Home  »  Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men  »  Thomas Jefferson

S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Thomas Jefferson

  • [Born at Shadwell, Va., April 2, 1743; member of the House of Burgesses, 1769; of the Continental Congress, 1775; of the Committee to draught the Declaration of Independence; governor of Virginia, 1779–81; in Congress, 1783; minister to France, 1785, where he published his “Notes on Virginia;” Secretary of State under Washington, and leader of the Republican party; Vice-President under Adams; President of the United States, 1801–1809; purchased Louisiana, 1803; founded the University of Virginia, 1819; died July 4, 1826.]
  • We are all Federalists, we are all Republicans.

  • When both parties in the country supported internal improvements. Thus Napoleon, when First Consul, said, “Let there be no more Jacobins, nor moderates, nor royalists: let all be Frenchmen!”
  • In his first inaugural address, Jefferson declared that “error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it;” and declared himself in his declaration of principles in favor of “equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.”
  • Few die, and none resign.

  • In a letter to a committee of the merchants of New Haven, 1801, he asked, “If a due participation of office is a matter of right, how are vacancies to be obtained? Those by death are few: by resignation, none.” There would seem, then, to be no other course but a system of removal and rotation; the germ of the idea expressed so epigrammatically by William L. Marcy, of New York, in the United-States Senate, January, 1832, in speaking of his constituents, who “see nothing wrong in the rule, to the victors belong the spoils of the enemy.”
  • Certain characteristics of Jefferson declare themselves in some less famous sayings. His modesty prompted the reply to the remark of Comte de Vergennes, “You replace Mr. Franklin,” on his appearance at the court of Louis XVI.: “I succeed him: no one could replace him.” His courtesy is indicated by the reproof he gave his grandson, who did not return a negro’s bow: “Do you permit a negro to be more of a gentleman than yourself?” Thus Burke said to a young man who treated the respectful salutation of a servant contemptuously, “Never permit yourself to be outdone in courtesy by your inferiors.”
  • He wrote to his daughter Martha from France, May 5, 1787: “No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any.”
  • His last words were, “I resign my soul to God, and my daughter to my country.” Among his papers was found the political watchword, “Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God,” which, if intended as an epitaph upon his tomb, was replaced by the following, composed also by himself: “Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.”