Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Thoughts of Thomas Jefferson

By, Chris Rossini
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  • “Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested His supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint.” – 1779
  • “Under the law of nature, all men are born free, every one comes into the world with a right to his own person, which includes the liberty of moving and using it at his own will. This is what is called personal liberty, and is given him by the Author of nature, because it is necessary for his own sustenance.”
  • “A free people [claim] their rights as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate.”
  • “The price of Liberty is eternal vigilance.”
  • “Postpone to the great object of Liberty every smaller motive and passion.” – 1780
  • “The ground of liberty is to be gained by inches and we must be contented to secure what we can get, from time to time, and eternally press forward for what is yet to get. It takes time to persuade men to do even what is for their own good.” – 1790
  • “The most sacred cause that ever man was engaged in.” [Liberty] – 1793
  • “The last hope of human liberty in this world rests on us.” – 1811
  • “The eyes of the virtuous all over the earth are turned with anxiety on us as the only depositaries of the sacred fire of liberty.” – 1811
  • “The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave.” – 1819
  • “Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty.”
  • “This solitary republic of the world [is] the only monument of human rights, and the sole repository of the sacred fire of freedom.”

  • The General Assembly of Virginia shall not have power to permit the introduction of any more slaves to reside in this State, or the continuance of slavery beyond the generation which shall be living on the 31st day of December, 1800; all persons born after that day being hereby declared free.” – Proposed Constitution for Virginia, 1783
  • “I look to the rising generation, and not to the one now in power, for these great reformations.” – In regards to slavery, 1785
  • “We must await with patience the workings of an overruling Providence, and hope that that is preparing the deliverance of these, our suffering brethren [Slaves].” – 1786
  • “This abomination [Slavery] must have an end. And there is a superior bench reserved in heaven for those who hasten it.” – 1787
  • “My principle is to do whatever is right, and leave the consequences to Him who has the disposal of them.” – 1813
  • “Truth is the first object.” – 1809
  • “Force cannot change right.” – 1824
  • “Error has often prevailed by the assistance of power or force. Truth is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error.” – 1776
  • “There is more honor and magnanimity in correcting than preserving in an error.” – 1812
  • “Truth will do well enough if left to shift for herself. She seldom has received much aid from the power of great men to whom she is rarely known and seldom welcome. She has no need of force to procure entrance into the minds of men.” – 1776
  • “It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.” – 1782
  • “I shall pursue in silence the path of right.” – 1784
  • “On matters of style, swim with the current, on matters of principle, stand like a rock.”
  • “And never suppose that in any possible situation or under any circumstances that it is best for you to do a dishonorable thing however slightly so it may appear to you.” – 1785
  • “If you ever find yourself environed with difficulties and perplexing circumstances, out of which you are at a loss how to extricate yourself, do what is right, and be assured that that will extricate you the best out of the worst situations. Though you cannot see, when you take one step, what will be the next, yet follow truth, justice, and plain dealing, and never fear their leading you out of the labyrinth, in the easiest manner possible, the knot, which you thought a Gordian one, will untie itself before you. Nothing is so mistaken as the supposition that a person is to extricate himself from a difficulty by intrigue, by chicanery, by dissimulation, by trimming, by an untruth, by an injustice. This increases the difficulties tenfold…” – 1785
  • “Time and truth will at length correct error.” – 1805
  • “There is not a truth on earth which I fear or would disguise.” – 1806
  • “No good measure was ever proposed which, if duly pursued, failed to prevail in the end.” – 1814
  • “If doubtful, we should follow principle.” – 1816
  • “In endeavors to improve our situation, we should never despair.” – 1817
  • “Encourage all your virtuous dispositions, and exercise them whenever an opportunity arises, being assured that they will gain strength by exercise as a limb of the body does, and that exercise will make them habitual. From the practice of the purest virtue you may be assured you will derive the most sublime comforts in every moment of life…” - 1785
Free Trade:
  • “Our interest will be to throw open the doors of commerce, and to knock off all its shackles, giving perfect freedom to all persons for the vent of whatever they may choose to bring into our ports, and asking the same in theirs.” – 1782
  • “I think all the world would gain by setting commerce at perfect liberty.” – 1785
  • “The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits.”
  • “Could each [country] be free to exchange with others mutual surpluses for mutual wants, the greatest mass possible would then be produced of those things which contribute to human life and human happiness; the numbers of mankind would be increased, and their condition bettered.” – 1793
  • “The merchants will manage commerce the better, the more they are left free to manage for themselves.” – 1800
  • “Taxes on consumption like those on capital or income, to be just, must be uniform.” – 1823
  • “The first foundations of the social compact would be broken up, were we definitely to refuse to its members the protection of their persons and property, while in their lawful pursuits.” – 1812
  • “The true foundation of republican government is the equal right of every citizen, in his person and property, and in their management.” – 1816
  • “Taxation follows public debt, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.” – 1816
  • “If a Nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be...if we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed.”
  • “The most effectual means of preventing the perversion of power into tyranny are to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large, and more especially to give them knowledge of those facts, which history exhibits, that possessed thereby of the experience of other ages and countries, they may be enabled to know ambition under all its shapes, and prompt to exert their natural powers to defeat its purposes.” – 1779
  • “Above all things, I hope the education of the common people will be attended to; convinced that on their good senses we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty.” – 1787
  • “Do not be too severe upon the errors of the people, but reclaim them by enlightening them.” – 1787
  • “If it is believed that the elementary schools will be better managed by the Governor and Council, the Commissioners of the Literary Fund, or any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward, it is a belief against all experience.” – 1816
  • “Opinion is power.” – 1816
  • “I may sometimes differ in opinion from some of my friends, from those whose views are as pure and sound as my own. I censure none, but do homage to every one’s right of opinion.” – 1811
  • “Difference of opinion leads to enquiry, and enquiry to truth.” – 1815
  • “Difference of opinion was never, with me, a motive of separation from a friend. In the trying times of Federalism, I never left a friend. Many left me, have since returned and been received with open arms.” – 1824
  • “I never told my religion nor scrutinize that of another. I never attempted to make a convert nor wished to change another’s creed. I have judged of others’ religion by their lives, for it is from our lives and not from our words that our religion must be read. By the same test must the world judge me.”
  • A Church is “a voluntary society of men, joining themselves together of their own accord, in order to the public worshipping of God in such a manner as they judge acceptable to Him and effectual to the salvation of their souls. It is voluntary, because no man is by nature bound to any church. The hope of salvation is the cause of his entering into it. If he find anything wrong in it, he should be as free to go out as he was to come in.” – 1776
  • “Our civil rights have no dependence upon our religious opinions, more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” – 1779
  • “I offer my sincere prayers to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, that He may long preserve our country in freedom and prosperity.” – 1801
  • “Neither of us knows the religious opinions of the other; that is a matter between our Maker and ourselves.” – 1809
  • “I have considered religion as a matter between every man and his Maker, in which no other, and far less the public had a right to intermeddle.” – 1813
  • “An atheist I can never be. I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the universe, in all its parts, general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of its composition. The movements of the heavenly bodies, so exactly held in their course by the balance of centrifugal and centripetal forces; the structure of our earth itself, with its distribution of lands, waters and atmosphere; animal and vegetable bodies, examined in all their minutest particles; insects, mere atoms of life, yet as perfectly organized as man or mammoth; the mineral substances, their generation and uses; it is impossible, I say, for the human mind not to believe, that there is in all this, design, cause, and effect, up to an ultimate cause, a fabricator of all things from matter and motion, their preserver and regulator while permitted to exist in their present forms, and their regeneration into new and other forms. We see, too, evident proofs of the necessity of a superintending power to maintain the universe in its course and order.” – 1823
  • “The liberty of speaking and writing guards our other liberties.” – 1808
  • “At a very early period of my life, I determined never to put a sentence into any newspaper. I have religiously adhered to the resolution through my life, and have great reason to be contented with it.” – 1798
  • “I never in my life, directly or indirectly, wrote one sentence for a newspaper.” – 1800
  • “No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.” – 1804
  • “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper.” “Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.” – 1807
  • “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.”
  • “I have given up newspapers in exchange for Tacitus, and Thucydides, for Newton and Euclid, and I find myself much the happier.” – 1812


  1. “The price of Liberty is eternal vigilance.”

    This is one especially.

    Last week or the week before, I saw a video of Ron Paul giving an interview, and the interviewer asked him why libertarianism isn't as widespread as it could be. Paul responded by saying something to the effect that with liberty comes additional wealth, and with additional wealth comes apathy.

    Has Paul turned into a historicist?

  2. Would've been nice if jefferson had freed his own.slaves before he died.

    Also the Louisiana purchase. The hell was up with that?

    One thing I like about Jefferson is he pisses off modern progressives. My DC-located family.member once complained of Jefferson's "duplicitousness" in not faithfully carrying out Washington's policies as his public functionary of the time.

    1. One of the reason is that the British government was angling in on it, ostensibly to protect Spanish rights from Napoleon, who had seized it back from Spain in 1800 after the France had given it up in 1760s. The last thing the US government wanted was Britain back again and Napoleon needed the money to fight the British so......

      would you give your car away because walking makes a statement?

  3. I like a lot of what he said, but some of the things he actually did make me just stare and blink when I read about it. As in I would have to go back and make sure I was still reading the same book several times.

  4. Heath,

    Thanks. I forgot its okay to purchase land via debt on behalf of involuntary collectives so long as its done in a game format against other empires.

    Also, I'll be sure to remember the argument for enslaving.other human beings rests on convenience. This has been educational.

    1. Tommy Jeff, like Dr Ron, wasn't perfect. His actions are at odds with his stated ideas. That's why I try to separate the ideas from the person.

      Murray, Ludwig, Lew, me, you- we're human and fallible. We all "fall short of the glory" but that doesn't invalidate our beliefs.

  5. I initially had a lot of respect for Jefferson, due to his opinions, however I now think he was the Reagan of his day; great sound bites, but when it really counts on the side of government, not liberty.

  6. Thomas Jefferson was an pioneer PEU, given he took on huge debt using slaves as collateral. Jefferson pioneered the monetization of slaves:


  7. According to Rothbard, Jefferson was great, except for the 8 years when he was in power. I have to agree with that sentiment.

  8. In response to Ed Ucaton on Rothbard and Jefferson, can you please give me some evidence from Rothbard himself to support your view? I know that he would refer to Jefferson as a libertarian here and there, and also as a radical. He would also cite him in the context of the libertarian tradition of America.

  9. @Ed Ucaton:

    Can you please cite for me some evidence for your view?