Tag Archives: Thomas Jefferson

Hey Millennials … you’re doing just fine.

Don’t let the older generations give you any $%&*.

“I am increasingly persuaded that the earth belongs exclusively to the living and that one generation has no more right to bind another to it’s laws and judgments than one independent nation has the right to command another.”

― Thomas Jefferson



“I may err in my measures, but never shall deflect from the intention to fortify the public liberty …”

“I may err in my measures, but never shall deflect from the intention to fortify the public liberty by every possible means, and to put it out of the power of the few to riot on the labors of the many. No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth.The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.”

—  Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Judge John Tyler Washington, June 28, 1804




Rockfish Gap, Virginia, June 2018.

Seen from the edge of Greenwood-Afton Rural Historic District.  (The gap’s 110 miles are the lowest passage through the Blue Ridge Mountains.)  Thomas Jefferson met with other officials at the nearby Rockfish Tavern in 1818 to plan the University of Virginia.







Who said “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance?”

I’ve discovered yet again that I may have been incorrectly attributing one of my favorite quotes.  This time it’s Thomas Jefferson’s (supposed) utterance, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

Some nice, knowledgeable folks over at Quoteland.com have been chatting about this, and their thread clarified a few things for me.

First, the quote (when attributed to Jefferson) is usually as follows:  “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

Second, although Jefferson is frequently credited, the quote appears to be apocryphal — nobody can point to a primary source showing that Jefferson said or wrote it.

Third, several other historical figures have been credited with coining the phrase or some variation of it.  These include Edmund Burke, abolitionist Wendell Phillips and Irish Judge John Philpot Curran.

Curran might have said it best, in a speech he wrote in 1790:

“”It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.”



“A Republic, if you can keep it.”

Happy Independence Day, all!  Enjoy any celebrations you might attend, and please be safe.

The quote above is attributed to Benjamin Franklin.  Upon exiting the Constitutional Convention in 1787, he was asked by a bystander what form of government the delegates had created:

“Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”

“A Republic, if you can keep it.”

His reply was documented by Dr. James McHenry, the delegate from Maryland.

The imperative implied in Franklin’s words is the same as what Thomas Jefferson expressed when he warned us that “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”



Photo credit: By U.S. Department of Defense Current Photos (120504-M-IX426-237) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Alexandria, Virginia, Train Station, October 2016

The first two pictures of the Alexandria train station here are quite poor, but I’m running them anyway.  The first photo shows a falcon perched in a tree just outside the building.  (He kinda surprised me by launching himself up from some shrubbery just 12 feet away.)  The picture just doesn’t do him justice.  He was huge.

The second photo shows the headquarters of The Motley Fool, even though you can read its sign in white letters only if you squint.  It was a weird surprise for me as I milled about, waiting for a train that was delayed for three hours.  The Motley Fool website is a favorite for my finance-type friends in the New York metropolitan area.

The structure in the third photo should be recognizable to anyone who takes the metro north — the 333-foot George Washington Masonic National Memorial.  It stands atop Shooter’s Hill, which was considered by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson as a possible site for the nation’s capitol.  It doesn’t date from the Revolutionary period; it was built in 1922.

It’s an odd, foreboding looking building, if you ask me.  Its design seems schizoid — it can’t decide if it wants to be an ornate cathedral or a nondescript, staid looking modern bank.  It was supposedly designed after the legendary Lighthouse of Alexandria in ancient Egypt.






“Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens.”

“Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens.  They are the most vigorous, the most independant, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to it’s liberty and interests by the most lasting bands.”

— Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to John Jay, 1785


We’re all friends here! :-)

Okay, so political discussions are heating up after the Republican debate.  And it’s going to get progressively more intense as the presidential election approaches.

Let’s try to not make it personal, to minimize or eliminate any acrimony, and to remember that we all interact on Facebook and the blogosphere because we’re all FRIENDS, okay?  No joke – if I see any “unfriending” resulting from political arguments, I’m going to be disappointed.

Let’s remember what T.J. said about this sort of thing:


“Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind.”

“I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and Constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind.

“As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

—  Thomas Jefferson

Thanks to Long Islander Rich Eigner for teaching me this quote yesterday!!  I rather think it sounds like Michael Shermer talking about drawing conclusions according to the best available evidence.