Primary Author of the Declaration of Independence
"I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the
mind of man."
Jefferson Memorial Panel One ~
"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their
Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that
to secure these rights governments are instituted among men. We...solemnly publish and declare, that these
colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent states...And for the support of this
declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge our lives,
our fortunes, and our sacred honor." - The Declaration of Independence
Jefferson Memorial Panel Two ~
"Almighty God hath created the mind free. All attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or
burthens...are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion...No man shall be
compelled to frequent or support any religious worship or ministry or shall otherwise suffer on
account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument
to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion. I know but one code of morality for men whether
acting singly or collectively."
"Well aware that the opinions and belief of men depend not on their own will, but follow
involuntarily the evidence proposed to their minds; that Almighty God hath created the mind free,
and manifested his supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of
restraint; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments, or burthens, or by civil
incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the
plan of the holy author of our religion..." - "A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom",
Jefferson Memorial Panel Three ~
"God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a
conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that
God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between master and slave is despotism.
Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free. Establish a
law for educating the common people. This it is the business of the state and on a general plan."
"But let them [members of the parliament of Great Britain] not think to exclude us from going to other
markets, to dispose of those commodities which they cannot use, nor41 to supply those wants which they
cannot supply. Still less let it be proposed that our properties within our own territories shall be
taxed or regulated by any power on earth but our own. The god who gave us life gave us liberty at the
same time: the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them." - "A Summary View of the Rights of
"For in a warm climate, no man will labour for himself who can make another labour for him. This is so
true, that of the proprietors of slaves a very small proportion indeed are ever seen to labor. And can
the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in
the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but
with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot
sleep for ever . . . ." - Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII
"The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the
most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other. Our children see this,
and learn to imitate it. . . ." - Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII
"Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free. Nor is it
less certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government. Nature, habit, opinion
has drawn indelible lines of distinction between them." - Jefferson's Autobiography
"Preach, my dear sir, a crusade against ignorance; establish & improve the law for educating the common
people." - Jefferson to George Wythe, August 13, 1786
"It is an axiom in my mind that our liberty can never be safe but in the hands of the people themselves,
and that too of the people with a certain degree of instruction. This it is the business of the state to
effect, and on a general plan." - Jefferson to George Washington, January 4, 1786
Jefferson Memorial Panel Four ~
[Note: With the solid foundation of Jefferson's positions relative to God exibited in the firt
three panels, there is no basis to reference the fourth against that context of his belief in and
dependence on God. Some have so attepted to take Thomas Jefferson from within that greater context to
attempt to paint him a libratarian void of God. That position is not in truth and merely ignores the
greater contexts of Jefferson's life. A man need not speak God's name in every sentence and paragraph
and when he does there is no reason to presume he has lost his faith or position in relation to God.]
"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."
"I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think
moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to
them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that 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 disclosed, and manners and opinions change
with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and 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." - Jefferson to H. Tompkinson (AKA Samuel Kercheval),
July 12, 1816
1. In PTJ, 32:168. Letterpress copy available online from the Library of Congress.
2. In PTJ, 1:429-33.
3. In PTJ, 2:545-53.
4. In PTJ, 1:135. Manuscript copy available online from the Library of Congress.
5. In Ford, 4:232.
6. In Ford, 4:232.
7. In Ford, 1:232.
8. In PTJ, 10:243. Letterpress copy available online from the Library of Congress.
9. In PTJ, 9:151. Letterpress copy available online from the Library of Congress.
10. In Ford, 10:37. Polygraph copy available online from the Library of Congress.
11. National Park Service. Thomas Jefferson National Memorial. http://www.nps.gov/thje/
12. Look for sources in the Thomas Jefferson Portal