Selected Quotations from the Thomas Jefferson Papers
A brief selections of quotations from Thomas Jefferson’s papers at the Library of Congress.
Thomas Jefferson was a prolific writer. His papers at the Library of Congress are a rich storehouse of his thoughts and ideas expressed both in official correspondence and in private letters. This brief selection suggests something of what awaits users' own online investigations into the writings of the man who was the third president of the United States, the founder of the University of Virginia, and author of the Declaration of Independence.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal. . . ."
Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
"it is the great parent of science & of virtue: and that a nation will be great in both, always in proportion as it is free."
Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Willard, March 24, 1789
"our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost."
Thomas Jefferson to Dr. James Currie, January 28, 1786
"nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle."
Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell, June 11, 1807
"I, however, place economy among the first and most important republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared."
Thomas Jefferson to William Plumer, July 21, 1816
"bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds; enthusiasm of the free and buoyant. education & free discussion are the antidotes of both."
Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, August 1, 1816
"What a stupendous, what an incomprehensible machine is man! Who can endure toil, famine, stripes, imprisonment & death itself in vindication of his own liberty, and the next moment . . . inflict on his fellow men a bondage, one hour of which is fraught with more misery than ages of that which he rose in rebellion to oppose."
Thomas Jefferson to Jean Nicholas Demeunier, January 24, 1786
"yet the hour of emancipation is advancing . . . this enterprise is for the young; for those who can follow it up, and bear it through to it's consummation. it shall have all my prayers, and these are the only weapons of an old man."
Thomas Jefferson to Edward Coles, August 25, 1814
"the two principles on which our conduct towards the Indians should be founded, are justice & fear. after the injuries we have done them, they cannot love us . . . ."
Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Hawkins, August 13, 1786
"The expedition of Messrs. Lewis & Clarke for exploring the river Missouri, & the best communication from that to the Pacific ocean, has had all the success which could have been expected."
Thomas Jefferson's Sixth Annual Message to Congress, December 2, 1806
"I agree with you that it is the duty of every good citizen to use all the opportunities, which occur to him, for preserving documents relating to the history of our country."
Thomas Jefferson to Hugh P. Taylor, October 4, 1823
"I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give."
Thomas Jefferson to Alexander Donald, February 7, 1788
"Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights."
Thomas Jefferson to Richard Price, January 8, 1789
"I have often thought that nothing would do more extensive good at small expense than the establishment of a small circulating library in every county, to consist of a few well-chosen books, to be lent to the people of the country under regulations as would secure their safe return in due time."
Thomas Jefferson to John Wyche, May 19, 1809
"our particular principles of religion are a subject of accountability to our god alone. I enquire after no man's and trouble none with mine; nor is it given to us in this life to know whether yours or mine, our friend's or our foe's, are exactly the right."
Thomas Jefferson to Miles King, September 26, 1814
" . . . there is no act, however virtuous, for which ingenuity may not find some bad motive."
Thomas Jefferson to Edward Dowse, April 19, 1803
"When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry, an hundred."
Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Jefferson Smith, February 21, 1825
"I cannot live without books."
Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, June 10, 1815