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Thomas Jefferson - A Character Sketch
Sayings of Thomas Jefferson
by Ellis, Edward S. (A.M.)

From the Life of Jefferson, by Dr. Irelan.


Harmony in the marriage state is the very first object to be aimed at.

Nothing can preserve affections uninterrupted but a firm resolution never to differ in will, and a determination in each to consider the love of the other as of more value than any object whatever on which a wish had been fixed.

How light, in fact, is the sacrifice of any other wish when weighed against the affections of one with whom we are to pass our whole life!


Perhaps an editor might begin a reformation in some such way as this: Divide his paper into four chapters, heading the 1st, Truths; 2nd, Probabilities; 3rd, Possibilities; 4th, Lies. The first chapter would be very short, as it would contain little more than authentic papers, and information from such sources as the editor would be willing to risk his own reputation for their truth. The second would contain what, from a mature consideration of all circumstances, he would conclude to be probably true. This, however, should rather contain too little than too much. The third and fourth should be professedly for those readers who would rather have lies for their money than the blank paper they would occupy.

Give up money, give up fame, give up science, give the earth itself and all it contains rather than do an immoral act.

Whenever you are to do anything, though it can never be known but to yourself, ask yourself how you would act were all the world looking at you, and act accordingly.

From the practice of the purest virtue, you may be assured you will derive the most sublime comforts in every moment of life, and in the moment of death.

Though you cannot see when you take one step, what will be the next, yet follow truth, justice, and plain dealing, and never fear their leading you out of the labyrinth in the nearest manner possible.

An honest heart being the first blessing, a knowing head is the second.

Nothing is so mistaken as the supposition that a person is to extricate himself from a difficulty by intrigue, by chicanery, by dissimulation, by trimming, by untruth, by injustice.

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending a too small degree of it.

Yet it is easy to foresee, from the nature of things, that the encroachments of the State governments will tend to an excess of liberty which will correct itself, while those of the General Government will tend to monarchy, which will fortify itself from day to day.

Responsibility is a tremendous engine in a free government.

Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people (the slaves) are to be free.

When we see ourselves in a situation which must be endured and gone through, it is best to make up our minds to it, meet it with firmness, and accommodate every thing to it in the best way practicable.

The errors and misfortunes of others should be a school for our own instruction.

The article of dress is, perhaps, that in which economy is the least to be recommended.

All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate which would be oppression.

A good cause is often injured more by ill-timed efforts of its friends than by the arguments of its enemies.

Persuasion, perseverance, and patience are the best advocates on questions depending on the will of others.

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. 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.

No race of kings has ever presented above one man of common sense in twenty generations.

With all the defects in our Constitution, whether general or particular, the comparison of our government with those of Europe, is like a comparison of Heaven with Hell. England, like the earth, may be allowed to take the intermediate station.

I have a right to nothing, which another has a right to take away.

Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. Enable them to see that it is their interest to preserve peace and order, and they will preserve them.

When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become corrupt as in Europe, and go to eating one another as they do there.

Health, learning, and virtue will insure your happiness; they will give you a quiet conscience, private esteem and public honor.

If I were to decide between the pleasures derived from the classical education which my father gave me, and the estate left me, I should decide in favor of the farmer.

Good humor and politeness never introduce into mixed society a question on which they foresee there will be a difference of opinion.

The general desire of men to live by their heads rather than their hands, and the strong allurements of great cities to those who have any turn for dissipation, threaten to make them here, as in Europe, the sinks of voluntary misery.

I have often thought that if Heaven had given me choice of my position and calling, it should have been on a rich spot of earth, well watered, and near a good market for the productions of the garden. No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.

I sincerely, then, believe with you in the general existence of a moral instinct. I think it is the brightest gem with which the human character is studded, and the want of it as more degrading than the most hideous of the bodily deformities.

I must ever believe that religion substantially good, which produces an honest life, and we have been authorized by one (One) whom you and I equally respect, to judge of the tree by its fruit.

Where the law of majority ceases to be acknowledged there government ends, the law of the strongest takes its place, and life and property are his who can take them.

Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever He has a chosen people, whose breasts he has made this peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue, it is the focus in which He keeps alive that sacred fire, which otherwise might escape from the face of the earth.

The wise know their weakness too well to assume infallibility; and he who knows most knows best how little he knows.


1. Never put off till to-morrow what you can do today. 2. Never trouble another for what you can do yourself. 3. Never spend your money before you have it. 4. Never buy what you do not want, because it is cheap; it will be dear to you. 5. Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst and cold. 6. We never repent of having eaten too little. 7. Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly. 8. How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened. 9. Take things always by their smooth handle. 1O. When angry count ten before you speak; if very angry, a hundred.


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