Quotation: "A government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have."
Earliest known appearance in print: 1952
Earliest known appearance in print, attributed to Jefferson: 2005
Comments: Neither this quotation nor any of its variant forms has been found in the writings of Thomas Jefferson. Its first known appearance in print was in 1952, although it is most likely older. It appeared frequently in newspapers in the 1950s (usually unattributed), and was even used in political cartoons. It was copyrighted in 1957 by the General Features Corporation, as part of a syndicated newspaper feature called "Today's Chuckle." It later became a popular saying among Republican politicians. Governor Harold W. Handley of Indiana used it in his annual message to the Indiana General Assembly in 1961; Barry Goldwater was quoted using it in his 1964 run for president; and Gerald Ford is on record using it in an address to a joint session of Congress on August 12, 1974. It was attributed to Ford as early as 1954, however, and Ford's assistant, Robert Hartmann, said that Ford claimed to have heard the quotation "early in his political career" from Harvard McClain at the Economic Club of Chicago.
This quotation was not attributed to Jefferson until relatively recently. It is sometimes followed by, "The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases," which is most likely a misquotation of Jefferson's comment, "The natural progress of things is for liberty to yeild, and government to gain ground."
- Anna Berkes, 2007; revised 1/21/13
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