"Few die, none resign" is a paraphrase of a statement that Thomas Jefferson made in a letter to a group of New Haven, Connecticut, merchants in 1801: "if a due participation of office is a matter of right, how are vacancies to be obtained? those by death are few. by resignation none."[1]

It appears that this shortening of Jefferson's statement has been in use for quite some time. Jefferson's letter to the New Haven merchants was published in a number of newspapers within a matter of weeks after it was written, and potentially the statement could have entered public currency and been paraphrased almost immediately. By 1836, the phrase "few die, none resign" was described in one journal as the "remarkable apothegm of Mr. Jefferson."[2] Jefferson's original version was quoted in a 1901 collection of "the world's best orations," listed under the title "Few Die, None Resign";[3] early twentieth-century textbooks even use the phrase in grammar exercises.[4]


Further Sources

The Words of Thomas JeffersonAvailable in Our Online Shop: The Words of Thomas Jefferson


  1. ^ Jefferson to the New Haven Merchants, July 12, 1801, in PTJ, 34:556. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  2. ^ William Q. Force, Army and Navy Chronicle, and Scientific Repository vol. III, no. 3 (July 1836): 41.
  3. ^ David J. Brewer, The World's Best Orations: From the Earliest Period to the Present Time (St. Louis, Mo.: F. P. Kaiser, 1901), 10:3945
  4. ^ A. R. Brubacher and Dorothy E. Snyder, High School English: Book One (New York: Charles E. Merrill, 1910-), 273.