or a self-help book, it's probably not from the pen of Thomas Jefferson.

Just to entertain you, here are some of my favorite silly quotes that people have attributed to  Jefferson:

Almost too easy

Reference question: For whom is Carolina Ramsay Randolph (Thomas Jefferson's great-granddaughter, daughter of his oldest grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph) named? Search strategy:

Another quotation debunked!

Most quotations we're asked about sound nothing like Thomas Jefferson, but since I can't pin down their true source, they sort of hang frustratingly out there in Quotation Limbo.  So it gives me great satisfaction to be able to actually run one to ground once in a while.  I just laid this one to rest:

"My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government."