Thomas Jefferson was a prolific writer. His Papers at
the Library of Congress are a rich storehouse of his
thoughts and ideas expressed both in official
correspondence and in private letters. This brief
selection suggests something of what awaits users' own
online investigations into the writings of the man who
was the third president of the United States, the
founder of the University of Virginia, and author of the
Declaration of Independence.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all
men are created equal. . . ."
Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
"it is the great parent of science & of virtue: and
that a nation will be great in both, always in
proportion as it is free."
"our liberty depends on the freedom of the press,
and that cannot be limited without being lost."
"nothing can now be believed which is seen in a
newspaper. truth itself becomes suspicious by being
put into that polluted vehicle."
"I, however, place economy among the first and most
important republican virtues, and public debt as the
greatest of the dangers to be feared."
"bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid
minds; enthusiasm of the free and buoyant. education
& free discussion are the antidotes of both."
"What a stupendous, what an incomprehensible machine
is man! Who can endure toil, famine, stripes,
imprisonment & death itself in vindication of his
own liberty, and the next moment . . . inflict on
his fellow men a bondage, one hour of which is
fraught with more misery than ages of that which he
rose in rebellion to oppose."
"yet the hour of emancipation is advancing . . .
this enterprise is for the young; for those who can
follow it up, and bear it through to it's
consummation. it shall have all my prayers, and
these are the only weapons of an old man."
"the two principles on which our conduct towards the
Indians should be founded, are justice & fear. after
the injuries we have done them, they cannot love us
. . . ."
"The expedition of Messrs. Lewis & Clarke for
exploring the river Missouri, & the best
communication from that to the Pacific ocean, has
had all the success which could have been expected."
"I agree with you that it is the duty of every good
citizen to use all the opportunities, which occur to
him, for preserving documents relating to the
history of our country."
"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."
"Whenever the people are well informed, they can be
trusted with their own government; that whenever
things get so far wrong as to attract their notice,
they may be relied on to set them to rights."
"I have often thought that nothing would do more
extensive good at small expense than the
establishment of a small circulating library in
every county, to consist of a few well-chosen books,
to be lent to the people of the country under
regulations as would secure their safe return in due
"our particular principles of religion are a subject
of accountability to our god alone. I enquire after
no man's and trouble none with mine; nor is it given
to us in this life to know whether yours or mine,
our friend's or our foe's, are exactly the right."
" . . . there is no act, however virtuous, for which
ingenuity may not find some bad motive."
"When angry, count ten before you speak; if very
angry, an hundred."
"I cannot live without books."