Thomas Jefferson


                REPUBLICAN PRINCIPLES (cont'd)

=Good Government=

"The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction 
is the first and only legitimate object of good government."
--Thomas Jefferson to Maryland Republicans, 1809.

"The first object of human association [is] the full improvement of 
their condition." --Thomas Jefferson: Virginia Protest, 1825.

"The only orthodox object of the institution of government is to
secure the greatest degree of happiness possible to the general
mass of those associated under it." --Thomas Jefferson to M. van
der Kemp, 1812.

"It will be said that great societies cannot exist without
government." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia, 1782.

"It is a problem, not clear in my mind, that [a society without 
government, as among our Indians] is not the best.  But I believe 
it to be inconsistent with any great degree of population."
 --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1787.

"The excellence of every government is its adaptation to the state 
of those to be governed by it." --Thomas Jefferson to Pierre Samuel 
Dupont de Nemours, 1816.

"This I hope will be the age of experiments in government, and
that their basis will be founded in principles of honesty, not of
mere force." --Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1796.

"Every society has a right to fix the fundamental principles of 
its association, and to say to all individuals, that if they 
contemplate pursuits beyond the limits of these principles and  
involving dangers which the society chooses to avoid, they must go
somewhere else for their exercise; that we want no citizens, and
still less ephemeral and pseudo-citizens, on such terms.  We may
exclude them from our territory, as we do persons infected with
disease." --Thomas Jefferson to William H. Crawford, 1816.

"Every people may establish what form of government they please, 
and change it as they please, the will of the nation being the 
only thing essential." --Thomas Jefferson: Anas, 1792.

"The provisions we have made [for our government] are such as
please ourselves; they answer the substantial purposes of
government and of justice, and other purposes than these should
not be answered." --Thomas Jefferson: Reply to Lord North, 1775.

"The right of self-government does not comprehend the government 
of others." --Thomas Jefferson: Official Opinion, 1790.

"No other depositories of power [but the people themselves] have
ever yet been found, which did not end in converting to their own
profit the earnings of those committed to their charge." --Thomas
Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1816.

"To constrain the brute force of the people, the European
governments deem it necessary to keep them down by hard labor,
poverty and ignorance, and to take from them, as from bees, so 
much of their earnings, as that unremitting labor shall be 
necessary to obtain a sufficient surplus to sustain a scanty and 
miserable life." --Thomas Jefferson to William Johnson, 1823.

"I think, myself, that we have more machinery of government than 
is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the
industrious.  I believe it might be much simplified to the relief 
of those who maintain it." --Thomas Jefferson to William Ludlow, 

"Government as well as religion has furnished its schisms, its 
persecutions and its devices for fattening idleness on the 
earnings of the people." --Thomas Jefferson to Charles Clas, 1815.

"Were we directed from Washington when to sow and when to reap, we 
should soon want bread." --Thomas Jefferson: Autobiography, 1821.

"If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the
people under the pretense of taking care of them, they must
become happy." --Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, 1802

"We must make our election between economy and liberty, or
profusion and servitude." --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval,

"Anarchy [is] necessarily consequent to inefficiency." --Thomas 
Jefferson to George Mason, 1790.

"We are now vibrating between too much and too little government, 
and the pendulum will rest finally in the middle." --Thomas 
Jefferson to Samuel Smith, 1788.

"I am not a friend to a very energetic government.  It is always 
oppressive." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1787.

"We exist, and are quoted, as standing proofs that a government,
so modeled as to rest continually on the will of the whole 
society, is a practicable government." --Thomas Jefferson to 
Richard Rush, 1820.

"The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest." 
--Thomas Jefferson: Rights of British America, 1774.

"A noiseless course, not meddling with the affairs of others, 
unattractive of notice, is a mark that society is going on in 
happiness. If we can prevent the government from wasting the 
labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them, 
they must become happy." --Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, 

"What more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous 
people?  Still one thing more, fellow citizens--a wise and frugal 
Government, which shall restrain 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.  This is the sum of good 
government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our 
felicities." --Thomas Jefferson: 1st Inaugural, 1801.

=Governed by Reason=

"I hope that we have not labored in vain, and that our experiment
will still prove that men can be governed by reason." --Thomas
Jefferson to George Mason, 1791.

"Truth and reason are eternal.  They have prevailed.  And they
will eternally prevail; however, in times and places they may be
overborne for a while by violence, military, civil, or 
ecclesiastical." --Thomas Jefferson to Rev. Samuel Knox, 1810.

"Truth will do well enough if left to shift for herself.  She 
seldom has received much aid from the power of great men to whom 
she is rarely known and seldom welcome.  She has no need of force 
to procure entrance into the minds of men." --Thomas Jefferson: 
Notes on Religion, 1776.

"It is error alone which needs the support of government.  Truth
can stand by itself." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia, 1782.

"Everyone must act according to the dictates of his own reason."
--Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Miller, 1808.

"I have so much confidence in the good sense of man, and his 
qualifications for self-government, that I am never afraid of the 
issue where reason is left free to exert her force." --Thomas 
Jefferson to Comte Diodati, 1789.

"Man once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against 
absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is 
the sport of every wind." --Thomas Jefferson to James Smith, 1822.

"Ignorance and bigotry, like other insanities, are incapable of
self-government." --Thomas Jefferson to Lafayette, 1817.

"Every man's reason is his own rightful umpire.  This principle,
with that of acquiescence in the will of the majority, will 
preserve us free and prosperous as long as they are sacredly  
observed." --Thomas Jefferson to John F. Watson, 1814.

"I am... 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.

"I hold it certain that to open the doors of truth and to fortify 
the habit of testing everything by reason are the most effectual 
manacles we can rivet on the hands of our successors to prevent 
their manacling the people with their own consent." --Thomas 
Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

"If virtuous, the government need not fear the fair operation of
attack and defense.  Nature has given to man no other means of
sifting the truth, either in religion, law, or politics." --Thomas 
Jefferson to George Washington, 1792.

"I am not myself apt to be alarmed at innovations recommended by 
reason.  That dread belongs to those whose interests or
prejudices shrink from the advance of truth and science." --Thomas 
Jefferson to John Manners, 1814.

"Where thought is free in its range, we need never fear to hazard 
what is good in itself." --Thomas Jefferson to Mr. Olgilvie, 1811.

"If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union
or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as
monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be
tolerated where reason is left free to combat it." --Thomas
Jefferson: 1st Inaugural, 1801.

=Difference of opinion=

"Difference of opinion leads to enquiry, and enquiry to truth; and 
I am sure...we both value too much the freedom of opinion
sanctioned by our Constitution, not to cherish its exercise even 
where in opposition to ourselves." --Thomas Jefferson to P. H. 
Wendover, 1815.

"The opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor
under its jurisdiction." --Thomas Jefferson: Statute of Religious
Freedom, 1779.

"I have learned to be less confident in the conclusions of human
reason, and give more credit to the honesty of contrary opinions."
--Thomas Jefferson to Edward Livingston, 1824.

"An association of men who will not quarrel with one another is a
thing which never yet existed, from the greatest confederacy of
nations down to a town meeting or a vestry." --Thomas Jefferson
to John Taylor, 1798.

"Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle."
--Thomas Jefferson: 1st Inaugural, 1801.

"We ought not to schismatize on either men or measures.  Principles 
alone can justify that." --Thomas Jefferson to William Duane, 1811. 

"I see the necessity of sacrificing our opinions sometimes to the 
opinions of others for the sake of harmony." --Thomas Jefferson to 
Francis Eppes, 1790.

"He alone who walks strict and upright, and who, in matters of 
opinion, will be contented that others should be as free as himself 
and acquiesce when his opinion is freely overruled, will attain his 
object in the end." --Thomas Jefferson to Gideon Granger, 1804.

"With the same honest views, the most honest men often form 
different conclusions." --Thomas Jefferson to Robert Livingston, 

"A government held together by the bands of reason only, requires 
much compromise of opinion." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward 
Livingston, 1824. 

"Every honest man will suppose honest acts to flow from honest 
principles, and the rogues may rail without intermission." --Thomas 
Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, 1801.

"In every country where man is free to think and to speak, 
differences of opinion will arise from difference of perception, 
and the imperfection of reason; but these differences when 
permitted, as in this happy country, to purify themselves by free 
discussion, are but as passing clouds overspreading our land 
transiently and leaving our horizon more bright and serene." 
--Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Waring, 1801. 

"Nothing but good can result from an exchange of information
and opinions between those whose circumstances and morals admit no 
doubt of the integrity of their views." --Thomas Jefferson to 
Elbridge Gerry, 1797.

"Every man has a commission to admonish, exhort, convince another 
of error." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Religion, 1776.

"We ought not to schismatize on either men or measures. Principles 
alone can justify that." --Thomas Jefferson to William Duane, 1811.

"The Gothic idea that we were to look backwards instead of 
forwards for the improvement of the human mind, and to recur to
the annals of our ancestors for what is most perfect in 
government, in religion and in learning, is worthy of those bigots
in religion and government by whom it has been recommended, and 
whose purposes it would answer.  But it is not an idea which this 
country will endure." --Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Priestley, 1800.

"We are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to
tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it."
--Thomas Jefferson to William Roscoe, 1820.

"Error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to
combat it." --Thomas Jefferson: 1st Inaugural, 1801.

"Error indeed has often prevailed by the assistance of power or 
force.  Truth is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error." 
--Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Religion, 1776.

"Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against
error... They are the natural enemies of error, and of error 
only... If [free enquiry] be restrained now, the present 
corruptions will be protected, and new ones encouraged." --Thomas
Jefferson: Notes on Virginia, 1782.

"If [a] book be false in its facts, disprove them; if false in its
reasoning, refute it.  But for God's sake, let us freely hear both 
sides if we choose." --Thomas Jefferson to N. G. Dufief, 1814.

"Ignorance is preferable to error, and he is less remote from the
truth who believes nothing than he who believes what is wrong."
--Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia, 1782.

"By oft repeating an untruth, men come to believe it themselves."
--Thomas Jefferson to John Melish, 1813.

"If we suffer ourselves to be frightened from our post by mere 
lying, surely the enemy will use that weapon; for what one so cheap 
to those of whose system of politics morality makes no part?" 
--Thomas Jefferson to John Sullivan, 1805.

"Truth is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has
nothing to fear from the conflict, unless, by human interposition, 
disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate; errors 
ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict 
them." --Thomas Jefferson: Statute of Religious Freedom, 1779.

"Truth between candid minds can never do harm." --Thomas Jefferson 
to John Adams, 1791.

"Truth is great and will prevail if left to herself.  She is the 
proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear 
from the conflict, unless, by human interposition, disarmed of her 
natural weapons, free argument and debate; errors ceasing to be 
dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them." 
--Thomas Jefferson: Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, 1779. 

"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." --Thomas Jefferson to Thomas 
Cooper, 1814.

"I have learned to be less confident in the conclusions of human 
reason, and give more credit to the honesty of contrary opinions." 
--Thomas Jefferson to Edward Livingston, 1824. 

"What is it men cannot be made to believe!" --Thomas Jefferson 
to Richard Henry Lee, 1786.

"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 
toward uniformity." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia, 1782.

"It is surely time for men to think for themselves, and to throw 
off the authority of names so artificially magnified." --Thomas
Jefferson to William Short, 1820.

"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 is one, he must more approve of the 
homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear." --Thomas
Jefferson to Peter Carr, 1787.

=Political Parties=

"In every free and deliberating society, there must, from the 
nature of man, be opposite parties, and violent dissensions and 
discords; and one of these, for the most part, must prevail over 
the other for a longer or shorter time." --Thomas Jefferson to 
John Taylor, 1798.

"Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two 
parties: 1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to 
draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes.   
2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence 
in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, 
although not the most wise depositary of the public interests.  In 
every country these two parties exist, and in every one where they 
are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare 
themselves." --Thomas Jefferson to Henry Lee, 1824.

"The division into whig and tory is founded in the nature of men;
the weakly and nerveless, the rich and the corrupt, seeing more
safety and accessibility in a strong executive; the healthy,  
firm, and virtuous, feeling confidence in their physical and moral
resources, and willing to part with only so much power as is
necessary for their good government; and, therefore, to retain  
the rest in the hands of the many, the division will substantially 
be into Whig and Tory." --Thomas Jefferson to Joel Barlow, 1802.

"To me... it appears that there have been differences of opinion 
and party differences, from the first establishment of government 
to the present day, and on the same question which now divides our
own country; that these will continue through all future time; 
that every one takes his side in favor of the many, or of the 
few, according to his constitution, and the circumstances in 
which he is placed." --Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1813.

"Were parties here divided merely by a greediness for office,...
to take a part with either would be unworthy of a reasonable or
moral man." --Thomas Jefferson to William Branch Giles, 1795.

"I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed
of any party of men whatever, in religion, in philosophy, in
politics, or in anything else, where I was capable of thinking for 
myself.  Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and
moral agent. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I 
would not go there at all." --Thomas Jefferson to Francis 
Hopkinson, 1789.

"Men of energy of character must have enemies; because there
are two sides to every question, and taking one with decision, 
and acting on it with effect, those who take the other will of  
course be hostile in proportion as they feel that effect." 
--Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1817.

"An enemy generally says and believes what he wishes." --Thomas 
Jefferson to C. W. F. Dumas, 1788.

"The greatest good we can do our country is to heal its party 
divisions and make them one people." --Thomas Jefferson to John 
Dickinson, 1801.

Compilation copyrighted 1996 by Eyler Robert Coates, Sr.
Permission hereby granted to quote single excerpts separately.

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