Quotations From THOMAS JEFFERSON

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  • Great innovations should not be forced on slender majorities.
    Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. president. Letter, May 2, 1808.
  • [A] lawyer without books would be like a workman without tools.
    Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. president. Letter, February 5, 1769, to Thomas Turpin. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 1, p. 24, ed. Julian P. Boyd, et al. (1950).
  • Nothing ... is unchangeable but the inherent and unalienable rights of man.
    Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. president. Letter, June 5, 1824, to John Cartwright. The Portable Thomas Jefferson, p. 581, ed. Merrill D. Peterson (1975).
  • Every constitution..., and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years [a generation]. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right.
    Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. president. Letter, September 6, 1789, to James Madison. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 15, p. 396, ed. Julian P. Boyd, et al. (1950).
  • [D]ispositions of the mind, like limbs of the body, acquire strength by exercise.
    Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. president. Letter, August 3, 1771, to Robert Skipwith. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 1, pp. 76-77, ed. Julian P. Boyd, et al. (1950).

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  • I find the pain of a little censure, even when it is unfounded, is more acute than the pleasure of much praise.
    Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. president. Letter, March 13, 1789.

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  • If there be one principle more deeply rooted than any other in the mind of every American, it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest.
    Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. president. Letter, July 28, 1791.
  • Laws ... proportionate and mild should never be dispensed with. Let mercy be the character of the law-giver, but let the judge be a mere machine.
    Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. president. Letter, August 26, 1776, to Edmund Pendleton. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 1, p. 505, ed. Julian P. Boyd, et al. (1950).
  • He has erected a multitude of new offices by a self-assumed power, & sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people & eat out their substance.
    Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. president. "Jefferson's 'original Rough draught' of the Declaration of Independence" (1776). The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 1, p. 425, ed. Julian P. Boyd, et al. (1950).

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  • A prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a people who mean to be free.
    Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. president. "Jefferson's 'original Rough draught' of the Declaration of Independence" (1776). The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 1, p. 426, ed. Julian P. Boyd, et al. (1950).

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