Thomas JeffersonThomas Jefferson, (1743-1826), US Founding Father, drafted the Declaration of Independence, 3rd US President

Famous Thomas Jefferson Quote

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

Thomas JeffersonThomas Jefferson
~ Thomas Jefferson

Letter, 23 December 1791

Ratings and Comments


Mike, Norwalk

We hold this truth to be self evident! To Mr. Jefferson, I concur whole heartedly.

Ben, Orem, UT

Jefferson is the man!

Anon
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Anon    8/26/09

Therein lies the question, the inconvenience of freedom vs the inconvenience of slavery. Which one is desired and which one is chosen by the individual is THE decision all will have to make eventually or put another way, choose your master.

Jim, Stone Mountain, GA

Nice words but they ring very hollow (Jefferson being an owner of slaves and never freeing them), and seem to me the ultimate example of hypocrisy. To Mr. Jefferson I would counter with the words of a president whose actions lived up to his words: "Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it." -- Abraham Lincoln

Linc Sample, BBH ME
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Linc Sample, BBH ME Jim, Stone Mountain, GA 4/12/20

He was not able to set them free due to Virginia State law. Had he they could have been taken back up into slavery and subjected to harsh treatment as a runaway. As such he kept them in his care and in comparative safety. Washington was faced with the same dilemma.

jim k, austin

Jim,Stone Mountain, Lincon was a total hypocrite when it came to slavery. The war of Northern aggression was not about slavery, it was about centralized power in Washington. The Emancipation Proclamation freed only the slaves in states that opposed Lincon. For more details, read "Lincoln Unmasked", Amazon has it.

Different Jim
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Different Jim jim k, austin 10/30/20

The Civil War was absolutely about slavery. Read the cornerstone speech, the Confederate constitution, and pretty much anything written by Confederates during the war. The idea that this was a war about anything but slavery was started much later to glorify an illegitimate terrorist organization known as the CSA.

cal, lewisville, tx

Jim, Stone Mountain, when you judge men in history-you must judge them by the times they lived in. Not by today's standards. Jefferson is still our greatest president!

Justin, Elkland

Lincoln denied the freedom of self-government to the Confederate States. He made grand speeches about freedom while destroying liberty.

J Carlton, Calgary

Jefferson like every land owner had slaves. Slavery would have died a natural death anyway. Lincoln, though was the first of the criminal Presidents. He had no intention of freeing Northern slaves and actually offered to return run away slaves to the South if only they would rejoin the Union. Jim, Stone Mtn...Lincoln could not have cared less about slavery, he was a Unionist and that was his only real motive.

Mike, Norwalk

Jim, you seem to have a sense of humor. If you were to rate this quote, not the source thereof, would your thumbs down still concern the subject matter? If a scale were possible to measure absolute freedom / liberty and, absolute despotism / tyranny (a hypothetical impossibility) what half of the scale would you find yourself?

Jim, Stone Mountain, Ga

I agree that Jefferson did some great things (I particularly like his Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom) and was a good writer. However, in examining his writings you have to agree that when he wrote about freedom and justice he was a hypocrite, pure and simple. Unless that is, you consider Negros as sub-human to which these universal truths of freedom and justice do not apply. Perhaps Jefferson put the efficient running of his plantation above these universal truths. After all, the plantation had to be run to support Jefferson's appetite for goods and services, and Negroes were required to run it. Jefferson’s logic is pure Orwellian -- "all animals are equal but some are more equal than others."

J Carlton, Calgary

Jim, Jefferson's truth was the truth of the times. No I don't consider any human of any color to be sub-human. As for the 1700's, well let's just say they were not as advanced in civility as we are today. However, Jefferson's truth is still true, but today we are able to include all people's in this truth. Had Jefferson been a 20th century man, I would hope he too would subscribe to this thought and I still believe his words are pertinent today. Perhaps more than ever.

E Archer, NYC

This is a classic. Remember, it was Jefferson who wrote in his original draft of the Declaration of Independence the freeing of the slaves. Rutledge of South Carolina refused to sign the Declaration if that clause remained. It was decided that freeing the colonies from the British Crown was the main thing and that slavery could be addressed later -- this was the advice of Benjamin Franklin who founded the 1st anti-salvery society in America. Now, how did Jefferson treat his slaves? Like his own family, he said, and indeed had several children from them. Washington kept his slaves, too, and freed them upon his wife's death in his will. But the real question is, are we free now? Isn't government run health care, education, employment, financing, housing the same as living under a monarchy or socialist bureacracy -- aren't we now as dependent as slaves upon the graces of our masters?

Jim, Stone Mountain, GA

E Archer -- If Jefferson wrote in his original draft of the Declaration of Independence the freeing of the slaves why did he not free those slaves under his control? Words are cheap; actions speak louder and may be costly which is why I classify this quote as hypocrisy in its purest form. Jefferson will forever suffer in the eyes of history for his hypocrisy on this issue. He put materialism above freedom and justice as long as he lived.

jim k, austin

Stone Mt., since you were not alive during Jeffersons time , I assume that you did not know of the situation for slaves in that area of the country at that time. Perhaps they were better off staying put with the Jeffersons, who's to know. Where would they have gone and what would they done if freed ? You don't know and neither do I, and I would not let this detract from the greatness of Jefferson.

Zachary, Washington, DC

This is a great quote, and I thoroughly agree with Jim K, Austin.

Jim, Stone Mountain, GA

That is some of the most convoluted logic I have ever heard. A sad footnote in the story is the separation of slave families at the decree of the master. Slave wedding vows sometimes included "until death or distance do us part." Jefferson was an integral part of this sad chapter in American history, and will forever suffer in the eyes of history for his hypocrisy. No excuses wanted, just apology. I agree that Jefferson was great in some ways, but woefully deficient in others such as character.

Elisabeth, Astoria, NY

Agree. Absolutely. And Jefferson may forever suffer in the eyes of history, because it's so much easier for critics to throw stones at him now than it would have been for him and the United States to face the consequences of the emancipation then.

Ken, Allyn, WA

Who knows how "enlightened" people may be 200 years from now. I'm sure I'll be judged a troglodyte. Perhaps we should judge Catholicism based on the Inquisition, or Protestants for witch burning 500 years ago. Human beings are full of contradictions and hypocrisies and enlightenment is never finished. From what I have read he feared what would happen to slaves if they were freed, and probably with good reason considering society as it existed at the time. On balance Jefferson built more than he destroyed and his words were used by the Abolitionists to achieve their goal.

Ano Nymous, Anywhere USA

One of my favorite quotes.

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