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Thomas Jefferson, a Tribute & Brief Quotes

(Born April 13, 1743, at Shadwell, Virginia; died July 4, 1826, Monticello)

If George Washington was ‘the indispensable man’ then Thomas Jefferson was the ‘quintessential man’.  Jefferson was considered a polymath. Here is the expanded meaning of that word as it applied to him.

Thomas Jefferson has been described as a(n): agriculturalist, anthropologist, architect, astronomer, bibliophile, botanist, classicist, diplomat, educator, ethnologist, farmer, geographer, gourmet, horseman, horticulturist, inventor, lawyer, lexicographer, linguist, mathematician, meteorologist, musician, naturalist, numismatist, paleontologist, philosopher, political philosopher, scientist, statesman, violinist, writer. He was also fluent in Greek, Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, and German!

Source: Constitution Facts


Extract from John F. Kennedy’s Remarks at a Dinner Honoring Nobel Prize Winners of the Western Hemisphere

I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone. Someone once said that Thomas Jefferson was a gentleman of 32 who could calculate an eclipse, survey an estate, tie an artery, plan an edifice, try a cause, break a horse, and dance the minuet.

John F. Kennedy, “Remarks at a Dinner Honoring Nobel Prize Winners of the Western Hemisphere,” 29 Apr. 1962. Published by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, eds., American Presidency Project (accessed 2014).

Thomas Jefferson life and mind appears to brim over with a curious intensity rarely seen in this country’s history.  His intellectual focus and intensity was just what was needed during our Revolutionary period.  He spoke plainly to convey the utter reality of the situation at hand.  Today, we would say, ‘he didn’t mince words’.

Thomas Jefferson quotes on Sovereignty…

Below are a few of his quotes that I find particularly appropriate… as I discover more, I’ll add them. 

If you have a favorite, please pass it along and I’ll add it as well.

“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. Unsuccessful rebellions, indeed, generally establish the encroachments on the rights of the people, which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions, as not to discourage them too much. It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.”

“When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.”

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.

A republican government is slow to move, yet once in motion, its momentum becomes irresistible.

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

“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.”

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

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

“It is neither wealth nor splendor, but tranquility and occupation which give happiness.”

“The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it always to be kept alive.”

“We confide in our strength, without boasting of it; we respect that of others, without fearing it.”

“Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.”

“All should be laid open to you without reserve, for there is not a truth existing which I fear, or would wish unknown to the whole world.”

“The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest.”

“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”

“I sincerely believe that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies, and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”


Thomas Jefferson wrote his own epitaph and designed the obelisk grave marker that was to bear three of his accomplishments and “not a word more:”

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