Thomas Jefferson quotes are often used to highlight a multitude of wide-ranging topics.
As well they should. After all, he was a founding patriot, a President, and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. But did you know that he was also a farmer, an avid gardener, a gourmet, and a “backyard provider”?
Quotes by Thomas Jefferson can almost always add insight to the conversations of the day, and each one seems to gain deeper meaning each time I read it.
Here are just a few of Jefferson’s well-known, and lesser known, words of wisdom:
“Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bonds. As long, therefore, as they can find employment in this line, I would not convert them into mariners, artisans, or anything else.” –Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, 1785.
“The pursuits of agriculture [are] the surest road to affluence and best preservative of morals.” –Thomas Jefferson to John Blair, 1787.
“An industrious farmer occupies a more dignified place in the scale of beings, whether moral or political, than a lazy lounger, valuing himself on his family, too proud to work, and drawing out a miserable existence by eating on that surplus of other men’s labor which is the sacred fund of the helpless poor.” –Thomas Jefferson: Answers to de Meusnier Questions, 1786.
“Agriculture… is the first in utility, and ought to be the first in respect.” –Thomas Jefferson to David Williams, 1803.
“I predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them”.
“Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever He had a chosen people, whose breasts He has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue. It is the focus in which he keeps alive that sacred fire which otherwise might escape from the face of the earth. Corruption of morals in the mass of cultivators is a phenomenon of which no age nor nation has furnished an example.” –Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia
“I thank you for the seeds…Too old to plant trees for my own gratification, I shall do it for my posterity”.
“but tho’ an old man, I am but a young gardener”.
“Those who hammer their guns into plows will plow for those who do not.”
“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.”
“Whenever there are in any country uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labor and live on. The small landowners are the most precious part of a state.”
“If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny”.
“May it be to the world what I believe it will be, the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form which we have substituted, restores the free-right the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. all eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately by the grace of God. These are grounds for hope for others. For ourselves let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”
“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
“I view great cities as pestilential to the morals, the health and the liberties of man. True, they nourish some of the elegant arts; but the useful ones can thrive elsewhere; and less perfection in the others, with more health, virtue and freedom, would be my choice.”
“The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to it’s culture.”
“Have you ever become a farmer? Is it not pleasanter than to be shut up within four walls and delving eternally with the pen?”
Read More About Jefferson’s Legacy on Gardening and Food Here
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