Do people put these on their cars to encourage general dissent, dissent against the current administration or as some sort of an ego road trip? I’ve seen a lot of these around recently and ran into this one yesterday. I’ve read more about Jefferson lately and this quote was bugging me because it seemed out of character. Like sometimes people will say that the God commands us to kill because they saw it in the bible.
I looked for the quote with some expectation that it was taken out of context and the whole message would not support dissension as the highest form of patriotism. I wasn’t prepared for such a well known and widely distributed quote being just flat wrong. According to the Jefferson Library, he never said it at all and in fact they find it out of character also, citing the following substantiated quote:
“Political dissension is doubtless a less evil than the lethargy of despotism: but still it is a great evil, and it would be as worthy the efforts of the patriot as of the philosopher, to exclude it’s influence if possible, from social life. The good are rare enough at best. There is no reason to subdivide them by artificial lines. But whether we shall ever be able so far to perfect the principles of society as that political opinions shall, in it’s intercourse, be as inoffensive as those of philosophy, mechanics, or any other, may well be doubted.”
TJ to Thomas Pinckney, 29 May 1797
This hardly seems a cattle call for dissenters. And in fact, if I read this correctly, I believe he is saying that patriots should avoid dissenion. Wow! The anti-US, anti-Bush crowd will be rocked at their foundation. Or… they won’t do anything at all because this quote/lie is actually well known, just not by me until now. I think I need to come up with a new bumpersticker:
Lying is the Sleeziest form of Patriotism