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Thomas Jefferson Quotes for our Time

Thomas Jefferson, our third President, was a great champion of freedom. It is thanks to him that we have the Bill of Rights, including the 1st amendment. He would not agree to a Constitution without it.

  1. A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular; and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inferences.
  2. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.
  3. Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now.
  4. I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.
  5. “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms…disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes… Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.” (Quoting Cesare Beccaria)
  6. The beauty of the Second Amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it.
  7. The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits.
  8. No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another, and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him.
  9. To take from one because it is thought that his own industry and that of his father’s has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association—the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.
  10. I think myself that we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious.
  11. When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.
  12. I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive.
  13. The god who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time: the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.
  14. In matters of style, swim with the current; In matters of principle, stand like a rock.
  15. What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?
  16. The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all.
  17. Were we directed from Washington when to sow and when to reap, we should soon want bread.
  18. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.
  19. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
  20. Of liberty I would say that, in the whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will. But rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add “within the limits of the law,” because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual.
  21. Liberty is the great parent of science and of virtue; and a nation will be great in both in proportion as it is free.
  22. He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.
  23. 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.
  24. I have never been able to conceive how any rational being could propose happiness to himself from the exercise of power over others.
  25. To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.
  26. I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.
  27. The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.
  28. Most bad government has grown out of too much government.
  29. The man who reads nothing at all is better than educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.
  30. 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.
  31. A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.
  32. A free people [claim] their rights as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate.
  33. God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between master and slave is despotism. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free.
  34. History, in general, only informs us what bad government is.
  35. It is better to tolerate that rare instance of a parent’s refusing to let his child be educated, than to shock the common feelings by a forcible transportation and education of the infant against the will of his father.
  36. The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.
  37. Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty.
  38. I have sworn on the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.

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