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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 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.

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:

Jefferson and the Itty-Bitty Potentate

This blog entry came up in my Google Alert a few days ago - its main focus is actually a cathedral in Saigon, but it incidentally mentions a fascinating little episode in Jefferson's life of which I was heretofore unaware.

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?

Impossible Engineering

A new intriguing book on the shelves: Impossible Engineering: Technology and Territoriality on the Canal du Midi, by Chandra Mukerji (Princeton, 2009). This dovetails nicely with one of our new TJ Encyclopedia articles, which features (among other useful pieces of information), an itinerary of Jefferson's travels through southern France and Italy - during which, yes, he visited the Canal du Midi.  He rather liked it:

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:

That quotation does exist

I've been curiously watching the flutterings about this in the news for the past week or so - the Seattle Atheists are running a bus ad campaign featuring quotations by Jefferson and some other people. (You can see images of all three ads here.) Before anybody asks, that is in fact a genuine Jefferson quote - it's from a letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787.

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."