Quotation: "The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not."

Variations: None known.

Sources consulted: Searching on the phrase "democracy will cease to exist" and "willing to work"

  1. Founders Online
  2. Thomas Jefferson retirement papers
  3. Google/Google Books
  4. Access Newspaper Archive

Earliest known appearance in print: 1986[1] [2]

Earliest known appearance in print, attributed to Jefferson: See above.

Other attributions: None known.

Status: This exact quotation has not been found in any of the writings of Thomas Jefferson. It bears a very vague resemblance to Jefferson's comment in a prospectus for his translation of Destutt de Tracy's Treatise on Political Economy: "To take from one, because it is thought that his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, — the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry, & the fruits acquired by it."[3]

- Anna Berkes 3/6/08


Further Sources

  • Foley, John P., ed. The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia.  New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1900. See "Taxation..."


  1. ^ John Galt, Dreams Come Due: Government and Economics as if Freedom Mattered (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986), 312.
  2. ^ To establish the earliest appearance of this phrase in print, the following sources were searched for the phrase, "democracy will cease to exist" and "willing to work": Google Books, Google Scholar, Amazon.com, Internet Archive, America's Historical Newspapers, American Broadsides and Ephemera Series I, Early American Imprints Series I and II, Eighteenth Century Collections Online, 19th Century U.S. Newspapers, American Periodicals Series Online, JSTOR.
  3. ^ Addition to Note for Destutt de Tracy’s Treatise on Political Economy, [ca. May 18, 1816], in PTJ:RS, 10:65-66. Transcription available at Founders Online.