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Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale c.1800

 

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MY FAVORITE JEFFERSON

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Arranged by

 

Peter C. Holiday

   

 

 

I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone. –John F. Kennedy, Remarks at dinner honoring Nobel Prize winners of the Western Hemisphere, April 29, 1962

 

My FAVORITE JEFFERSON

 

LIBERTY   

 

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. (From the Declaration of Independence)

 

Nothing is unchangeable but the inherent and unalienable rights of man.

 

Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.

 

 Law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

 

If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.

 

We are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty in a featherbed.

 

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants alike.

 

The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive.

 

Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty.

 

The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave.

 

 

LOSS OF LIBERTY

 

The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.

 

All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.

 

 

DIVINE PROVIDENCE

 

 The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time.

 

Power is not alluring to pure minds.

 

I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.

 

It is in our lives and not our words that our religion must be read.

 

The earth belongs to the living, not to the dead.

 

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 blind-folded fear.

 

 

THE BEARING OF ARMS

 

 No free man shall be debarred the use of arms.

 

The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that... it is their right and duty to be at all times armed.

 

Every citizen should be a soldier. This was the case with the Greeks and Romans, and must be that of every free state.

 

For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well-organized and armed militia is their best security.

 

None but an armed nation can dispense with a standing army. To keep ours armed and disciplined is therefore at all times important.  

 

One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them.

 

 

TYRANNY

 

I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. (Inscribed around the inside of the dome of the Jefferson Memorial)

                                                                                            

All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.

 

Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.

 

Force is the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism.

 

To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.

 

The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it.

 

 

LAW

 

 Law is often but the tyrant's will; and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

 

 

GOVERNMENT

 

 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.

 

The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.

 

The republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind.

 

A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men 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.

 

My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.

 

History, in general, only informs us of what bad government is.

 

That government is the strongest of which every man feels himself a part.

 

When a man assumes a public trust he should consider himself a public property.

 

 

TRUTH AND MORALITY

 

 Truth can stand by itself.  It is error alone which needs the support of government.

 

When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe.

 

Truth is certainly a branch of morality and a very important one to society.

 

I never will, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others.

 

It is always better to have no ideas than false ones; to believe nothing, than to believe what is wrong.

 

 

EDUCATION

 

 To penetrate and dissipate these clouds of darkness, the general mind must be strengthened by education.

 

Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.

 

It takes time to persuade men to do even what is for their own good.

 

Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.

 

 

WAR

 

 Conquest is not in our principles. It is inconsistent with our government.

 

As our enemies have found we can reason like men, so now let us show them we can fight like men also.

 

 

 POLITICS

 

 An association of men who will not quarrel with one another is a thing which has never yet existed, from the greatest confederacy of nations down to a town meeting or a vestry.

Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct.

 

Commerce with all nations, alliance with none, should be our motto.

 

Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.

 

 

CAPITALISM

 

I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.  The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.

 

SOCIALISM

 

Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.

 

I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.

 

Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition.

 

It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.

 

Never spend your money before you have earned it.

 

 

 PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY

 

 Do not bite at the bait of pleasure, till you know there is no hook beneath it.

 

He who knows best knows how little he knows.

 

Be polite to all, but intimate with few.

 

Don't talk about what you have done or what you are going to do.

 

Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching.

 

We never repent of having eaten too little.

 

When angry, count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred.

 

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.

 

Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.

 

Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.

 

When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.

 

...And finally,

 

The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of mankind.

 

 

(The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Albert Bergh, editor (Washington, D. C.: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Assoc., 1904), Vol. XV, p. 383.)

 

 

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