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200 Famous Thomas Jefferson Quotes

Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd President of the United States of America.

Last Updated: December 5, 2022 by Team

Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was one of the American Founding Fathers, Most famously, he was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776) which inspires democracies around the world. The document’s social and political ideals were proposed by Jefferson before the inauguration of George Washington.  He served as the third President of the United States between 1801 and 1809. Thomas Jefferson was selected as one of the four faces carved in Mount Rushmore.

Jefferson is an icon of individual liberty, democracy, and republicanism, Jefferson’s contributions to the freedom enjoyed by the people of the United States are unquestionable. We’ve compiled a list of the top 200 famous Jefferson quotes and sayings on education, freedom, democracy, liberty, government, revolution and more. Learn more of his values from these inspiring Thomas Jefferson Quotes.

200 Powerful Thomas Jefferson Quotes on Life, Liberty, and Religion

Top 10 Thomas Jefferson Quotes

“I have often thought that nothing would do more extensive good at small expense than the establishment of a small circulating library in every county, to consist of a few well-chosen books, to be lent to the people of the country under regulations as would secure their safe return in due time.” – Thomas Jefferson

“it is the great parent of science & of virtue: and that a nation will be great in both, always in proportion as it is free.” – Thomas Jefferson

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that their Creator endows them with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” – Thomas Jefferson

“Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.” – Thomas Jefferson

“Educate and inform the whole mass of the people… They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” – Thomas Jefferson

“Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition.” – Thomas Jefferson

“How much pain they have cost us, the evils which have never happened.” – Thomas Jefferson

“No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms.” – Thomas Jefferson

“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” – Thomas Jefferson

“The earth belongs to the living, not to the dead.” – Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson Quotes on Life

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“Advertisements… contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.”

“One man with courage is a majority.”

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

“Never put off to tomorrow what you can do today.”

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

“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.”

“Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst, and cold.”

“I cannot live without books.”

“He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.”

“There is not a truth existing which I fear, or would wish unknown to the whole world.”

“The most successful war seldom pays for its losses.”

“Experience demands that man is the only animal which devours his kind, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor.”

“Everything is useful which contributes to fix in the principles and practices of virtue.”

“Never trust a man who won’t accept that there is more than one way to spell a word Paraphrased.”

“It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing.”

“I’m a greater believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

“He who knows best knows how little he knows.”

“If our house is on fire, without inquiring whether it was fired from within or without, we must try to extinguish it.”

“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”

“Half a loaf is better than no bread.”

“The dead should not rule the living.”

“The art of life is the art of avoiding pain, and he is the best pilot, who steers clearest of the rocks and shoals with which it is beset.”

“Walking is the very best exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.”

“I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power, the greater it will be.”

“One travels more usefully when alone because he reflects more.”

“Money, not morality, is the principle commerce of civilized nations.”

“But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life, and thanks to a benevolent arrangement, the greater part of life is sunshine.”

“But this momentous question. Like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror.”

“Ignorance is preferable to error, and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing than he who believes what is wrong.”

“Every day is lost in which we do not learn something useful. Man has no nobler or more valuable possession than time.”

“Don’t talk about what you have done or what you are going to do.”

“No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden…But though an old man, I am but a young gardener.”

“I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”

“Too old to plant trees for my gratification, I shall do it for my posterity.”

“The object of walking is to relax the mind. You should, therefore, not permit yourself even to think while you walk. But divert your attention by the objects surrounding you.”

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

“Happiness is not being pained in body or troubled in mind.”

“I find friendship to be like wine, raw when new, ripened with age, the true old man’s milk, and restorative cordial.”

“Take care of your cents: Dollars will take care of themselves.”

“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.”

“Every human being must be viewed according to what it is good for. For not one of us, no, not one, is perfect. And were we to love none who had an imperfection, this world would be a desert for our love.”

“Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.”

“Taste cannot be controlled by law.”

“That will always appear to be his native language which was most familiar to him in his youth.”

“Power is not alluring to pure minds.”

“An injured friend is the bitterest of foes.”

“Truth is certainly a branch of morality and a significant one to society.”

“Good wine is a necessity of life for me.”

“Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the general progress of the human mind.”

“An enemy generally says and believes what he wishes.”

“Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.”

“The art of life is the art of avoiding pain.”

“There is not a sprig of grass that shoots uninteresting to me.”

“On matters of style, swim with the current, on matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

“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.”

“But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.”

“Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.”

“Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading. I will rather say more necessary because health is worth more than learning.”

“An honest man can feel no pleasure in the exercise of power over his fellow citizens.”

“War is an instrument entirely inefficient toward redressing wrong; and multiplies, instead of indemnifying losses.”

“Be polite to all, but intimate with few.”

“The opinions and beliefs of men follow involuntarily the evidence proposed to their minds.”

“We confide in our strength, without boasting of it, we respect that of others, without fearing it.”

“I have no ambition to govern men; it is a painful and thankless office.”

“Leave no authority existing not responsible to the people.”

“A coward is much more exposed to quarrels than a man of spirit.”

“It is neither wealth nor splendor, but tranquility and occupation which give you happiness.”

“Only aim to do your duty, and mankind will give you credit where you fail.”

“I am satisfied, and sufficiently occupied with the things which are, without tormenting or troubling myself about those which may indeed be, but of which I have no evidence.”

“If I am to meet with a disappointment, the sooner I know it, the more of life I shall have to wear it off.”

“Of all machines, the human heart is the most complicated and inexplicable.”

“Always take hold of things by the smooth handle.”

“Never buy a thing you do not want, because it is cheap, it will be dear to you.”

“In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”

“But friendship is precious, not only in the shade but in the sunshine of life; and thanks to a benevolent arrangement of things, the greater part of life is sunshine.”

“Nobody is better than you, and remember, you are better than nobody.”

“Self-love is no part of morality. Indeed it is exactly its counterpart. It is the sole antagonist of virtue, leading us constantly by our propensities to self-gratification in violation of our moral duties to others.”

“…But I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power, the greater it will be.”

“The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have passed at home in the bosom of my family.”

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

“No man will ever bring out of that office the reputation which carries him into it. The honeymoon would be as short in that case as in any other, and its moments of ecstasy would be ransomed by years of torment and hatred.”

“Peace and friendship with all mankind is our wisest policy, and I wish we may be permitted to pursue it.”

“But whether I retire to bed early or late, I rise with the sun.”

“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”

“Books constitute capital. A library book lasts as long as a house, for hundreds of years. It is not, then, an article of mere consumption but fairly of capital, and often in the case of professional men, setting out in life, it is their only capital.”

“When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes a duty.”

“No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.”

“I think one travels more usefully when they travel alone because they reflect more.”

“I find that he is happiest of whom the world says least, good or bad.”

“Never spend your money before you have earned it.”

“The glow of one warm thought is to be worth more than money.”

“I believe that every human mind feels pleasure in doing good to another.”

“Everything yields to diligence.”

“A great deal of love given to a few is better than a little too many.”

“It is my rule never to take a side in any part in the quarrels of others, nor to inquire into them. I generally presume them to flow from the indulgence of too much passion on both sides, & always find that each party thinks all the wrong was in his adversary. These bickerings, which are always useless, embitter human life more than any other cause…”

“A little rebellion is good now and then.”

“He who permits himself to tell a lie once finds it much easier to do it the second time.”

“My only fear is that I may live too long. This would be a subject of dread to me.”

“I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give.”

“No instance exists of a person’s writing two languages perfectly.”

“Dispositions of the mind, like limbs of the body, acquire strength by exercise.”

“Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions.”

“When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot, and hang on.”

“Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.”

“As discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances; institutions must also advance to keep pace with the times.”

“Whiskey claims to itself alone the exclusive office of sot-making.”

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

“Delay is preferable to error.”

“Wisdom I know is social. She seeks her fellows. But Beauty is jealous, and illy bears the presence of a rival.”

“Nature intended me for the tranquil pursuits of science by rendering them my supreme delight. But the enormities of the times in which I have lived, have forced me to take part in resisting them, and to commit myself on the boisterous ocean of political passions.”

“With your talents and industry, with science, and that steadfast honesty, which eternally pursues right, regardless of consequences, you may promise yourself everything but health, without which there is no happiness.”

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

“How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened.”

“Friendship is but another name for an alliance with the follies and the misfortunes of others. Our share of miseries is sufficient: why enter then as volunteers into those of another?”

“My theory has always been, that if we are to dream, the flatteries of hope are as cheap and pleasanter, than the gloom of despair.”

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

“I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely the happier for it.”

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

Thomas Jefferson Quotes on Education

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

“Man is an imitative animal. This quality is the germ of all education in him. From his cradle to his grave, he is learning to do what he sees others do.”

“The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.”

“ . . . there is no act, however virtuous, for which ingenuity may not find some bad motive.”

“When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.”

“bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds; enthusiasm of the free and buoyant. education & free discussion are the antidotes of both.”

Thomas Jefferson Quotes on Freedom

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

“No people who are ignorant can be truly free.”

“Errors of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.”

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

“The policy of the American government is to leave its citizens free, neither restraining them nor aiding them in their pursuits.”

“Freedom, the first-born of science.”

“I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.”

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

“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.”

“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

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

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

“nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.”

Thomas Jefferson Quotes on Democracy

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“Every American citizen must take part in a vigorous debate on the issues of the day.”

“I agree with you that it is the duty of every good citizen to use all the opportunities, which occur to him, for preserving documents relating to the history of our country.”

Thomas Jefferson Quotes on Religion

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

“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as a cause for withdrawing from a friend.”

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

“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 blindfolded fear.”

“It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

“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.”

“Christianity neither is nor ever was a part of the common law.”

“Perfect happiness, I believe, was never intended by the Deity to be the lot of one of his creatures in this world, but that he has very much put in our power the nearness of our approaches to it, is what I have steadfastly believed.”

“our particular principles of religion are a subject of accountability to our god alone. I enquire after no man’s and trouble none with mine; nor is it given to us in this life to know whether yours or mine, our friend’s or our foe’s, are exactly the right.”

Thomas Jefferson Quotes on Tyranny

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“I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

“When the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.”

“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.”

Thomas Jefferson Quotes on Liberty

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“The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave.”

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

“Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of Liberty.”

“Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because the law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”

“…Who can endure toil, famine, stripes, imprisonment and death itself in vindication of his liberty, and the next moment . . . inflict on his fellow men a bondage, one hour of which is fraught with more misery than ages of that which he rose in rebellion to oppose.”

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

“I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.”

“And to preserve their independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt.”

“There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people.”

“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.”

“What a stupendous, what an incomprehensible machine is man! Who can endure toil, famine, stripes, imprisonment & death itself in vindication of his own liberty, and the next moment . . . inflict on his fellow men a bondage, one hour of which is fraught with more misery than ages of that which he rose in rebellion to oppose.”

Thomas Jefferson Quotes on Government

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

“The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest.”

“The equal rights of man and the happiness of every individual are now acknowledged to be the only legitimate objects of government.”

“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.”

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

“We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”

“The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all.”

“That government is best, which governs the least because its people discipline themselves.”

“Was the government to prescribe us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now.”

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

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

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

“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.”

“And to preserve their independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt.”

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

“Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.”

“I, however, place economy among the first and most important republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared.”

Thomas Jefferson Quotes on The Constitution

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“I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and Constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind.”

“A strict observance of the written laws is doubtless one of the high virtues 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.”

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

Thomas Jefferson Quotes on Revolution

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“A machine for making revolutions is doing precisely the wrong thing at just the right time.”

“Every generation needs a new revolution.”

“The expedition of Messrs. Lewis & Clarke for exploring the river Missouri, & the best communication from that to the Pacific ocean, has had all the success which could have been expected.”

“the two principles on which our conduct towards the Indians should be founded, are justice & fear. after the injuries we have done them, they cannot love us . . . .”

“yet the hour of emancipation is advancing . . . this enterprise is for the young; for those who can follow it up, and bear it through to it’s consummation. it shall have all my prayers, and these are the only weapons of an old man.”


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