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45 quotes on politics, education, religion, life by America’s founding father Thomas Jefferson

Tarun Mittal
13th Apr 2017
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The United States of America owes a massive debt to Thomas Jefferson for the country it is today, the recent turbulence notwithstanding. A champion of democracy and individual rights, Jefferson, along with the likes of George Washington, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin, led the successful American Revolution against the prevailing British rule. He was then instrumental in laying the foundation upon which the United States of America was built into a global superpower — for which he is regarded as a key Founding Father of the US. Jefferson also holds the distinctions of being the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and serving as the third President of the United States. He also served as the country's first Secretary of State and second Vice President.

Image credit: Wikipedia

Jefferson was a well-learned man who commanded a mastery over disciplines ranging from mathematics and mechanics to religion and philosophy. His diverse education enabled him to eschew popular but erroneous beliefs in favour of the rational thinking that is required while formulating State legislation. The birth of American secularism, in particular, can be largely attributed to Jefferson’s efforts. Though he was a theist himself, Jefferson was a detractor of organised religion and was wary of the influence it could have on the Government. He authored the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom which served as a pre-cursor to the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause — which together stated that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” — of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. For his myriad contributions to his country, Jefferson is regarded as one of the greatest American Presidents by historians and scholars.

For the era he lived in, Jefferson’s ideologies were remarkably progressive and insightful. And today’s world, which finds itself increasingly troubled by divisive beliefs and politics, his thoughts on government, religion, education, and life are as important as they were almost three centuries ago. So, in remembrance of this historic icon on his 274th birthday, here are 45 of Jefferson’s most noteworthy quotes:

On politics

“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.”

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

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

“No government ought to be without censors; and where the press is free no one ever will.”

“No man will ever carry out of the Presidency the reputation which carried him into it.”

“All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.”

“Power is not alluring to pure minds.”

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

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

“I hope our wisdom will grow without power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be.”

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

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

“If we can prevent the government from wasting the labours of people under the pretence of taking care of them, they might just become happy.”

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

“The end of democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when the government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed corporations.”

On education and information

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

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

“I was bold in the pursuit of knowledge, never fearing to follow truth and reason whatever results they led, and bearding every authority which stood in their way.”

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

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

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate to prefer the latter.”

“Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.”

On religion

“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.”

“Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of Censor — over each other.”

“It does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods or no God.”

“If God is just, I tremble for my country.”

“Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.”

“The way to silence religious disputes is to take no notice of them.”

“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.”

“In every country and every age, the priest had been hostile to liberty.”

On life

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

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

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

“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.”

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

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

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

“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.”

“Delay is preferable to error.”

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

“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.”

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

“I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the I have of it.”

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

“Think as you please, and so let others, and you will have no disputes.”

 

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