Thomas Jefferson

A rigid economy of the public contributions and absolute interdiction of all useless expenses will go far towards keeping the government honest and unoppressive.

letter to Lafayette, 1823


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.

First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801


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

letter to John Melish, January 13, 1813


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

Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 19, 1787


Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.

First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801


Never suppose that in any possible situation, or under any circumstances, it is best for you to do a dishonorable thing, however slightly so it may appear to you.

letter to Peter Carr, August 19, 1785

I join cordially in admiring and revering the Constitution of the United States, the result of the collected wisdom of our country. That wisdom has committed to us the important task of proving by example that a government, if organized in all its parts on the Representative principle unadulterated by the infusion of spurious elements, if founded, not in the fears & follies of man, but on his reason, on his sense of right, on the predominance of the social over his dissocial passions, may be so free as to restrain him in no moral right, and so firm as to protect him from every moral wrong.

letter to Amos Marsh, November 20, 1801


I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves.

letter to William Charles Jarvis, September 28, 1820


A man whose political principles have any decided character and who has energy enough to give them effect must always expect to encounter political hostility from those of adverse principles.

letter to Richard M. Johnson, 1808


I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious.

letter to William Ludlow, September 6, 1824


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

letter to Colonel Charles Yancey, January 6, 1816


No one more sincerely wishes the spread of information among mankind than I do, and none has greater confidence in its effect towards supporting free and good government.

letter to Trustees for the Lottery of East Tennessee College, May 6, 1810


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

letter to John Cartwright, 1824


Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.

First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801


The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.

Summary View of the Rights of British America, August 1774


The greatest good we can do our country is to heal its party divisions and make them one people.

letter to John Dickinson, July 23, 1801


The multiplication of public offices, increase of expense beyond income, growth and entailment of a public debt, are indications soliciting the employment of the pruning knife.

letter to Spencer Roane, March 9, 1821