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Spurious Quotations

A collection of quotations commonly misattributed to Thomas Jefferson.

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pfallon's picture
I'm seeing this one a lot. Is it an actual quote? "The Government will one day be corrupt and filled with liars, and the people will flock to the one that tells the truth."- TJ
DrFallon
aberkes's picture
DrFallon, I don't find this in TJ's writings.
Anna Berkes
padutchchick's picture
Checking on this quote, which I seen oft repeated probably because of its needlework reference:Every experience deeply felt in life needs to be passed along. Whether it be through word or music, chiseled in stone, painted with a brush, or sewn with a needle, it is a way of reaching for immortality. (seems spurious to me) Thanks!
padutchchick
aberkes's picture
No, this one is definitely spurious! I'll add it to my list for a more thorough debunking page.
Anna Berkes
javanate's picture
"Free men do not ask permission to bear arms" is going around the internet and is being printed on t-shirts as a quote from Jefferson. I can't seem to find a definitive debunk, is this genuine?
javanate
aberkes's picture
No, it's not genuine - I just finished a debunk page on this one. Thanks for bringing it to my attention! https://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/free-men-do-not-ask-permission-bear-arms-quotation
Anna Berkes
Justin West's picture
I keep seeing this one, and I've not seen it cited as coming from a particular source: "the true theory of our Constitution is surely the wisest and best . . . (for) when all government . . . shall be drawn to Washington as the centre of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another, and will become as . . . oppressive as the government from which we separated."
Justin West
aberkes's picture
Justin, this quote comes from two entirely different letters. The first part ("the true theory of our constitution is surely the wisest & best") comes from TJ to Gideon Granger, 13 August 1800: http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-32-02-0061. The second part of this comes from a letter to C. Hammond of 18 August 1821: "...whenever all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another, and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated." http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/98-01-02-2260
Anna Berkes
J Phillips's picture
"The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do." This quote has been attributed to Jefferson on various web sites, yet I have found no reference or source material cited. Is this quote spurious? Thanks in advance
JBQuoting
aberkes's picture
Yes it is! Someday I will get around to doing a page on that one.
Anna Berkes
WHarpine's picture
Hi, Ms. Berkes. I ran into this one attributed to Jefferson on a website. Authentic? "The central bank is an institution of the most deadly hostility existing against the Principles and form of our Constitution. I am an Enemy to all banks discounting bills or notes for anything but Coin. If the American People allow private banks to control the issuance of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the People of all their Property until their Children will wake up homeless on the continent their Fathers conquered."
WHarpine
aberkes's picture
I'm not sure where the first sentence came from - it's new to me. The second is from TJ to Thomas Cooper, 16 Jan. 1814: http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/03-07-02-0071 And for the last part, see the "Private Banks" quote listed above.
Anna Berkes
Steve Myers's picture
Thanks again. You guys are the pros.
Steve Myers
Steve Myers's picture
Someone on the discussion string came up with this version: "if we can but prevent the government from wasting the labours of the people, under the pretence of taking care of them, they must become happy." - Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, November 29, 1802[1]
Steve Myers
Steve Myers's picture
Thanks again Anna. Here's another one, that sounds more suspicious to me than the last couple: "I predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them."
Steve Myers
cwollerton's picture
Steve, Check out this quote and Anna's research on it. http://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/wasting-labours-people-quotation
Chad
Steve Myers's picture
And another one: "Whenever there are in any country uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labor and live on. If for the encouragement of industry we allow it to be appropriated, we must take care that other employment be provided to those excluded from the appropriation. " -- Thomas Jefferson
Steve Myers
aberkes's picture
Steve, this is from a letter to James Madison of 28 October 1785: http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-08-02-0534. You can find most of Jefferson's writings now in Founders Online: http://www.founders.archives.gov. I also have a guide here to searching for Jefferson quotes: http://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/finding-jefferson-quotations I hope that helps!
Anna Berkes
Steve Myers's picture
Is this one real? "Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition."
Steve Myers
aberkes's picture
Yes, this is from Query XIX of <i>Notes on the State of Virginia</i>: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/wu.89070264072?urlappend=%3Bseq=233
Anna Berkes
Steve Myers's picture
Thanks again.
Steve Myers
Steve Myers's picture
Here's the link to the page I noted on my recent query: http://www.thefederalistpapers.org/founders/jefferson/the-patriot-like-the-christian-must-learn-that-to-bear-persections-is-a-part-of-his-duty
Steve Myers
Steve Myers's picture
This has come up linked to a page calling itself "The Federalist Papers." This quote is about midway through a letter from TJ to James Sullivan of Massachusetts, May 21, 1805. Is it genuine? "The patriot, like the Christian, must learn that to bear revielings & persecutions is a part of his duty; and in proportion as the trial is severe, firmness under it becomes more requisite & praiseworthy. It requires, indeed, self-command. But that will be fortified in proportion as the calls for it’s exercise are repeated."
Steve Myers
aberkes's picture
Hi Steve, This is a genuine Jefferson quote. Here's the Princeton transcription - not in finished form yet, but available through the Early Access documents program: http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/99-01-02-1763.
Anna Berkes
Janus303's picture
A supposed Thomas Jefferson quote I've seen tossed around a lot in the wake of the shutdown and near default goes something like "you get the government you deserve" or "citizens get the government they deserve." I don't find it under real quotes or spurious ones. Can you help?
Michael Ditto
brucequinn's picture
The same idea is expressed by Benjamin Franklin in his address to the end of the 2nd Constitutional Convention, This [Constitution] is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other. ....I think this is very close to "people get the government they deserve."
brucequinn
aberkes's picture
Hi Michael - this is not Jefferson, but according to the Yale Book of Quotations, Joseph de Maistre: "Toute nation a le gouvernement qu'elle mérite." ("Every country has the government it deserves.") - Lettres et Opuscules Inédits vol. I., no. 53 (1851) (letter of 15 Aug. 1811)
Anna Berkes
edarrell's picture
Help! Two versions, neither of which I can confirm, but which are all over the internet now (immigration debate must be heating up): Version 1: A country without secure borders is no country. Version 2: A nation without secure borders is no nation. Am I safe in saying either version is probably bogus?
Ed Darrell
aberkes's picture
Yes, I think it's safe to say this isn't Jefferson - I don't find this in any of his writings.
Anna Berkes
Steve Myers's picture
"Experience demands that man is the only animal which devours its own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich upon the poor." Jefferson, or not?
Steve Myers
hdb's picture
http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Letter_to_Edward_Carrington_-_January_16,_1787 "It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions; and experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe, and to the general prey of the rich on the poor."
hdb
cwollerton's picture
Yes, that is a genuine Jefferson quote. Generally, when you see a recipient name and a date, you can assume that someone has done their homework. Still it's always best to confirm, so here's a link to the full text of the letter at the Founders Online, which just opened to the public this month: http://founders.archives.gov/?q=%22animal+which+devours%22&s=1111311111&sa=&r=1&sr=
Chad
Steve Myers's picture
Thanks, very belatedly.
Steve Myers
morannfla's picture
Hello, I've seen the following quote attributed to Jefferson in a couple of locations online and would like to know if it is legit: The only thing a man can take beyond this lifetime is his ethics. Thanks
morannfla (not verified)
Joshua Dooms's picture
Is this a new spurious attribution? "The greatest danger to american freedom is a government that ignores the constitution."
Joshua Dooms
aberkes's picture
Joshua - yes, this is spurious. I've created a page on it here, although as of yet there's not much we can say about it, other than the fact that we have no evidence that Jefferson wrote it. http://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/greatest-danger-to-american-freedom-quotation Perhaps more information will come to light in the future...
Anna Berkes
lilrickey's picture
This is the most recent dubious Jefferson quotation I have seen on Facebook: “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.” Some sources say that it actually dates to the Civil War and was a Confederate saying.
Rickey
aberkes's picture
Rickey, someone else just asked about this as well - I've created a page on it here: http://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/when-injustice-becomes-law-resistance-becomes-duty-quotation. You are correct, it is not a Jefferson quotation.
Anna Berkes
dstouffermd's picture
I've read this several places, though I've found three different attributions as to where or to whom it was said... is this indeed a real quote, and to whom was it addressed? Cheers in advance! "...or they may act by representatives, freely and equally chosen; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed [...]"
dstouffermd (not verified)
ntoddp's picture
I've seen this one floating around: "In a free society with a government based on reason, it is inevitable that there will be no uniform opinion about important issues. Those accustomed to suppression and control by governmental authority see this as leading only to chaos. But a government of the people requires difference of opinion in order to discover truth and to take advantage of the opportunity that only understanding brings." As yet I have been unable to locate an actual cite for the quotation. Even on the old UVa quotations site, it was provided with no reference, and any place I find it the people link back to that source as opposed to indicating a letter or speech or something. The only other place I've seen anything close was a speech during executive session in the Senate on May 23, 2005, by Diane Feinstein wherein she alludes to Jefferson, but does not appear to actually quote him.
ntoddp
aberkes's picture
This is actually a description of a selection of Jefferson quotes, written by Eyler Robert Coates, Sr. Coates did a compilation of quotes on "Jefferson on Politics & Government," arranging the quotes by category. On each category page he did a little summary at the top - these are often mistaken for Jefferson quotes themselves. "Jefferson on Politics & Government" used to be hosted on the UVA EText Jefferson pages, but it is now hosted here: http://www.famguardian.org/Subjects/Politics/ThomasJefferson/jeff0750.htm.
Anna Berkes
ntoddp's picture
Aha, thank you so much! He apparently did a good enough job capturing the spirit of the quotations to fool a lot of people...
ntoddp
Bob Bethune's picture
This one is spreading around the Internet; I think it is spurious. Can you confirm that? "When asked to read between the lines to find implied powers, Thomas Jefferson responded that he had done that, and he 'found only blank space.'"
Bob Bethune
Robert H. Woodman's picture
Is this quotation attributed to Thomas Jefferson accurate? "We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must (choose) between economy & liberty or profusion & servitude." If accurate, it is ironic, given in how much debt Jefferson lived most of his life.
Robert H. Woodman
lfrancavilla's picture
Hello Robert, yep this one's real, tho slightly different than the version you cite. In a letter to H. Tompkinson (pseudonym for Samuel Kercheval),12 July 1816, Jefferson wrote: "I am not among those who fear the people. they and not the rich, are our dependance for continued freedom. and, to preserve their independance, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. we must make our election between economy & liberty, or profusion and servitude." Other quotes from the same letter can be found here: http://retirementseries.dataformat.com/Document.aspx?doc=150954811, and the entire letter will be published in Volume 10 of the Retirement Series.
Lisa at the PTJRS
Carloz's picture
FOX News contributor Dr. Keith Ablow cites the following today - is it spurious? As Thomas Jefferson wrote to his nephew Peter Carr in 1785, "A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives a moderate exercise to the Body, it gives boldness, enterprise, and independence to the mind . . . " Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/01/12/psychological-and-public-health-benefits-gun-ownership/#ixzz2Hm2Fmo2I
Carloz
aberkes's picture
Carloz, see our article on firearms for the full citation for this quote. http://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/firearms
Anna Berkes
lfrancavilla's picture
Hello Carloz, Jefferson did indeed write this in a letter to Peter Carr, 19 Aug. 1785. Jefferson was advocating walking as the best possible exercise and urging Carr to do so daily, gun in hand (presumably for hunting), for "There is no habit you will value so much as that of walking far without fatigue." Jefferson suggested this same exercise in 1815 as a restorative for his troubled grandson-in-law Charles Bankhead.
Lisa at the PTJRS
Bill's picture
Hi, This quote. attributed to Thomas Jefferson, is making the rounds of political forums: "The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not” Is this a fake quote, a real T.J. quote, or a quote belonging to someone else? Thanks.
Bill
HanClinto's picture
The "I never considered a difference of opinion..." quotation is legitimate -- that was in a letter to William Hamilton (Ford Ed., vii, 441, Pa, 1800) http://books.google.com/books?id=ZTIoAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA364&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U1Gs8ShpWkK4jtAd0B1Mn7WbUs2yw&ci=127%2C1096%2C396%2C108&edge=0
HanClinto

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