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March 23, 2005

Help Wanted

Doug TenNapel and i have been trying to find the source of the following quote, allegedly made by Thomas Jefferson.

The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.
We've both searched a few Jefferson sites, but come up empty. The Jefferson Digital Archive is run by the University of Virginia (which TJ founded), so you'd think it would be comprehensive. But a search for that quote yields no results.

i maintain a Missourian's attitude towards the Virginian's quote. Unless i know where it came from, i am not willing to believe that TJ actually said it. It sounds like something someone made up and attributed to Jefferson to give the quote more weight.

Now i know there are some Jefferson scholars in my audience. What do you folks think?

Update: Wow, that was fast!

Publicola found the source, which is an 1809 letter from TJ to Maryland Republicans. The quote can be found at page 359 of volume 16 in the 20 volume set, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (ME) Memorial Edition (Lipscomb and Bergh, editors), Washington, D.C., 1903-04.

The legend of Publicola continues...

Posted by annika, Mar. 23, 2005 |
Rubric: History



It's the first bold quote on that page.

Initially I thought it may have been a paraphrase since Jefferson was THE MAN when it came to ideas about limited government. But it seems to have been a documentable quote of his.

Posted by: Publicola on Mar. 24, 2005

Excellent. You da man, Publicola!

Posted by: annika on Mar. 24, 2005

The legend of Publicola? I don't know the person, but is he/she able to devour a dusty treatise in one sitting? Calculate the location of John Quincy Adams' death to the nearest millimeter?

I have to admit that I truly AM impressed. My brain only half recalls things, which doesn't help.

Posted by: Ontario Emperor on Mar. 24, 2005

I haven't looked through here to find your quote, but it might be worth a search. Some friends of mine have been assembling this site for a couple of years. I'm not certain how comprehensive it is.


Posted by: Mr.Atos on Mar. 24, 2005

I'm not sure, but I think this is on one of the four walls of the Jefferson Monument in Washington, as well.

Posted by: shelly on Mar. 25, 2005

You may already have this ...

If not, it's the best resource I have.

Posted by: Rodger Schultz on Mar. 25, 2005