Sourcing Thomas Jefferson quotes: “A country with no border . . .” Jefferson didn’t say it

October 2, 2013

Way back in 2012 I wrote this:

A group calling itself “Patriotic Moms” claims to quote Thomas Jefferson:

Thomas Jefferson 3x4

Thomas Jefferson said a lot, and kept careful records of about 15,000 letters — but did he ever say a country without a border is not a country? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“A country with no Border is not a country.”

I can’t find that in Jefferson’s writings.  Anybody know if Jefferson said or wrote anything like that?  Got a citation?

Is this another fake Jefferson quote?

More, reference:

Here we are, over a year later, and this does not appear in any form that I think we can say Jefferson said it, or wrote it.  It’s not in any Jefferson collection I can find.

Perhaps even more telling, our old friend Higginbotham finds a solid attribution to former Congressman Mike Pence (now Governor of Indiana), introducing a bill in Congress in 2005.

The judges rule Jefferson did not say “A country with no border is not a country.”  Neither did he say “A nation with no border is not a nation.”  In his bogus quote, neither did he add “secure” before the last “country” or “nation.”

It’s a misattributed quote, a bogus quote, a distortion of history, whatever epithet you wish to impale it on.  But it’s not from the canon of Thomas Jefferson wisdom.  It’s been flying around the internet this past week, and my earlier post has increased activity. Perhaps immigration is about to heat up as an issue?   Time to put this canard down.

Here’s one thing that should make you very wary of any quote in any similar circumstance:  No one seems to know what the occasion was that Jefferson made the remark, nor the date, nor the format.  Jefferson’s writings are extensively indexed, and he kept copies himself of about 15,000 letters, for the sake of history.  If you can’ t find it quickly, he probably didn’t say it.

More, in 2013:


Sourcing Thomas Jefferson quotes: “A country with no border . . .”

August 12, 2012

A group calling itself “Patriotic Moms” claims to quote Thomas Jefferson:

Thomas Jefferson 3x4

Thomas Jefferson said a lot, and kept careful records of about 15,000 letters — but did he ever say a country without a border is not a country? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“A country with no Border is not a country.”

I can’t find that in Jefferson’s writings.  Anybody know if Jefferson said or wrote anything like that?  Got a citation?

Is this another fake Jefferson quote?

Update:  My determination is that no, Jefferson did not say it at all.

More, reference:


Utah report: More false “founders’ quotes” plague American discourse

April 25, 2010

Utah has a movement out to slander education and the Constitution, with a pointless claim that the Constitution cannot be called a “democracy,” damn Lincoln, Hamilton, Madison, Washington, both Roosevelts, and Reagan.

Sadly, it started in my old school district, the one where I got the last nine years of public school education, Alpine District, in the north end of Utah County.

They even have a website, Utah’s Republic. (No, Utah was never an independent republic before it was a state — it’s not like the Texas Republic wackoes, except in their wacko interpretations of law and history, where they are indistinguishable.)

At the blog from that site, there is a silly discussion on how a republic is a much superior form of government to a democracy.  Never mind that sheer numbers in our nation have always made democracy impossible (can’t get 150 million voters in one hall), or that distance makes it impossible to work (vote tomorrow in Washington, D.C.?  Everybody call the airlines, see if you can make it.)

So, I pointed out how a republic can also suggest tyranny.  And the response?  A flurry of “quotes from the founders.”

Can you vouch for any of these “quotes?”  Is any one of them accurate?

The Jefferson “mob rule” quote isn’t in any Jefferson data base that I can find. I find it also attributed to George Washington — but almost always without any citation, so you can’t check.

That maneuver is one of the key indicators of Bogus Quotes, the lack of any citation to make it difficult to track down.  All of these quotes come without citation:

As for a moral people, Washington said there could be no morality without religion and called it the “indispensable support,” not education. Obviously Jefferson and the Founders wanted education of the constitution to take place but we are very far removed from it in our education system.

Democracy… while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide. – John Adams

A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine. – Thomas Jefferson

The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not. – Thomas Jefferson

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote. – Benjamin Franklin

Democracy is the most vile form of government… democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention: have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property: and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. – James Madison

As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. – Abraham Lincoln

The last one is probably accurate, but irrelevant to this discussion (nice red herring, there, Oak).  Can you offer links to verify any of them?

Is this what I suspect?  The “Utah Republic” drive is not only a tempest in a teapot (though perhaps caused by other more serious maladies), but also a tempest based on false readings of history?

The website for “Utah Republic” is maintained by a guy named Oak Norton, who is obviously in thrall to the voodoo histories of David Barton and Cleon Skousen (I think Barton stole a lot of his voodoo history from Skousen, but that’s another topic for another day).

Funny:  Nowhere do these guys discuss one of the greatest drivers of the republic, over more egalitarian and more democratic forms of government.  Remember, Hamilton preferred to have an aristocracy, an elite-by-birth group, who would rule over the peasants.  He didn’t trust the peasants, the people who he saw as largely uneducated, to make critical decisions like, who should be president.  Norton doesn’t trust the peasants to get it right, and so he wants to dictate to them what they are supposed to know, in Nortonland.

Just because Oak Norton slept through high school history and government is no reason to shut down Utah’s Alpine School District or any other school; he’s not offered much evidence that everyone else missed that day in class, nor evidence that it has any significant effect.

Jefferson's advice on quotes found on the internet

Jefferson’s advice on quotes found on the internet, backdropped by his books now held by the Library of Congress.


False Quotes Department: Jefferson, Kerry, Tim and Josh

July 26, 2006

Catching false quotes is a key goal of this enterprise.

Back in April, Josh at The Everyday Economist linked to Tim Blair with an almost snarky catch of John Kerry citing a line from Jefferson that, alas, Jefferson didn’t write or say. Tim links to The Jefferson Library. It’s short; here’s the entirety of Tim’s post:

John Kerry:

No wonder Thomas Jefferson himself said: “Dissent is the greatest form of patriotism.”

The Jefferson Library:

There are a number of quotes that we do not find in Thomas Jefferson’s correspondence or other writings; in such cases, Jefferson should not be cited as the source. Among the most common of these spurious Jefferson quotes [is]:

* “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.”

Jefferson could have said something like that (and did — posts for another time, perhaps). I don’t find this common error nearly so irritating as those where a founder is quoted saying quite the opposite of what he or she would have said, or did say. Read the rest of this entry »


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