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A curious moment happened in the Bloomberg/WaPo debate as, coming back from commercial around the hour and a half mark, producers flashed the following quote from Thomas Jefferson up on the jumbotron next to the candidates on stage:
My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.
The only problem is that it’s fake. Jefferson never said nor wrote those words. As Monticello.org documents:
This exact quotation has not been found in any of the writings of Thomas Jefferson. It bears some slight resemblance to a statement he made in a letter to John Norvell of 14 June 1807, “History, in general, only informs us what bad government is.” However, the quotation as it appears above can definitely be attributed to John Sharp Williams in a speech about Jefferson, which has most likely been mistaken at some point for a direct quotation of Jefferson.
A minor mistake, sure, but I’ll nitpick. There’s too much false-quote-attribution that goes around the internet and the Twitters nowadays. Why not use one of the following relevant (and possibly provocative!) actually-sourced Jefferson quotes? He was one of our great founders; let’s try not to tarnish his legacy with fake quotes.
[A] wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government…
[I]f we can but prevent the government from wasting the labours of the people, under the pretence of taking care of them, they must become happy.
An elective despotism was not the government we fought for.
Video will come if I can find it.
Hat tip: Kyle Levenick via Twitter
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