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 time."
"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."