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Without God, liberty will not last (Spurious Quotation)

Quotation: "Without God, liberty will not last."

Variations: None known.

Sources consulted:

  1. Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Digital Edition
  2. Retirement Papers
  3. Google/Google Books
  4. Access Newspaper Archive

Earliest known appearance in print: 19961

Other attributions: None known.

Status: This quotation has not been found in any of the writings of Thomas Jefferson.

Comments: This quotation seems to have originated in a 1996 article by Thomas G. West, "The Conservatism of the Declaration of Independence."  West writes, "Jefferson said, without God, liberty will not last."  This was probably intended as a paraphrase of Jefferson, not a direct quotation, although it seems to have been understood as such by many readers.  It is possible that it is a reference to Jefferson's comment in Notes on the State of Virginia: "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of god? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?"2 It could also be a paraphrase of another (also spurious) quotation, "The Bible is the source of liberty."

-Anna Berkes, 3/30/10


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