75+ Thomas Jefferson Quotes on Life and Legislation


Thomas Jefferson was the 3rd President of the United States, serving from 1801 to 1809. Jefferson contributed to the American Revolution that freed America from Great Britain. He also was a writer and signer of the Declaration of Independence, which marked him as a Founding Father. Here are some Thomas Jefferson quotes so you can grasp the kind of man he was:

Thomas Jefferson Biography and Career

On April 13th, 1743, Thomas Jefferson was born in Shadwell, Virginia, on his father’s plantation. At the age of 14, Jefferson’s father passed away, leaving him to inherit a large amount of land. Despite receiving his father’s plantation, he dreamed of living on a mountain. So, he set out to build a house named Monticello where he could spend his life.

In 1760, Jefferson pursued law at the College of William & Mary, and a short 7 years later, he recorded his first legal case. He began his career at the House of Legislatures in Virginia in 1769. Then, in 1772, he began family life by marrying Martha Wayles Skelton.

Jefferson frequently bought and sold a large amount of enslaved people. In his lifetime, he owned over 600 enslaved people, many being the members of the Hemings family. Martha’s father is known to have had 6 children with Elizabeth Hemings, making them her half-brothers and half-sisters.

After 10 years of marriage, Martha died, and Jefferson pursued relations with Sally Hemings. He had 6 children with Martha, with only their daughters Martha and Mary reaching adulthood, and had 6 children with Sally Hemings. It is said that during his lifetime and in his will, he freed all the members of the Hemings family.

In 1776, Jefferson took part in writing the Declaration of Independence. He also passed the Statute for Religious Freedom in 1786. Then, in 1801, Jefferson became the 3rd President of the United States. He founded the University of Virginia at the age of 76 during his retirement. He led spur a great deal of American history.

His words, lifestyle, and legislation continued to be taught, analyzed, and debated for centuries after his death on July 4th, 1826. Read the article below to discover a famous quote by former President Thomas Jefferson on life, legislation, and government.

Thomas Jefferson Quotes on Liberty and the Nation

“To preserve their independence, we must not let our rules load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude.” -Thomas Jefferson

“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…” -Thomas Jefferson

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

“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 law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.” -Thomas Jefferson

“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 law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.” -Thomas Jefferson

“None but an armed nation can dispense with a standing army.” -Thomas Jefferson

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

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

Thomas Jefferson Quotes on Law and Government

“The true foundation of republican government is the equal right of every citizen in his person and property and in their management.” -Thomas Jefferson

“Experience hath shown, 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

“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.” -Thomas Jefferson

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

“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.” -Thomas Jefferson

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

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

“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others.” -Thomas Jefferson

“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.” -Thomas Jefferson

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

“Taste cannot be controlled by law.” -Thomas Jefferson

“When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.” -Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson Quotes on Rights and Freedom

“I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.” -Thomas Jefferson

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

“Freedom, the first-born of science.” -Thomas Jefferson

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

“No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the natural rights of another, and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him.” -Thomas Jefferson

“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.” -Thomas Jefferson

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

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

“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.” -Thomas Jefferson

“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.” -Thomas Jefferson

“Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched.” -Thomas Jefferson

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

“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.” -Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson Quotes on Hard Work and Character

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

“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.” -Thomas Jefferson

“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.” -Thomas Jefferson

“Power is not alluring to pure minds.” -Thomas Jefferson

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

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

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

“Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” -Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson Quotes on Life and Hardships

“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.” -Thomas Jefferson

“Never spend your money before you have it.” -Thomas Jefferson

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

“How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy.” -Thomas Jefferson

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

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

Thomas Jefferson on Happiness, Pleasure, and Peace

“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.” -Thomas Jefferson

“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.” -Thomas Jefferson

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas Jefferson Quotes on Friendship

“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.” -Thomas Jefferson

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

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

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

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

“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.” -Thomas Jefferson

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

Thomas Jefferson Quotes on Wisdom and 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.” -Thomas Jefferson

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

“I cannot live without books.” -Thomas Jefferson

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

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

“The glow of one warm thought is to me worth more than money.” -Thomas Jefferson

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

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

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

Thomas Jefferson Quotes on Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Follow truth wherever it may lead you.” -Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson Quotes About Religion and God

“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.” -Thomas Jefferson

“It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God.” -Thomas Jefferson

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

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

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

Misquoted Thomas Jefferson Quotes

Despite being fairly famous, research suggests that Thomas Jefferson never actually stated the quotes below.

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty…”

“The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”

To read more about these debunked quotes, visit this source or this source.

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