Quotation: "The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first."

Variations: None known.

Sources consulted: (searching on phrases "two enemies of the people" and "chains of the Constitution")

  1. Papers of Thomas Jefferson Digital Edition
  2. Thomas Jefferson Retirement Papers
  3. Thomas Jefferson: Papers collection in Hathi Trust Digital Library

Earliest appearance in print: 2002[1]

Earliest appearance in print, attributed to Thomas Jefferson: see above.

Status: This quotation has not been found in any of Thomas Jefferson's writings.  He did, however, employ the phrase "chains of the Constitution" at least once, in a draft of the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798: "... in questions of power then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution ...."[2] The quotation may be a conflation of Jefferson's "chains of the Constitution" comment with Ayn Rand's statement in her essay, "Man's Rights": "There are two potential violators of man’s rights: the criminals and the government. The great achievement of the United States was to draw a distinction between these two — by forbidding to the second the legalized version of the activities of the first."[3]

- Anna Berkes, 5/09; updated 9/18/14


  1. ^ Michael Collins, Cornucopia of Evil (Kingsbury, Tex.: See Books, 2002), 9.
  2. ^ Jefferson’s Draft, [before October 4, 1798], in PTJ , 30:529-56. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  3. ^ Ayn Rand, "Man's Rights," in The Virtue of Selfishness (New York: Signet, 1964), 111. This essay is also available on the Ayn Rand Institute website.