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Thomas Jefferson on Politics & Government

12. Difference of Opinion

In a free society with a government based on reason, it is inevitable that there will be no uniform opinion about important issues. Those accustomed to suppression and control by governmental authority see this as leading only to chaos. But a government of the people requires difference of opinion in order to discover truth and to take advantage of the opportunity that only understanding brings.

"Difference of opinion leads to enquiry, and enquiry to truth; and that, I am sure, is the ultimate and sincere object of us both. 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. ME 14:283

"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. ME 9:385

"Truth between candid minds can never do harm." --Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1791. ME 8:212

"To those whose views are single and direct, it is a great comfort to have to do business with frank and honorable minds." --Thomas Jefferson to Valentine de Foronda, 1809. ME 12:319

"Men, according to their constitutions and the circumstances in which they are placed, differ honestly in opinion. Some are whigs, liberals, democrats, call them what you please. Others are tories, serviles, aristocrats, etc." --Thomas Jefferson to William Short, 1825. ME 16:96

"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. ME 10:235

"I am myself an empiric in natural philosophy, suffering my faith to go no further than my facts. I am pleased, however, to see the efforts of hypothetical speculation, because by the collisions of different hypotheses, truth may be elicited and science advanced in the end." --Thomas Jefferson to George P. Hopkins, 1822. ME 15:394

12.1 Reason vs. Error

"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. ME 15:303

"Error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it." --Thomas Jefferson: 1st Inaugural, 1801. ME 3:319

"Error is the stuff of which the web of life is woven, and he who lives longest and wisest is only able to weave out the more of it." --Thomas Jefferson to F. J. de Chastellux, n.d. ME 18:414

"There is more honor and magnanimity in correcting, than persevering in an error." --Thomas Jefferson: Batture at New Orleans, 1812. ME 18:123

"We are wiser than we were, by having an error the less in our catalogue." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1788. ME 7:76

"The best indication of error which my experience has tested is the approbation of [those favoring a consolidated government]. Their conclusions necessarily follow the false bias of their principles." --Thomas Jefferson to William Duane, 1811. (*) ME 13:51

"The vote of your opponents is the most honorable mark by which the soundness of your conduct could be stamped. I claim the same honorable testimonial. There was but a single act of my whole administration of which [the opposing] party approved... And when I found they approved of it, I confess I began strongly to apprehend I had done wrong, and to exclaim with the Psalmist, 'Lord, what have I done that the wicked should praise me?'" --Thomas Jefferson to Elbridge Gerry, 1812. ME 13:162

"Error is to be pitied and pardoned: it is the weakness of human nature. But vice is a foul blemish, not pardonable in any character." --Thomas Jefferson: Refutation of Argument, 1776. Papers, 1:283

"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 Q.XVII, 1782. ME 2:221

"Every man has a commission to admonish, exhort, convince another of error." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Religion, 1776. Papers 1:545

"Reason and persuasion are the only practicable instruments. To make way for these, free inquiry must be indulged; and how can we wish others to indulge it while we refuse it ourselves?" --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XVII, 1782. ME 2:223

"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. Papers 1:548

"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. ME 14:127

12.2 Ignorance and Error

"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 Q.VI, 1782. ME 2:43

"It is always better to have no ideas, than false ones; to believe nothing, than to believe what is wrong. In my mind, theories are more easily demolished than rebuilt." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1788. ME 7:74

"One... had rather have no opinion than a false one." --Thomas Jefferson: Travels in France, 1787. ME 17:234

12.3 Avoiding Error and Untruth

"One sentence of [M. de Buffon's] book must do him immortal honor: 'I love a man who frees me from an error as much as one who apprehends me of a truth, for in effect an error corrected is a truth.'" --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.VI, 1782. ME 2:72

"By oft repeating an untruth, men come to believe it themselves." --Thomas Jefferson to John Melish, 1813. ME 13:212

"It is of great importance to set a resolution not to be shaken, never to tell an untruth. There is no vice so mean, so pitiful, so contemptible; and he who permits himself to tell a lie once finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world's believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions." --Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr, 1785. ME 5:84, Papers 8:406

12.4 False Accusations

"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 James Sullivan, 1805. ME 11:73

"The uniform tenor of a man's life furnishes better evidence of what he has said or done on any particular occasion than the word of an enemy, and of an enemy too who shows that he prefers the use of falsehoods which suit him to truths which do not." --Thomas Jefferson to George Clinton, 1803. ME 10:440

"It is a proof of sincerity, which I value above all things; as, between those who practise it, falsehood and malice work their efforts in vain." --Thomas Jefferson to William Duane, 1806. ME 11:94

12.5 Truth Will Prevail

"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. ME 2:302, Papers 2:546

"Time and truth will at length correct error." --Thomas Jefferson to Constantin Francois Volney, 1805. ME 11:62

"Truth advances and error recedes step by step only; and to do our fellow-men the most good in our power, we must lead where we can, follow where we cannot, and still go with them, watching always the favorable moment for helping them to another step." --Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, 1814. ME 14:200

12.6 The Limitations of Reason and Opinion

"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. ME 16:23

"I know too well the weakness and uncertainty of human reason to wonder at its different results." --Thomas Jefferson to Abigail Adams, 1804. ME 11:52

"The known bias of the human mind from motives of interest should lessen the confidence of each party in the justice of their reasoning." --Thomas Jefferson to James Ross, 1786. ME 5:323

"All know the influence of interest on the mind of man, and how unconsciously his judgment is warped by that influence." --Thomas Jefferson: Autobiography, 1821. ME 1:121

"The moment a person forms a theory, his imagination sees, in every object, only the traits which favor that theory." --Thomas Jefferson to Charles Thompson, 1787. ME 6:312

"Experience and frequent disappointment have taught me not to be over-confident in theories or calculations, until actual trial of the whole combination has stamped it with approbation." --Thomas Jefferson to George Fleming, 1815. ME 14:366

"All theory must yield to experience." --Thomas Jefferson to James Maury, 1815. ME 14:319

"The union of a fruitful imagination with a limited talent... is always incompatible with those faculties of the mind which qualify their possessor to penetrate, to combine, and to comprehend all the relations of objects." --Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, 1789. ME 7:382

"Little is to be believed which interests the prevailing passions, and happens beyond the limits of our own senses." --Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, 1808. ME 12:7

"Reasonings... not built on the basis of experiment... cannot be decided ultimately... More facts must be collected, and more time flow off, before the world will be ripe for decision. In the meantime, doubt is wisdom." --Thomas Jefferson to General Chastellux, 1785. ME 5:7, Papers 8:186

"When I meet with a proposition beyond finite comprehension, I abandon it as I do a weight which human strength cannot lift, and I think ignorance, in these cases, is truly the softest pillow on which I can lay my head." --Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1820. ME 15:241

12.7 Accepting Differences of Opinion

"[We] know too well the texture of the human mind, and the slipperiness of human reason, to consider differences of opinion otherwise than differences of form or feature. Integrity of views more than their soundness, is the basis of esteem." --Thomas Jefferson to Elbridge Gerry, 1799. ME 10:85

"I see too many proofs of the imperfection of human reason to entertain wonder or intolerance at any difference of opinion on any subject, and acquiesce in that difference as easily as on a difference of feature or form, experience having long taught me the reasonableness of mutual sacrifices of opinion among those who are to act together for any common object, and the expediency of doing what good we can when we cannot do all we would wish." --Thomas Jefferson to John Randolph, 1803. ME 10:436

"Differing on a particular question from those whom I knew to be of the same political principles with myself, and with whom I generally thought and acted, a consciousness of the fallibility of the human mind and of my own in particular, with a respect for the accumulated judgment of my friends, has induced me to suspect erroneous impressions in myself, to suppose my own opinion wrong, and to act with them on theirs. The want of this spirit of compromise, or of self-distrust, proudly but falsely called independence, is what gives [some opponents] victories which they could never obtain if these brethren could learn to respect the opinions of their friends more than of their enemies, and prevents many able and honest men from doing all the good they otherwise might do. These considerations... have often quieted my own conscience in voting and acting on the judgment of others against my own... All honest and prudent men [should] sacrifice a little of self-confidence, and... go with their friends, although they may sometimes think they are going wrong." --Thomas Jefferson to William Duane, 1811. ME 13:50

12.8 Uniformity of Opinion is Not Desirable

"Is uniformity of opinion desirable? No more than of face and stature." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XVII, 1782. ME 2:223

"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 Q.XVII, 1782. ME 2:223

"It is a singular anxiety which some people have that we should all think alike. Would the world be more beautiful were all our faces alike? were our tempers, our talents, our tastes, our forms, our wishes, aversions and pursuits cast exactly in the same mould? If no varieties existed in the animal, vegetable or mineral creation, but all moved strictly uniform, catholic and orthodox, what a world of physical and moral monotony would it be!" --Thomas Jefferson to Charles Thomson, 1817. FE 10:76

"Suppose the State should take into head that there should be an uniformity of countenance. Men would be obliged to put an artificial bump or swelling here, a patch there, etc. But this would be merely hypocritical, or if the alternative was given of wearing a mask, ninety-nine one-hundredths must immediately mask. Would this add to the beauty of nature? Why otherwise in opinions?" --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Religion, 1776. Papers 1:549

"The varieties in the structure and action of the human mind, as in those of the body, are the work of our Creator against which it cannot be a religious duty to erect the standard of uniformity." --Thomas Jefferson to James Fishback, 1809. ME 12:315

"As the Creator has made no two faces alike, so no two minds, and probably no two creeds." --Thomas Jefferson to Timothy Pickering, 1821. ME 15:324

"Nature has, in truth, produced units only through all her works. Classes, orders, genera, species, are not of her work. Her creation is of individuals." --Thomas Jefferson to John Manners, 1814. ME 14:97

12.9 The Right to Differ

"I tolerate with the utmost latitude the right of others to differ from me in opinion without imputing to them criminality." --Thomas Jefferson to Abigail Adams, 1804. ME 11:52

"That there should be a contrariety of opinions respecting the public agents and their measures,... is ever to be expected among free men." --Thomas Jefferson: Reply to Leesburg Republicans, 1809. ME 16:352

"Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle." --Thomas Jefferson: 1st Inaugural, 1801. ME 3:319

"Others... may condemn what they would not if seen in all its parts." --Thomas Jefferson: 1st Inaugural Address, 1801. ME 3:323

"When a man whose life has been marked by its candor, has given a latter opinion contrary to a former one, it is probably the result of further inquiry, reflection and conviction." --Thomas Jefferson to Peregrine Fitzhugh, 1797. ME 9:379

"With the same honest views, the most honest men often form different conclusions." --Thomas Jefferson to Robert Livingston, 1801. ME 10:284

12.10 Critical Judgments

"There is no act, however virtuous, for which ingenuity may not find some bad motive." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Dowse, 1803. ME 10:376

"If no action is to be deemed virtuous for which malice can imagine a sinister motive, then there never was a virtuous action." --Thomas Jefferson to Martin Van Buren, 1824. ME 16:55

"Malice will always find bad motives for good actions. Shall we therefore never do good?" --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1810. ME 12:391

"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. ME 10:304

"An enemy generally says and believes what he wishes." --Thomas Jefferson to C. W. F. Dumas, 1788. ME 6:442, Papers 12:695

"There is nothing against which human ingenuity will not be able to find something to say." --Thomas Jefferson to Gideon Granger, 1801. ME 10:260

"Resort is had to ridicule only when reason is against us." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1813. ME 13:233

"In the heat of debate, men are generally disposed to contradict every authority urged by their opponents." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789. ME 7:448

"What is it men cannot be made to believe!" --Thomas Jefferson to Richard Henry Lee, 1786. ME 5:293

"The bulk of mankind are schoolboys through life." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Coinage, 1784? ME 1:240

12.11 Opinion is not Subject to Legal Restriction

"The opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction." --Thomas Jefferson: Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, 1779. Papers 2:546

"Almighty God has created the mind free and manifested His supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint... All attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens or by civil incapacitations tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion who, being Lord of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in His Almighty power to do, but to extend it by its influence on reason alone." --Thomas Jefferson: Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, 1779. ME 2:300, Papers 2:545

12.2 The Need to Compromise

"A government held together by the bands of reason only, requires much compromise of opinion." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Livingston, 1824. ME 16:25

"On no question can a perfect unanimity be hoped." --Thomas Jefferson: Reply to Inhabitants of Boston, 1808. ME 16:315

"Things even salutary should not be crammed down the throats of dissenting brethren, especially when they may be put into a form to be willingly swallowed." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Livingston, 1824. ME 16:25

"I respect the right of free opinion too much to urge an uneasy pressure of [my own] opinion on [others]. Time and advancing science will ripen us all in its course and reconcile all to wholesome and necessary changes." --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1824. FE 10:320

"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. FE 5:194

"It is for the happiness of those united in society to harmonize as much as possible in matters which they must of necessity transact together." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.VIII, 1782. ME 2:120

"A great deal of indulgence is necessary to strengthen habits of harmony and fraternity." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Livingston, 1824. ME 16:25

"I will sacrifice everything but principle to procure [harmony]." --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Adams, 1801. ME 10:251

"Every man cannot have his way in all things. If his opinion prevails at some times, he should acquiesce on seeing that of others preponderate at other times. Without this mutual disposition we are disjointed individuals, but not a society." --Thomas Jefferson to John Dickinson, 1801. FE 8:76

"In general, I think it necessary to give as well as take in a government like ours." --Thomas Jefferson to George Mason, 1790. ME 8:36

"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. ME 11:25

"[A] reasonable disposition,... sensible that advantages are not all to be on one side, yielding what is just and liberal, is the more certain of obtaining liberality and justice." --Thomas Jefferson to Robert Walsh, 1818. ME 15:176

12.13 A Good Presentation

"I have found prejudices [are] frequently produced against propositions handed to the world without explanation or support." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1783. ME 4:444, Papers 6:277

"A good cause is often injured more by ill-timed efforts of its friends than by the arguments of its enemies. Persuasion, perseverance and patience are the best advocates on questions depending on the will of others." --Thomas Jefferson to James Heaton, 1826.

"I have most carefully avoided every public act or manifestation on that subject [i.e., the opposition to slavery]. Should an occasion ever occur in which I can interpose with decisive effect, I shall certainly know and do my duty with promptitude and zeal. But in the meantime it would only be disarming myself of influence to be taking small means." --Thomas Jefferson to George Logan, 1805. FE 10:141

"An indifferent measure carried through with perseverance is better than a good one taken up only at intervals." --Thomas Jefferson to Timothy Pickering, 1780. Papers 3:608

"Preserving the ends, I should be flexible and conciliatory as to the means." --Thomas Jefferson to Archibald Stuart, 1791. ME 8:277

"We ought not to schismatize on either men or measures. Principles alone can justify that." --Thomas Jefferson to William Duane, 1811. ME 13:29

"If the game runs sometimes against us at home, we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost. For this is a game where principles are the stake." --Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor, 1798. ME 10:47

"Postpone to the great object of Liberty every smaller motive and passion." --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Huntington, 1780. FE 2:298, Papers 3:289

12.14 Maintaining Union

"[Without] union of action and effort in all its parts... no nation can be happy or safe." --Thomas Jefferson to James Sullivan, 1807. ME 11:236

"Union of opinion... gives to a nation the blessing of harmony and the benefit of all its strength." --Thomas Jefferson: 2nd Inaugural, 1805. ME 3:383

"To the principles of union I sacrifice all minor differences of opinion. These, like differences of face, are a law of our nature and should be viewed with the same tolerance." --Thomas Jefferson to William Duane, 1811. ME 13:67

"If to rid ourselves of the present rule of Massachusetts and Connecticut, we break the Union, will the evil stop there? Suppose the New England States alone cut off, will our natures be changed? Are we not men still to the south of that, and with all the passions of men. Immediately we shall see a Pennsylvania and a Virginia party arise in the residuary confederacy, and the public mind will be distracted with the same party spirit. What a game, too, will the one party have in their hands by eternally threatening the other that unless they do so and so, they will join their Northern neighbors. If we reduce our Union to Virginia and North Carolina, immediately the conflict will be established between the representatives of these two States, and they will end by breaking into their simple units. Seeing, therefore, that 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, seeing that we must have somebody to quarrel with, I had rather keep our New England associates for that purpose than to see our bickerings transferred to others... A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolved, and the people recovering their true sight, restoring their government to its true principles." --Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor, 1798. ME 10:45

"It might have been made the interest of the western States to remain united with us, by managing their interests honestly and for their own good. But the moment we sacrifice their interests to our own, they will see it better to govern themselves." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1786. ME 6:10

12.15 Avoiding Intolerance

"That differences of opinion should arise among men on politics, on religion and on every other topic of human inquiry, and that these should be freely expressed in a country where all our faculties are free, is to be expected. But these valuable privileges are much perverted when permitted to disturb the harmony of social intercourse, and to lessen the tolerance of opinion." --Thomas Jefferson: Reply to Citizens of Washington, 1809. ME 16:348

"The history of Poland... gives a lesson which all our countrymen should study: the example of a country erased from the map of the world by the dissensions of its own citizens." --Thomas Jefferson to William Duane, 1811. ME 13:66

"It is... a matter of principle with me to avoid disturbing the tranquillity of others by the expression of any opinion on the innocent questions on which we schismatize." --Thomas Jefferson to James Fishback, 1809. ME 12:315

"[We] have formerly seen warm debates and high political passions. But gentlemen of different politics would then speak to each other, and separate the business of the Senate from that of society. It is not so now. Men who have been intimate all their lives, cross the streets to avoid meeting, and turn their heads another way, lest they should be obliged to touch their hats. This may do for young men with whom passion is enjoyment. But it is afflicting to peaceable minds. Tranquility is the old man's milk." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Rutledge, 1797. ME 9:411

"Public assemblies, where every one is free to speak and to act, are the most powerful looseners of the bands of private friendship." --Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, 1784. ME 4:217, Papers 7:106

"I have never thought that a difference in political, any more than in religious opinions, should disturb the friendly intercourse of society. There are so many other topics on which friends may converse and be happy, that it is wonderful they would select, of preference, the only one on which they cannot agree." --Thomas Jefferson to David Campbell, 1810. ME 12:356

"Political conversations I really dislike, and therefore avoid where I can without affectation. But when urged by others, I have never conceived that having been in public life requires me to belie my sentiments, or even to conceal them. When I am led by conversation to express them, I do it with the same independence here which I have practiced everywhere, and which is inseparable from my nature." --Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, 1796. ME 9:340

"As far as my good will may go (for I can no longer act), I shall adhere to my government, Executive and Legislative, and as long as they are republican, I shall go with their measures whether I think them right or wrong; because I know they are honest and are wiser and better informed than I am." --Thomas Jefferson to William Duane, 1811. ME 13:52

"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." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1813. ME 13:268

12.16 Avoiding Political Dispute

"Never [enter] into dispute or argument with another. I never yet saw an instance of one of two disputants convincing the other by argument. I have seen many on their getting warm, becoming rude and shooting one another. Conviction is the effect of our own dispassionate reasoning, either in solitude or weighing within ourselves dispassionately what we hear from others, standing uncommitted in argument ourselves... In the fevered state of our country, no good can ever result from any attempt to set... fiery zealots to rights either in fact or principle. They are determined as to the facts they will believe, and the opinions on which they will act. Get by them, therefore, as you would by an angry bull; it is not for a man of sense to dispute the road with such an animal." --Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Jefferson Randolph, 1808. ME 12:199

"Nothing gives one person so great advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances." --Thomas Jefferson to Francis Eppes, 1816. ME 19:242

"I fear [political difference] is inseparable from the different constitutions of the human mind and that degree of freedom which permits unrestrained expression. Political dissention is doubtless a less evil than the lethargy of despotism, but still it is a great evil, and it would be as worthy the efforts of the patriot as of the philosopher, to exclude its influence, if possible, from social life. The good are rare enough at best. There is no reason to subdivide them by artificial lines. But whether we shall ever be able so far to perfect the principles of society, as that political opinions shall, in its intercourse, be as inoffensive as those of philosophy, mechanics, or any other, may be well doubted." --Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Pinckney, 1797. ME 9:389

"Avoid the subject of politics in society, and generally indeed... shun disputation on every subject, which never did convince an antagonist, and too often alienates a friend, besides being always an uneasy thing to a good-humored society." --Thomas Jefferson to Charles L. Bankhead, 1808. ME 18:253

"I have never suffered political opinion to enter into the estimate of my private friendships; nor did I ever abdicate the society of a friend on that account till he had first withdrawn from mine. Many have left me on that account, but with many I still preserve affectionate intercourse, only avoiding to speak on politics, as with a Quaker or Catholic I would avoid speaking on religion." --Thomas Jefferson to John F. Mercer, 1804. ME 11:53

"I wish to avoid all collisions of opinion with all mankind." --Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816. ME 14:384

"With a man possessing so many other estimable qualities, why should we be dissocialized by mere difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, or anything else?" --Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, 1811. ME 13:116

"I have received many letters stating to me in the spirit of prophecy, caricatures which the writers, it seems, know are to be the principles of my administration. To these no answer has been given, because the prejudiced spirit in which they have been written proved the writers not in a state of mind to yield to truth or reason." --Thomas Jefferson to William Jackson, 1801. ME 10:205

"Remember that we often repent of what we have said, but never, never of that which we have not." --Thomas Jefferson to Gideon Granger, 1814. ME 14:118

ME, FE = Memorial Edition, Ford Edition.   See Sources.

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