Quotation: "The natural progress of things is for the government to gain ground and for liberty to yield."

Variations:  There are many variations of this quote, including (but not limited to):

  1. "As government grows, liberty decreases."
  2. "It is in the natural course of events that liberty recedes and government grows.”

Comments: This is a misquotation of Jefferson's statement, "The natural progress of things is for liberty to yeild,[1] and government to gain ground."[2]

This quotation has also been seen combined with non-Jefferson writings. For example, here the quote is followed by a quote from Albert J. Nock's book Jefferson, but the whole is presented as one Jefferson quote:

In a letter to Edward Carrington, Thomas Jefferson wrote that, "The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground." He noted that "one of the most profound preferences in human nature is for satisfying one’s needs and desires with the least possible exertion; for appropriating wealth produced by the labor of others, rather than producing it by one’s own labor… the stronger and more centralized the government, the safer would be the guarantee of such monopolies; in other words, the stronger the government, the weaker the producer, the less consideration need be given him and the more might be taken away from him."[3]


- Anna Berkes, 3/6/09; updated 11/20/15, 8/30/23

Further Sources


  1. ^ "Yeild" is Jefferson's original spelling, and one that he used with a fair degree of frequency.
  2. ^ Jefferson to Edward Carrington, May 27, 1788, in PTJ, 13:208-9. Letterpress copy available online at the Library of Congress. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  3. ^ Allan Brownfield, "A Theme for the Bicentennial: The Founding Fathers' Fear of Power," Foundation for Economic Education, October 1, 1974 (accessed 8/30/23). For the latter portion of the quote, see Nock, Jefferson (Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2007; originally published Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1926), 110-11.