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


  1. "My reading of history convinces me that most bad government has grown out of too much government."

Sources consulted: Searching on the phrase "bad government" and "too much government"

  1. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson Digital Edition
  2. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series
  3. Thomas Jefferson: Papers and Biographies collections in Hathi Trust Digital Library

Earliest known appearance in print: 1913[1]

Earliest known appearance in print, attributed to Jefferson: 1950[2]

Other attributions: John Sharp Williams

Comments: This exact quotation has not been found in any of the writings of Thomas Jefferson. It bears some slight resemblance to a statement he made in a letter to John Norvell of June 11, 1807: "History, in general, only informs us what bad government is."[3] However, the quotation as it appears above can definitely be attributed to John Sharp Williams in a speech about Jefferson, which has most likely been mistaken at some point for a direct quotation of Jefferson.[4]


  1. ^ John Sharp Williams, Thomas Jefferson: His Permanent Influence on American Institutions (New York: Columbia University Press, 1913), 49.
  2. ^ Bertie Charles Forbes, Forbes (New York, Forbes Inc., 1950), 34.
  3. ^ Ford, 9:72. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  4. ^ Suzy Platt, Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1989), 147.