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Thomas Jefferson quotes you probably never heard

Also, a few quotes about Thomas Jefferson.

“Jefferson’s sense of Britain as a perennial foe is unsurprising and essential to understand.” Meacham writes. “He thought he was in a perennial war. And if we are to understand what he was like and what life was like for him, then we must see the world as he saw it, not as we know it turned out.”

“The essence of the anti-British position was summed up in a 1764 resolution that Virginia sent to the king and to parliament: ‘That the people are not to be subject that any taxes but such as are laid on them by their own consent or by those who are legally appointed to represent them.’”

Patrick Henry had taken on the establishment and succeeded. … Going on record against London itself was not as disturbing to more moderate members as was the sense that they had lost control.

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.”

-Thomas Paine

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

-Thomas Jefferson on freedom or religion

“Jefferson had been thinking about the practicality of governing at the national level. … Jefferson was a persistent advocate of more, rather than less, government control.”

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers & be capable of reading them. Do not be too severe upon their errors, but reclaim them by enlightening them. If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, judges and governors shall all become wolves.”

“We have had 13. states independant 11. years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century and a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two?”

“It was observed, I forget by which of them, that as the pill would be a bitter one to the Southern states, something should be done to soothe them; that the removal of the seat of government to the Patowmac was a just measure, and would probably be a popular one with them, and would be a proper one to follow the assumption.”

“I never saw once an instance of one of two disputants convincing the other by argument. I have seen many, on their getting warm, becoming rude, and shooting one another.”

Jefferson was in a conspiratorial frame of mind. 

“I know all my motions at Philadelphia, here and everywhere are being watched and recorded,” he said.

He feared that all of his mail was being intercepted and read. 

Jefferson used Hamiltonian means to pursue Jeffersonian ends. He embraced ultimate power subtly, but surely. Open political warfare was not for him. He preferred to impress himself on the course of events without bombast or drama. … He understood that the country was open to — even eager for — a government that seemed less intrusive and overbearing than the one Washington and Adams had created. In his eight years in office, Jefferson brought the national debt down from $38 million to $57 million. He cut taxes and spending. In a new time of peace — the Quasi-War ended six months before his inauguration — Jefferson reduced military spending to prewar levels and downsized the Navy to 13 frigates.”

“Must of his political life, though, had been devoted to the wise exercise of power. He did what had to be done to preserve the possibility of republicanism and progress. Things were neat only in theory. And despite his love of ideas and image of himself, Thomas Jefferson was as much a man of action as of theory.”

-Jon Meacham

“Jefferson was a man who had displeased the extremes of his day, a sign that he had been guided not by dogma, but by principled pragmatism.”

“Jefferson had achieved something that his Federalist foes would not have thought possible. He was to some, no longer ‘Republican’ enough. Jefferson was, in other words, a man who had displeased the extremes in his day.”

“George WAshington inspires awe, John Adams, respect. .. Jefferson is more alive, more convivial.”

-Jon Meacham

“It was the purpose of Jefferson to teach the country that the solidarity of Federalism was only a partial one, that it represented only a minority of the people, that to build a great Nation the interests of all groups in every part must be considered, and that only in a large, national unity could real security be found. The whole life and all of the methods of Jefferson were an exemplification of this fundamental. He has been called a politician because he devoted years to the building of a political party. But this labor was in itself a definite and practical act aimed at the unification of all parts of the country in support of common principles. When people carelessly or snobbishly deride political parties, they overlook the fact that the party system of government is one of the greatest methods of unification and of teaching people to think in common terms of our civilization.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Beginning with George Washington himself, contemporaries and later historians have treated Jefferson’s fears of monarchy as fanciful, paranoid, or at best exaggerated to the point of unserious. Based on my reading of Jefferson’s papers … I contend that the threat of a revival of British authority in the United States was a fundamental to Jefferson’s thought and actions as the Cold War with the Soviet Union was to American presidents from Truman to George H. W. Bush.”

-Jon Meacham

“Another imprecise analogy, but one worth considering, is that Jefferson was to Washington and Adams what Dwight Eisenhower was to Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman: a president who reformed but essentially ratified an existing course of government.”

-Jon Meacham

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