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Favorite Jefferson Quotes

From the Writings of Thomas Jefferson

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			 Part 5


=The Justice System=

"Justice is the fundamental law of society." --Thomas Jefferson 
to Pierre Samuel Dupont de Nemours, 1816.

"The most sacred of the duties of a government is to do equal and
impartial justice to all its citizens." --Thomas Jefferson: Note 
in Tracy's, "Political Economy," 1816.

"It is the will of the nation which makes the law obligatory; it 
is their will which vacates or annihilates the organ which is to
declare and announce it." --Thomas Jefferson to Edmund Randolph, 

"Law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it 
violates the right of an individual." --Thomas Jefferson to 
Isaac H. Tiffany, 1819.

"An equal application of law to every condition of man is
fundamental." --Thomas Jefferson to George Hay, 1807.

"Laws made by common consent must not be trampled on by
individuals." --Thomas Jefferson to Col. Vanneter, 1781.

"A strict observance of the written laws is doubtless one of the
high duties 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.  To lose our country 
by a scrupulous adherence to written law would be to lose the law
itself, with life, liberty, property, and all those who are 
enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the end to the 
means." --Thomas Jefferson to John Colvin, 1810.

"No nation however powerful, any more than an individual, can
be unjust with impunity.  Sooner or later, public opinion, an
instrument merely moral in the beginning, will find occasion
physically to inflict its sentences on the unjust... The lesson 
is useful to the weak as well as the strong." --Thomas Jefferson 
to James Madison, 1804.

=Commerce & Agriculture=

"Agriculture, manufactures, commerce and navigation, the four
pillars of our prosperity, are the most thriving when left most 
free to individual enterprise.  Protection from casual 
embarrassments, however, may sometimes be seasonably interposed." 
--Thomas Jefferson: 1st Annual Message, 1801.

"The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens
free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits."
--Thomas Jefferson to M. L'Hommande, 1787.

"[Ours is a] policy of not embarking the public in enterprises
better managed by individuals, and which might occupy as much
of our time as those political duties for which the public 
functionaries are particularly instituted.  Some money could be
lent them [the New Orleans Canal Co.], but only on an assurance
that it would be employed so as to secure the public objects."
--Thomas Jefferson to W. C. C. Claiborne, 1808.

"I hope we shall... crush in its birth the aristocracy of our
moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our
government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of
our country." --Thomas Jefferson to George Logan, 1816.

"The selfish spirit of commerce knows no country, and feels no
passion or principle but that of gain." --Thomas Jefferson to 
Larkin Smith, 1809.

=Taxation & Debt=

"Many of the opposition [to the new Federal Constitution] wish to
take from Congress the power of internal taxation.  Calculation
has convinced me that this would be very mischievous." --Thomas
Jefferson to William Carmichael, 1788.

"Taxes should be proportioned to what may be annually spared by
the individual." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1784.

"Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is
to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the
higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they
rise." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1785. 

"Taxes on consumption, like those on capital or income, to be 
just, must be uniform." --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Smith, 1823.

"The rich alone use imported articles, and on these alone the
whole taxes of the General Government are levied... Our revenues 
liberated by the discharge of the public debt, and its surplus 
applied to canals, roads, schools, etc., the farmer will see
his government supported, his children educated, and the face of
his country made a paradise by the contributions of the rich 
alone, without his being called on to spend a cent from his 
earnings." --Thomas Jefferson to Thaddeus Kosciusko, 1811.

"Excessive taxation... will carry reason and reflection to every
man's door, and particularly in the hour of election." --Thomas
Jefferson to John Taylor, 1798.

=Public Welfare=

"The poor who have neither property, friends, nor strength to
labor, are boarded in the houses of good farmers, to whom a
stipulated sum is annually paid.  To those who are able to help 
themselves a little, or have friends from whom they derive some
succor, inadequate however to their full maintenance,
supplementary aids are given which enable them to live
comfortably in their own houses, or in the houses of their 
friends. --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia, 1782.

=Public Education=

"I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society
but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened
enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the
remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion
by education.  This is the true corrective of abuses of
constitutional power." --Thomas Jefferson to William C. Jarvis, 

"Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the
people alone.  The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe
depositories.  And to render even them safe, their minds must be
improved to a certain degree." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on 
Virginia, 1782.

"Educate and inform the whole mass of the people.  Enable them
to see that it is their interest to preserve peace and order, and 
they will preserve them.  And it requires no very high degree of
education to convince them of this.  They are the only sure 
reliance for the preservation of our liberty." --Thomas Jefferson 
to James Madison, 1787.

"Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with
their own government." --Thomas Jefferson to Richard Price, 1789.

"Whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, the
people, if well informed, may be relied on to set them to rights."
--Thomas Jefferson to Richard Price, 1789.

"A system of general instruction, which shall reach every
description of our citizens from the richest to the poorest, as 
it was the earliest, so will it be the latest of all the public 
concerns in which I shall permit myself to take an interest." 
--Thomas Jefferson to Joseph C. Cabell, 1818.

"The tax which will be paid for [the] purpose [of education] is
not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings,
priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the 
people in ignorance." --Thomas Jefferson to George Wythe, 1786.

"Nature has wisely provided an aristocracy of virtue and talent
for the direction of the interest of society, and scattered it with
equal hand through all its conditions." --Thomas Jefferson: 
Autobiography, 1821.

"It becomes expedient for promoting the public happiness that
those persons, whom nature has endowed with genius and virtue,
should be rendered by liberal education worthy to receive, and
able to guard the sacred deposit of the rights and liberties of 
their fellow citizens; and that they should be called to that
charge without regard to wealth, birth or other accidental 
condition or circumstance." --Thomas Jefferson: Diffusion of 
Knowledge Bill, 1779.

"If the condition of man is to be progressively ameliorated, as 
we fondly hope and believe, education is to be the chief 
instrument in effecting it." --Thomas Jefferson to M. A. Jullien, 

"The main objects of all science [are] the freedom and happiness
of man." --Thomas Jefferson to Thaddeus Kosciusko, 1810.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of
civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."
--Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816.

"No other sure foundation can be devised for the preservation of
freedom and happiness...  Preach a crusade against ignorance;
establish and improve the law for educating the common people. 
Let our countrymen know that the people alone can protect us
against the evils [of misgovernment]." --Thomas Jefferson to 
George Wythe, 1786.

=Foreign Relations=

"I am for free commerce with all nations, political connection 
with none, and little or no diplomatic establishment.  And I am 
not for linking ourselves by new treaties with the quarrels of 
Europe, entering that field of slaughter to preserve their 
balance, or joining in the confederacy of Kings to war against 
the principles of liberty." --Thomas Jefferson to Elbridge Gerry, 

"We wish not to meddle with the internal affairs of any country,
nor with the general affairs of Europe." --Thomas Jefferson to 
C. W. F. Dumas, 1793.

"Nothing is so important as that America shall separate herself
from the systems of Europe, and establish one of her own.  Our
circumstances, our pursuits, our interests, are distinct.  The 
principles of our policy should be so also.  All entanglements 
with that quarter of the globe should be avoided if we mean that 
peace and justice shall be the polar stars of the American  
societies." --Thomas Jefferson to J. Correa de Serra, 1820.

"The interests of a nation, when well understood, will be found to
coincide with their moral duties.  Among these it is an important
one to cultivate habits of peace and friendship with our neighbors. 
To do this we should make provisions for rendering the justice we
must sometimes require from them.  I recommend, therefore, to
your consideration whether the laws of the Union should not be
extended to restrain our citizens from committing acts of violence
within the territories of other nations, which would be punished
were they committed within our own." --Thomas Jefferson: Draft,
Presidential Message, 1792.

"No one nation has a right to sit in judgment over another."
--Thomas Jefferson: Opinion, 1793.

"We are firmly convinced, and we act on that conviction, that 
with nations, as with individuals, our interests soundly 
calculated, will ever be found inseparable from our moral duties; 
and history bears witness to the fact, that a just nation is 
taken on its word, when recourse is had to armaments and wars to 
bridle others." --Thomas Jefferson: 2nd Inaugural Address, 1805.

=War & the Military=

"We have already given... one effectual check to the dog of war, 
by transferring the power of letting him loose from the Executive 
to the Legislative body, from those who are to spend to those 
who are to pay." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789.

"I believe this... the strongest government on earth.  I believe 
it is the only one where every man, at the call of the laws, 
would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of 
the public order as his own personal concern." --Thomas Jefferson: 1st
Inaugural Address, 1801.

"We must train and classify the whole of our male citizens, and
make military instruction a regular part of collegiate education. 
We can never be safe till this is done. --Thomas Jefferson to 
James Monroe, 1813.

"I think the truth must now be obvious that our people are too
happy at home to enter into regular service, and that we cannot be
defended but by making every citizen a soldier, as the Greeks and
Romans who had no standing armies; and that in doing this all
must be marshaled, classed by their ages, and every service
ascribed to its competent class. --Thomas Jefferson to John Wayles 
Eppes, 1814.

"Against great land armies we cannot attempt defense but by
equal armies.  For these we must depend on a classified militia,
which will give us the service of the class from twenty to 
twenty-six, in the nature of conscripts, comprising a body of 
about 250,000, to be specially trained.  This measure, attempted 
at a former session, was pressed at the last, and might, I think, 
have been carried by a small majority.  But considering that great
innovations should not be forced on a slender majority, and seeing
that the general opinion is sensibly rallying to it, it was 
thought better to let it lie over to the next session, when, I 
trust, it will be passed." --Thomas Jefferson to John Armstrong, 

"In the beginning of our government we were willing to introduce
the least coercion possible on the will of the citizen.  Hence a
system of military duty was established too indulgent to his 
indolence.  This [War of 1812] is the first opportunity we have 
had of trying it, and it has completely failed; an issue foreseen 
by many, and for which remedies have been proposed.  That of 
classing the militia according to age, and allotting each age to 
the particular kind of service to which it was competent, was
proposed to Congress in 1805, and subsequently; and, on the last
trial, was lost, I believe, by a single vote.  Had it prevailed, 
what has now happened would not have happened.  Instead of 
burning our Capitol, we should have possessed theirs in Montreal 
and Quebec.  We must now adopt it, and all will be safe." --Thomas
Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, 1814.

Compilation copyrighted 1996 by Eyler Robert Coates, Sr.
Permission hereby granted to quote single excerpts separately.

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