Thomas Jefferson is a historical person who made a lasting impression on the world. As someone who appreciates education and information, I am drawn to his works and talks, especially his quotes. His quotes are famous for their eloquence, wisdom, and relevance.
From his famous assertion of human equality in the Declaration of Independence to his observations on education, democracy, and the pursuit of happiness, Jefferson’s words continue to resonate with us today.
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In this article, we’ll look at some of Thomas Jefferson’s most famous quotes and what they may teach us about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Who is Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was a founding father of the United States and the third president of the United States, serving from 1801 until 1809. Jefferson was a scholar, writer, philosopher, and politician who helped shape the early American republic.
He is perhaps most known for his role in crafting the Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed the American colonies independence from the United Kingdom and established the principle of individual rights and liberty.
Here are a few interesting facts about Jefferson:
- Jefferson was born in Shadwell, Virginia, on April 13, 1743, and grew up on his family’s plantation.
- He was an early advocate for religious freedom, and he wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in 1777.
- Jefferson was President George Washington’s first Secretary of State, and afterward John Adams’ Vice President.
- In 1819, he established the University of Virginia, which was one of the first in the United States to provide a complete curriculum.
- Jefferson died on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1826, and his legacy as a key figure in American history is still commemorated and contested today.
The Best of Thomas Jefferson Quotes
The care of human life and happiness… is the only legitimate object of good government.
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.
My principle is to do whatever is right and leave consequences to him who has the disposal of them.
Only aim to do your duty, and mankind will give you credit when you fail.
Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.
We must dream of an aristocracy of achievement arising out of a democracy of opportunity.
Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.
Teach self-denial and make its practice pleasure, and you can create for the world a destiny more sublime than ever issued from the brain of the wildest dreamer.
It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God.
The happiness of the domestic fireside is the first boon to Heaven, and it is well it is so since it is that which is a lot of the mass of mankind.
The hole and the patch should be commensurate.
History, in general, only informs us of what bad government is.
The people are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.
Be polite to all, but intimate with few.
A little rebellion is a medicine necessary for the sound health of the government.
I sincerely believe… that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies.
I have not observed men’s honesty to increase with their riches.
We sometimes from dreams pick up some hint worth improving by … reflection.
When angry count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred.
The persons and property of our citizens are entitled to the protection of our government in all places where they may lawfully go.
He who knows best knows how little he knows.
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.
The opinions of men are not the object of civil government nor under its jurisdiction.
The earth belongs to the living, not to the dead.
Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching.
I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.
Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.
I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious.
If ever there was a holy war, it was that which saved our liberties and gave us independence.
If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.
In matters of style, swim with the current. In matters of principle, stand like a rock.
The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
Never fear the want of business. A man who qualifies himself well for his calling never fails of employment.
To preserve their independence, we must not let our rules load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude.
Most Famous Quotes By Thomas Jefferson
The error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.
The most successful war seldom pays for its losses.
One travels more usefully when alone because he reflects more.
Leave no authority existing not responsible to the people.
I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.
The ordinary affairs of a nation offer little difficulty to a person of any experience.
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.
I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.
Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.
I believe that every human mind feels pleasure in doing good to another.
If some period is not fixed, either by the Constitution or by practice, to the services of the First Magistrate, his office, though nominally elective, will, in fact, be for life, and that will soon degenerate into an inheritance.
I have never been able to conceive how any rational being could propose happiness to himself from the exercise of power over others.
Great innovations should not be forced on slender majorities.
Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate to prefer the latter.
In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.
Never spend your money before you have earned it.
No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the natural rights of another, and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him.
I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, religion, in philosophy, as a cause for withdrawing from a friend.
He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.
There is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds for this are virtue and talent.
None but an armed nation can dispense with a standing army.
Don’t talk about what you have done or what you are going to do.
Doubts and jealousies often beget the facts they fear.
Money, not morality, is the principle of commerce of civilized nations.
Peace and friendship with all mankind is our wisest policy, and I wish we may be permitted to pursue it.
Agriculture manufacturing, commerce, and navigation, the four pillars of our prosperity, are most thriving when left most free to individual enterprise.
Health is worth more than learning.
The qualifications for self-government in society are not innate. They are the result of habit and long training, and for these, they will require time and probably much suffering.
I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.
Perfect happiness, I believe, was never intended by the Deity to be the lot of one of his creatures in this world; but that he has very much put in our power the nearness of our approaches to it is what I have steadfastly believed.
I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be.
An injured friend is the bitterest of foes.
Always take hold of things with a smooth handle.
Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.
Leave all afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading. I will rather say more necessary because health is worth more than learning.
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.
I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.
Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty.
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.
Thomas Jefferson Quotes to Live By
The good opinion of mankind, like the lever of Archimedes, with the given fulcrum, moves the world.
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.
My only fear is that I may live too long. This would be a subject of dread to me.
The moment a person forms a theory, his imagination sees in every object only the traits which favor that theory.
It is always better to have no ideas than false ones; to believe nothing than to believe what is wrong.
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.
The natural cause of the human mind is certainly from credulity to skepticism.
It is more dangerous that even a guilty person should be punished without the forms of law than that he should escape.
I find that he is the happiest of whom the world says least, good or bad.
No duty the Executive had to perform was so trying as to put the right man in the right place.
The world is indebted for all triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression.
Bodily decay is gloomy in prospect, but of all human contemplations, the most abhorrent is a body without mind.
None but an armed nation can dispense with a standing army. To keep ours armed and disciplined is therefore at all times important.
I have no ambition to govern men; it is a painful and thankless office.
To penetrate and dissipate these clouds of darkness, the general mind must be strengthened by education.
Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.
Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct.
My theory has always been, that if we are to dream, the flatteries of hope are as cheap and pleasanter, as the gloom of despair.
I own that I am not a friend of a very energetic government. It is always oppressive.
For people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well-organized and armed militia is their best security.
I have no fear that the result of our experiment will be that men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master.
Of all the faculties of the human mind, that of memory is the first that suffers decay from age.
The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.
In the fevered state of our country, no good can ever result from any attempt to set one of these fiery zealots to rights, either in fact or in principle. They are determined as to the facts they will believe and the opinions on which they will act.
When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe.
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.
In the end, Thomas Jefferson’s most memorable quotes remind us that the pursuit of truth, justice, and liberty is a never-ending journey. As we reflect on Thomas Jefferson’s most famous quotes, we are reminded of his enduring legacy and the impact he had on American society and culture.
From the pursuit of happiness to the defense of liberty, his words continue to shape our understanding of what it means to be an American.