Favorite Jefferson Quotes

From the Writings of Thomas Jefferson

[Click here to go to Front Page]



		  FAVORITE JEFFERSON QUOTES

			  Part 6

		      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.	



[Click here to go to Front Page]