FAVORITE JEFFERSON QUOTES CIVIL RIGHTS =Habeas Corpus= "The Habeas Corpus secures every man here, alien or citizen, against everything which is not law, whatever shape it may assume." --Thomas Jefferson to A. H. Rowan, 1798. =Trial by Jury= "I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution." --Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Paine, 1789. "It is left... to the juries, if they think the permanent judges are under any bias whatever in any cause, to take on themselves to judge the law as well as the fact. They never exercise this power but when they suspect partiality in the judges; and by the exercise of this power they have been the firmest bulwarks of English liberty." --Thomas Jefferson to Abbe Arnond, 1789. "If the question [before justices of the peace] relate to any point of public liberty, or if it be one of those in which the judges may be suspected of bias, the jury undertake to decide both law and fact." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia, 1782. =Freedom of Conscience= "No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority." --Thomas Jefferson to New London Methodist, 1809. "The legislative powers of government reach actions only and not opinions." --Thomas Jefferson to Danbury Baptists, 1802. "The liberty of speaking and writing guards our other liberties." --Thomas Jefferson: Reply to Address, 1808. "[If a book were] very innocent, and one which might be confided to the reason of any man; not likely to be much read if let alone, but if persecuted, it will be generally read. Every man in the United States will think it a duty to buy a copy, in vindication of his right to buy and to read what he pleases." --Thomas Jefferson to N. G. Dufief, 1814. "We are bound, you, I, and every one to make common cause, even with error itself, to maintain the common right of freedom of conscience." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Dowse, 1803. "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. It behooves him, too, in his own case, to give no example of concession, betraying the common right of independent opinion, by answering questions of faith, which the laws have left between God and himself." --Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, 1803. =Property Rights= "The true foundation of republican government is the equal right of every citizen in his person and property and in their management." --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1816. "A right to property is founded in our natural wants, in the means with which we are endowed to satisfy these wants, and the right to what we acquire by those means without violating the similar rights of other sensible beings." --Thomas Jefferson to Pierre Samuel Dupont de Nemours, 1816. "The rights of the people to the exercise and fruits of their own industry can never be protected against the selfishness of rulers not subject to their control at short periods." --Thomas Jefferson to Isaac H. Tiffany, 1816. "Our wish is that...[there be] maintained that state of property, equal or unequal, which results to every man from his own industry or that of his fathers." --Thomas Jefferson: 2nd Inaugural Address, 1805. "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." --Thomas Jefferson: Note in Tracy's "Political Economy," 1816. "Whenever there are in any country uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1785. "By nature's law, every man has a right to seize and retake by force his own property taken from him by another, by force of fraud. Nor is this natural right among the first which is taken into the hands of regular government after it is instituted. It was long retained by our ancestors. It was a part of their common law, laid down in their books, recognized by all the authorities, and regulated as to circumstances of practice." --Thomas Jefferson: Batture Case, 1812. "It is a moot question whether the origin of any kind of property is derived from nature at all. It is agreed by those who have seriously considered the subject that no individual has, of natural right, a separate property in an acre of land, for instance. By a universal law, indeed, whatever, whether fixed or movable, belongs to all men equally and in common is the property for the moment of him who occupies it; but when he relinquishes the occupation, the property goes with it. Stable ownership is the gift of social law, and is given late in the progress of society." --Thomas Jefferson to Isaac McPherson, 1813. "Private enterprise manages so much better all the concerns to which it is equal." --Thomas Jefferson: 6th Annual Message, 1806. "The merchants will manage [commerce] the better, the more they are left free to manage for themselves." --Thomas Jefferson to Gideon Granger, 1800. =Freedom of the Press= "The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and 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." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 1787. "Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe." --Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816. "Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it." --Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, 1786 "I am... for freedom of the press, and against all violations of the Constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents." --Thomas Jefferson to Elbridge Gerry, 1799. "The art of printing secures us against the retrogradation of reason and information." --Thomas Jefferson to Pierre Paganel, 1811. "Considering the great importance to the public liberty of the freedom of the press, and the difficulty of submitting it to very precise rules, the laws have thought it less mischievous to give greater scope to its freedom than to the restraint of it." --Thomas Jefferson to the Spanish Commissioners, 1793. "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." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804. "This formidable censor of the public functionaries [the press], by arraigning them at the tribunal of public opinion, produces reform peaceably, which must otherwise be done by revolution. It is also the best instrument for enlightening the mind of man and improving him as a rational, moral, and social being." --Thomas Jefferson to A. Coray, 1823. "Our citizens may be deceived for awhile, and have been deceived; but as long as the presses can be protected, we may trust to them for light." --Thomas Jefferson to Archibald Stuart. 1799. "The press is impotent when it abandons itself to falsehood." --Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Seymour, 1807. =Freedom of Religion= "We have solved...the great and interesting question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government, and obedience to the laws, And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason, and the serious convictions of his own inquiries." --Thomas Jefferson to Virginia Baptists, 1808. "I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling in religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises." --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Miller, 1808. "Religion is a subject on which I have ever been most scrupulously reserved. I have considered it as a matter between every man and his Maker, in which no other, and far less the public, had a right to intermeddle." --Thomas Jefferson to Richard Rush, 1813. "The clergy, by getting themselves established by law, and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man." --Thomas Jefferson to Jeremiah Moor, 1800. "I am for freedom of religion, and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendency of one sect over another." --Thomas Jefferson to Elbridge Gerry, 1799. "To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical." --Thomas Jefferson: Statute of Religious Freedom, 1779. "The clergy...believe that any portion of power confided to me [as President] will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion." --Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, 1800. "Believing that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their Legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church and State." --Thomas Jefferson to Danbury Baptists, 1802. "History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes." --Thomas Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, 1813. "In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own." --Thomas Jefferson to Horatio G. Spafford, 1814. "Having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions." --Thomas Jefferson: 1st Inaugural Address, 1801. "Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia, 1782. "The Christian religion, when divested of the rags in which they [the clergy] have enveloped it, and brought to the original purity and simplicity of it's benevolent institutor, is a religion of all others most friendly to liberty, science, and the freest expansion of the human mind." --Thomas Jefferson to Moses Robinson, 1801. "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia, 1782. "Our particular principles of religion are a subject of accountability to God alone." --Thomas Jefferson to Miles King, 1814. "Our civil rights have no dependence upon our religious opinions more than our opinions in physics or geometry." --Thomas Jefferson: Statute of Religious Freedom, 1779. "It is time enough, for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere [in the propagation of religious teachings] when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order." --Thomas Jefferson: Statute of Religious Freedom, 1779. THE PROSPECTS FOR DEMOCRACY =Duties of Citizens= "No government can be maintained without the principle of fear as well as duty. Good men will obey the last, but bad ones the former only. If our government ever fails, it will be from this weakness." --Thomas Jefferson to John Wayles Eppes, 1814. "Every man is under the natural duty of contributing to the necessities of the society; and this is all the laws should enforce on him." --Thomas Jefferson to Francis Gilmer,1816. "I... [am] convinced [man] has no natural right in opposition to his social duties." --Thomas Jefferson to Danbury Baptists, 1802. "A strict observation of the written laws is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to written law, would be to lost the law itself, with life, liberty, property, and all those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the end to the means." --Thomas Jefferson to John Colvin, 1810. "There is a debt of service due from every man to his country, proportioned to the bounties which nature and fortune have measured to him." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Rutledge, 1796. "I acknowledge that such a debt [of service to my fellow-citizens] exists, that a tour of duty in whatever line he can be most useful to his country, is due from every individual. It is not easy perhaps to say of what length exactly that tour should be, but we may safely say of what length it should not be. Not of our whole life, for instance, for that would be to be born a slave--not even of a very large portion of it. --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1793. "The man who loves his country on its own account, and not merely for its trappings of interest or power, can never be divorced for it, can never refuse to come forward when he finds that she is engaged in dangers which he has the means of warding off." --Thomas Jefferson to Elbridge Gerry, 1797. "It behooves our citizens to be on their guard, to be firm in their principles, and full of confidence in themselves. We are able to preserve our self-government if we will but think so." --Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph, 1800. "Lethargy is the forerunner of death to the public liberty." --Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, 1787. =The Future of Democracy= "I am entirely persuaded that the agitations of the public mind advance its powers, and that at every vibration between the points of liberty and despotism, something will be gained for the former. As men become better informed, their rulers must respect them the more." --Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, 1802. "The people of every country are the only safe guardians of their own rights, and are the only instruments which can be used for their destruction. And certainly they would never consent to be so used were they not deceived. To avoid this they should be instructed to a certain degree." --Thomas Jefferson to John Wyche, 1809. "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." --Thomas Jefferson: Diffusion of Knowledge Bill, 1779. "Most codes extend their definitions of treason to acts not really against one's country. They do not distinguish between acts against the government, and acts against the oppressions of the government. The latter are virtues, yet have furnished more victims to the executioner than the former. Real treasons are rare; oppressions frequent. The unsuccessful strugglers against tyranny have been the chief martyrs of treason laws in all countries." --Thomas Jefferson: Report on Spanish Convention, 1792. "Time indeed changes manners and notions, and so far we must expect institutions to bend to them. But time produces also corruption of principles, and against this it is the duty of good citizens to be ever on the watch, and if the gangrene is to prevail at last, let the day be kept off as long as possible." --Thomas Jefferson to Spencer Roane, 1821. "The time to guard against corruption and tyranny is before they shall have gotten hold of us. It is better to keep the wolf out of the fold, than to trust to drawing his teeth and talons after he shall have entered." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia, 1782. "The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately by the grace of God." --Thomas Jefferson to Roger C. Weightman, 1826. "A single good government becomes... a blessing to the whole earth, its welcome to the oppressed restraining within certain limits the measure of their oppressions. But should even this be counteracted by violence on the right of expatriation, the other branch of our example then presents itself for imitation: to rise on their rulers and do as we have done." --Thomas Jefferson to George Flower, 1817. "A first attempt to recover the right of self government may fail, so may a second, a third, etc. But as a younger and more instructed race comes on, the sentiment becomes more and more intuitive, and a fourth, a fifth, or some subsequent one of the ever renewed attempts will ultimately succeed... To attain all this, however, rivers of blood must yet flow, and years of desolation pass over; yet the object is worth rivers of blood and years of desolation. For what inheritance so valuable can man leave to his posterity?" --Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1823. "A government regulating itself by what is wise and just for the many, uninfluenced by the local and selfish views of the few who direct their affairs, has not been seen, perhaps, on earth. Or if it existed for a moment at the birth of ours, it would not be easy to fix the term of its continuance. Still, I believe it does exist here in a greater degree than anywhere else; and for its growth and continuance... I offer sincere prayers." --Thomas Jefferson to William H. Crawford, 1816. "May [our Declaration of Independence] be to the world, what I believe it will be (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all), the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government... All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man." --Thomas Jefferson to Roger C. Weightman, 1826. "The flames kindled on the Fourth of July, 1776, have spread over too much of the globe to be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism; on the contrary, they will consume these engines and all who work them." --Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1821. Compilation copyrighted 1996-97 by Eyler Robert Coates, Sr. Permission hereby granted to quote single excerpts separately.
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