Chamblee54

Thomas Jefferson Said What?

Posted in Uncategorized by chamblee54 on May 14, 2012





PG was wasting time with facebook when he saw a friend say
“Damn I love this quote”. The passage being praised was “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Desmond Tutu.
The rhetoric alert started to flash. These days, the wolf and the sheep buy their clothes at the same Walmart. To hear some oppressors talk the talk, they are the ones under attack. It is tough to tell the good guys from the bad guys. Also, as the Kony fiasco showed, often you can make things worse by getting mixed up. Sometimes the best thing to do is mind your own business.
Ok, now that is out of the way. Some lines sound good, but don’t hold up to a bit of thinking. As for the veracity of the quote, Desmond Tutu may very well have said it. (or maybe one of his rivals said it, and Mr. Tutu copied it.) The quote has been attributed to Thomas Jefferson, Edmund Burke, Patrick Henry, and probably others. Almost no one has a source, for the quote, from the dead white guys.
There was a discussion in Prison Planet Forum about BHO, and his alleged good buddy Larry Sinclair. The signature line for one of the posts was that crowd pleaser,
“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” Thomas Jefferson. All that needed to happen to get the party started was to highlight the quote, right click, and ask Mr. Google to help.
A post called MISQUOTING THE FOUNDERS did not mince words.
“The only problem with this scene that has been repeated many times across the country is that Thomas Jefferson never said that, never wrote that, and quite possibly never thought it. Our aspiring politician had fallen victim to the perils of popular misattribution. You could fill a book with misquotes and misattributed quotes we hear repeated regularly today. Right now if I Google “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent” the entire first page of results wrongly attribute it to Thomas Jefferson. The quote and its many variants have been attributed in the past to Thomas Paine and Edmund Burke, but no record exists of the quote in any of their writings or contemporary accounts.”
On November 13, 1787, Mr. Jefferson wrote a letter to William Smith. The letter is full of zesty quotes.
“What country before ever existed a century & a half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.”
A few lines above that, Mr. Jefferson said
“God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion.” Twenty years after he wrote this, Mr. Jefferson was President. He probably did not want to deal with a revolution when he was President.
Getting back to the quote about tyranny, Martin Porter wrote an entertaining essay, A study of a Web quotation. He gives credit, or blame, to Edmund Burke. First, a list of different versions is presented. This is a clue that something is awry. The conclusion:
“There is no original. The quote is bogus, and Burke never said it. It is a pseudo-quote, and corresponds to real quotes in the same way that urban legends about the ghost hitch-hiker vanishing in the back of the car and alligators in the sewers correspond to true news stories.”
Mr. Porter wrote a follow up essay, Four Principles of Quotation. These principles are:

Principle 1 (for readers) Whenever you see a quotation given with an author but no source assume that it is probably bogus.
Principle 2 (for readers) Whenever you see a quotation given with a full source assume that it is probably being misused, unless you find good evidence that the quoter has read it in the source.
Principle 3 (for quoters) Whenever you make a quotation, give the exact source.
Principle 4 (for quoters) Only quote from works that you have read.

If these principles were to be used, then there would be a lot less hotheaded talking on the intercom. Those who are trying to influence you to the justice of their cause will not want you to read this. Pictures for this feature are from The Library of Congress. These pictures are Union soldiers, from the War Between the States. When war is discussed, all inspiring quotes are in doubt.




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7 Responses

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  1. Todd in Reno trys to be nice for 15 minutes said, on May 15, 2012 at 3:21 am

    I enjoyed this post. I enjoyed the pictures, though, I suspect they will haunt me all day long.

    Most of them seem so young. I look a their faces, and I wonder what their lives were like, what their voices sounded like, what kind of work they used to do before the war. I read that the photography during the era required sitting still for 20 seconds to 5 minutes. I also read that we don’t have many photographs of the Southern soldiers because the loss of the war was so painful, almost nobody kept the negatives. For some reason this makes me very sad.

    I also wonder about how the technology has changed people, societies, and wars and our perception of ourselves. It’s harder to forget the lessons you’ve learned, when you have a picture of what it cost to learn them on your mantle.

    This lingering feeling I have evoked by these pictures – I don’t know how to describe it, other than as a kind of aching yearning to know and understand people that can’t really be known…

    • chamblee54 said, on May 15, 2012 at 9:11 am

      Thank you for stopping by. The collection of photos these images came from does have Confederates. These images are very powerful, and a lot of work to use.

  2. EricIndiana said, on May 23, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    Gandhi & King are also often cross-attributed. Another common type of misattributed quotes: ancient Chinese and/or Native American wisdom, as in this: http://daisybrain.wordpress.com/2010/09/06/ancient-wisdom/

    • chamblee54 said, on May 23, 2012 at 7:54 pm

      Thank you for stopping by. If Confucius had said all the things he was supposed to have said, he would have done nothing but talk.

  3. […] page will be considered. The NB quote has 1.7 million results, which is too much work. There are Four Principles of Quotation. Principle 1 (for readers) Whenever you see a quotation given with an author but no source assume […]

  4. […] the War Between the States. When war is discussed, all inspiring quotes are in doubt. This is a repost. It is written like James Joyce. In the past year, doing due diligence on alleged quotes has become […]

  5. […] the War Between the States. When war is discussed, all inspiring quotes are in doubt. This is a repost. It is written like James Joyce. In the past year, doing due diligence on alleged quotes has become […]


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