A collection of over 150 Thomas Jefferson quotes

Thomas Jefferson was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, philosopher, and Founding Father who served as the third president of the United States from 1801 to 1809.

Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson

He previously served as the second vice president of the United States from 1797 to 1801

Here are some of his famous quotes

Quotes

The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.

The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.

The spirit of this country is totally adverse to a large military force.

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive.

The way to silence religious disputes is to take no notice of them.

The second office in the government is honorable and easy; the first is but a splendid misery.

The republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind.

The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.

The natural cause of the human mind is certainly from credulity to skepticism.

The most successful war seldom pays for its losses.

The moment a person forms a theory, his imagination sees in every object only the traits which favor that theory.

The good opinion of mankind, like the lever of Archimedes, with the given fulcrum, moves the world.

The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time.

The glow of one warm thought is to me worth more than money.

The earth belongs to the living, not to the dead.

The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it.

The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that… it is their right and duty to be at all times armed.

Truth is certainly a branch of morality and a very important one to society.

The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave.

The advertisement is the most truthful part of a newspaper.

That government is the strongest of which every man feels himself a part.

Taste cannot be controlled by law.

Speeches that are measured by the hour will die with the hour.

Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the form of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.

The Creator has not thought proper to mark those in the forehead who are of stuff to make good generals. We are first, therefore, to seek them blindfold, and then let them learn the trade at the expense of great losses.

We never repent of having eaten too little.

I have seen enough of one war never to wish to see another.

So confident am I in the intentions, as well as wisdom, of the government, that I shall always be satisfied that what is not done, either cannot, or ought not to be done.

Wisdom I know is social. She seeks her fellows. But Beauty is jealous, and illy bears the presence of a rival.

Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.

Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching.

Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.

Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct.

When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.

When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe.

When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.

When angry count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred.

To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.

Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.

The world is indebted for all triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression.

We may consider each generation as a distinct nation, with a right, by the will of its majority, to bind themselves, but none to bind the succeeding generation, more than the inhabitants of another country.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

We did not raise armies for glory or for conquest.

We are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty in a featherbed.

War is an instrument entirely inefficient toward redressing wrong; and multiplies, instead of indemnifying losses.

Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very fast.

To penetrate and dissipate these clouds of darkness, the general mind must be strengthened by education.

Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty.

There is not a truth existing which I fear… or would wish unknown to the whole world.

There is not a sprig of grass that shoots uninteresting to me.

There is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents.

When a man assumes a public trust he should consider himself a public property.

An injured friend is the bitterest of foes.

I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.

I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.

I have no fear that the result of our experiment will be that men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master.

I have no ambition to govern men; it is a painful and thankless office.

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 rights of the individual.

I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely the happier for it.

I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be.

I believe that every human mind feels pleasure in doing good to another.

I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.

Bodily decay is gloomy in prospect, but of all human contemplations the most abhorrent is body without mind.

I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion.

As our enemies have found we can reason like men, so now let us show them we can fight like men also.

I find that he is happiest of whom the world says least, good or bad.

An enemy generally says and believes what he wishes.

An association of men who will not quarrel with one another is a thing which has never yet existed, from the greatest confederacy of nations down to a town meeting or a vestry.

Always take hold of things by the smooth handle.

All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.

All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.

Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.

A wise and frugal Government, which shall retrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.

A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned – this is the sum of good government.

A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks.

A coward is much more exposed to quarrels than a man of spirit.

A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.

Be polite to all, but intimate with few.

Peace and abstinence from European interferences are our objects, and so will continue while the present order of things in America remain uninterrupted.

Resort is had to ridicule only when reason is against us.

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.

Power is not alluring to pure minds.

Politics is such a torment that I advise everyone I love not to mix with it.

I cannot live without books.

Peace and friendship with all mankind is our wisest policy, and I wish we may be permitted to pursue it.

I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.

In truth, politeness is artificial good humor, it covers the natural want of it, and ends by rendering habitual a substitute nearly equivalent to the real virtue.

In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.

In every country and every age, the priest had been hostile to Liberty.

In defense of our persons and properties under actual violation, we took up arms. When that violence shall be removed, when hostilities shall cease on the part of the aggressors, hostilities shall cease on our part also.

Ignorance is preferable to error, and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing than he who believes what is wrong.

If there is one principle more deeply rooted in the mind of every American, it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest.

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.

Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.

If the present Congress errs in too much talking, how can it be otherwise in a body to which the people send one hundred and fifty lawyers, whose trade it is to question everything, yield nothing, and talk by the hour?

I never will, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others.

I own that I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive.

I think with the Romans, that the general of today should be a soldier tomorrow if necessary.

I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.

I was bold in the pursuit of knowledge, never fearing to follow truth and reason to whatever results they led, and bearding every authority which stood in their way.

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.

If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.

If God is just, I tremble for my country.

I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.

It is more dangerous that even a guilty person should be punished without the forms of law than that he should escape.

My theory has always been, that if we are to dream, the flatteries of hope are as cheap, and pleasanter, than the gloom of despair.

Conquest is not in our principles. It is inconsistent with our government.

My only fear is that I may live too long. This would be a subject of dread to me.

Money, not morality, is the principle commerce of civilized nations.

Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains.

Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

Leave no authority existing not responsible to the people.

Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading. I will rather say more necessary because health is worth more than learning.

It takes time to persuade men to do even what is for their own good.

Books constitute capital. A library book lasts as long as a house, for hundreds of years. It is not, then, an article of mere consumption but fairly of capital, and often in the case of professional men, setting out in life, it is their only capital.

It is neither wealth nor splendor; but tranquility and occupation which give you happiness.

But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life, and thanks to a benevolent arrangement the greater part of life is sunshine.

It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.

It is in our lives and not our words that our religion must be read.

It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.

It is always better to have no ideas than false ones; to believe nothing, than to believe what is wrong.

It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God.

It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others: or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own.

Never spend your money before you have earned it.

Commerce with all nations, alliance with none, should be our motto.

Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.

It is our duty still to endeavor to avoid war; but if it shall actually take place, no matter by whom brought on, we must defend ourselves. If our house be on fire, without inquiring whether it was fired from within or without, we must try to extinguish it.

Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.

No duty the Executive had to perform was so trying as to put the right man in the right place.

My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.

Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.

Our country is now taking so steady a course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit: by consolidation of power first, and then corruption, its necessary consequence.

Only aim to do your duty, and mankind will give you credit where you fail.

One travels more usefully when alone, because he reflects more.

One man with courage is a majority.

Nothing is unchangeable but the inherent and unalienable rights of man.

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.

None but an armed nation can dispense with a standing army. To keep ours armed and disciplined is therefore at all times important.

No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.

No man will ever carry out of the Presidency the reputation which carried him into it.

No government ought to be without censors; and where the press is free no one ever will.

No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms.

One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them.

I abhor war and view it as the greatest scourge of mankind.

Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.

Educate and inform the whole mass of the people… They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.

Errors of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.

Every citizen should be a soldier. This was the case with the Greeks and Romans, and must be that of every free state.

I am an Epicurean. I consider the genuine (not the imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy which Greek and Roman leave to us.

How much pain they have cost us, the evils which have never happened.

Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.

History, in general, only informs us of what bad government is.

He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.

He who knows best knows how little he knows.

Happiness is not being pained in body or troubled in mind.

Friendship is but another name for an alliance with the follies and the misfortunes of others. Our own share of miseries is sufficient: why enter then as volunteers into those of another?

Don’t talk about what you have done or what you are going to do.

Experience demands that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor.

I am mortified to be told that, in the United States of America, the sale of a book can become a subject of inquiry, and of criminal inquiry too.

Do not bite at the bait of pleasure, till you know there is no hook beneath it.

Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a Censor – over each other.

Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing.

Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition.

Delay is preferable to error.

For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well-organized and armed militia is their best security.

Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.

Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.

Force is the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism.

Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.

Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.