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Quotes by Thomas Jefferson

  • "I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it."
  • "Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare but only those specifically enumerated."
  • "...the opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch."
  • "Were we directed from Washington when to sow, and when to reap, we should soon want bread." -- Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, 1821
  • The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.
  • "One single object. . . [will merit] the endless gratitude of the society: that of restraining the judges from usurping legislation." -- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Edward Livingston, March 25, 1825
  • "To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it." -- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan, April 6, 1816
  • "The majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society." -- Thomas Jefferson
  • "[The purpose of a written constitution is] to bind up the several branches of government by certain laws, which, when they transgress, their acts shall become nullities; to render unnecessary an appeal to the people, or in other words a rebellion, on every infraction of their rights, on the peril that their acquiescence shall be construed into an intention to surrender those rights." -- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia [1782]