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David Emery

Misattributed: 'Dissent Is the Highest Form of Patriotism'

By February 15, 2005

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Google the phrase "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism" along with the name "Thomas Jefferson" and you'll find thousands of websites attributing the sentiment to the third president of the United States.

The trouble is, notes reader Dave Forsmark, who has been waging a one-man campaign to correct what he believes to be a blatant misattribution, "the quote is about two years old, not 200. It was made by [historian] Howard Zinn in an interview with TomPaine.com to justify his opposition to the War on Terror." Someone erroneously attributed the quote to Jefferson soon after, and now seemingly everyone is doing it.

Based on some rudimentary checking, it appears Mr. Forsmark may be correct. Can anyone out there cite an original document or speech in which Thomas Jefferson actually wrote or uttered these words?

UPDATE: New information uncovered by the Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia suggests that Howard Zinn wasn't the originator of the phrase either:

The earliest usage of the phrase we have found is in a 1961 publication, The Use of Force in International Affairs: "If what your country is doing seems to you practically and morally wrong, is dissent the highest form of patriotism?"

Read more...

Comments

July 28, 2006 at 5:12 am
(1) Joe says:

He didn’t say it but he might have agreed with it. Here’s a quote by Jefferson along the same lines:

“The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then.”

August 23, 2006 at 2:16 pm
(2) None Given says:

I read that Dorothy Hewitt Hutchinson actually said this.

October 5, 2006 at 12:02 pm
(3) rml says:

This Jefferson “quotation” appears
to have been invented by a president
of the ACLU in 1991.

The Jefferson Library at Monticello
expressly repuidates the attribution of this quote to Jefferson; see

http://www.monticello.org/library/reference/spurious.html

They also cite a (real) Jefferson quote
on the evils of political dissension.

In a posting at the Volokh Conspiracy,

http://www.volokh.com/posts/chain_1147013765.shtml,

Jim Lindgren reports that the earliest instance of this “quotation” that he could find in a Lexis-Nexis and in a Westlaw search was 1991. It occurs ion a June 2, 1991 Boston Globe interview
with Nadine Strossen, who was the then
recently elected president of the ACLU.
He also tracked down a similar statement
attributed to Dorothy Hewitt Hutchinson
in the 1960s; this is likely what
“None Given” has in mind.

I repeated the Lexis-Nexis search and
obtained the same result. If you want
to look up the Storssen interview on
microfilm, it is found on page 71, in the Focus section of the Sunday,
June 2, 1991 Boston Globe.

February 10, 2007 at 10:26 am
(4) RefDave says:

Sorry Joe (July 85, 2006), nice fantasy but the Jefferson Library disagrees.

“Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.”

We see this one fairly frequently. We are not sure where it originated, although some speculate that Howard Zinn introduced it as recently as 2002 (see http://urbanlegends.about.com/b/a/146858.htm). As evidence that Jefferson probably would not have expressed such a sentiment, we offer the following (genuine) 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

Source: http://www.monticello.org/library/reference/spurious.html

February 15, 2007 at 12:16 pm
(5) Matt Smith says:

RefDave?? Certainly you realize nothing you’ve said discredits the quote Joe gave, which is fact..not fantasy. The Jefferson quote on political dissension you referenced has to do with artificial divisions between “the good.” I’d hardly call disagreements over a war, costing trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives- began and maintained based on lies and rubber-stamp partisanship ‘artifical.’ And how could we forget this: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants” You’re not cherry-picking your evidence are you?

April 15, 2007 at 5:12 pm
(6) James says:

Nothing he said discredits the quote, but Joe said Jefferson would agree with the original statement in question. The quote presented by RefDave refutes that in the first line.

April 25, 2007 at 7:24 am
(7) Green says:

Hi Sam! Photos i send on e-mail.
Green

May 12, 2007 at 10:13 am
(8) Andy says:

Wow, I guess politicians were politicians back then after all. I just can’t believe that someone would actually contradict themselves! This would never stand today! If any politician were ever to play both sides of an argument… I just ran out of sarcasm. Sorry.

July 3, 2007 at 5:14 pm
(9) James the Smarter says:

let’s remember that it becomes easier to justify a point when placing it in the broader historical context of a quote by TJ. That said, he didn’t know everything, and there have been a lot of changes in the reality of our culture and our world in the many years since his death.

That said, TJ did have quite a few things to say about dissent and resistance as a virtue. Visit this page to see what I’m talking about… in the section entitled “Spirit of Resistance.”

Personally, I like these:

“Most codes extend their definitions of treason to acts not really against one’s country. They do not distinguish between acts against the government, and acts against the oppressions of the government. The latter are virtues, yet have furnished more victims to the executioner than the former, because real treasons are rare; oppressions frequent. The unsuccessful strugglers against tyranny have been the chief martyrs of treason laws in all countries.”

and

“What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?”

July 31, 2007 at 2:46 pm
(10) Daniel Murphy says:

I think that refdave’s quote indicates that Jefferson would not have agreed that dissent is the “highest” form of patriotism. But Jefferson also says that it should be avoided “if possible,” in social conversation.
That does not mean to be quiet while your government becomes despotic.

August 2, 2007 at 12:50 pm
(11) mlb says:

To claim that Howard Zinn made his point merely to “justify his opposition to the War on Terror.” as David Emory does, mischaracterizes Zinn’s statement. Zinn made the general point that it is patriotic for people to speak up when they believe their government is taking their country in a wrong direction.

I would go further and say that it is the duty of citizens to speak up for what they believe is right, and that doing so is vital to the proper functioning of democracy. There can be no “government by the people” if the people remain silent, and voicing an opinion in the voting booth is often not enough.

Partisans aren’t really against dissent at all. They only pretend to be when their side is in power, in the hope of getting the other side to shut up.

August 26, 2007 at 2:33 pm
(12) Gary says:

Some things we KNOW Jefferson said which could align with the idea that “dissent is the highest form of patriotism”:

* I have sworn upon the alter of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.

* Every generation needs a new revolution.

And, someone, I’m not sure who, but I believe it was Benjamin Franklin, said:

“Disobedience to tyrants is obedience to God.”

October 23, 2007 at 5:14 pm
(13) Erik says:

Thomas Jefferson the patriot would agree with dissent, because the declaration of independence is infact dissent, http://www.law.indiana.edu/uslawdocs/declaration.html read it!! but Thomas Jefferson the 1st secretary of state(in 1797) might have a different view of dissent. At this time the dissent was aimed at him and John Adams the 1st Vice President and George Washington the President. Of course he would view dissent aimed at the administration that he was a part of as an “Evil”, because he must have agreed with his own policies. This does not mean that he thought that Americans sticking up for what they believe in is “Evil” That also doesnt mean that the dissent today is valid or not.

November 28, 2007 at 12:14 pm
(14) Matthew says:

Highest form of patriotism? To give one’s life. Lets not add insult to injury to the families of those who have done so by suggesting otherwise.

December 10, 2007 at 10:19 am
(15) Chris says:

“Dissent is the highest form of patriotism” or “Dying for one’s country is the highest form of patriotism” as Matthew suggests are tricky phrases. Would dissenting against the abolition of slavery be patriotic at all, much less a high form? Is dying for oil or lies patriotic? I still kind of like the phrase, but I like Jefferson’s own words as quoted by Joe, James the Smarter and Gary better.

February 20, 2008 at 6:05 pm
(16) Jeffrey Stauss says:

In the Jefferson quote above, he is talking about “political dissension,” that is, partisan squabbling. He is not talking about dissent, which, in this context, means the refusal to conform to authority. If Jefferson had not believed in speaking against authority, he certainly would not have signed his name to the Declaration of Independence, arguably the greatest example of dissent in history. Whether Jefferson actually said anything about dissent being patriotic, he clearly was in favor of it as an antidote to tyranny.

April 4, 2008 at 10:54 am
(17) Sarah Hale says:

The point these comments seem to overlook, Howard Zinn, actually said “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism”, and therefore, all the quotes, posters and money-making bumper stickers, should reflect the same. But “money making profits”, require the dumbing/numbing of American minds and anything to costly to repair, is promoted of fact regardless!

There is no argument that Jefferson would not agree or would not have said something similar, as he no doubt laid the foundation of words to coin the pharse, “Dissent is the highest form of patritism”.

September 23, 2011 at 7:17 am
(18) Brett Bilgisayar says:

I agree. If there is no proof Jefferson actually said it, then the idea certainly came from him and his writings.

April 4, 2008 at 11:25 am
(19) Bluerevolts says:

Below is the quote from the actually interview with Howard Zinn. Published: Jul 03 2002

Dissent In Pursuit Of Equality, Life, Liberty And Happiness

An Interview With Historian Howard Zinn
Sharon Basco is executive producer of TomPaine.com.

Howard Zinn is an historian and author of A People’s History of the United States. Sharon Basco interviewed him for TomPaine.com.

TomPaine.com: Dissent these days seems to be a dirty word. The Bush administration has, at least since September 11th, usually termed any criticism of its policies “unpatriotic.”

Howard Zinn: While some people think that dissent is unpatriotic, I would argue that dissent is the highest form of patriotism. In fact, if patriotism means being true to the principles for which your country is supposed to stand, then certainly the right to dissent is one of those principles. And if we’re exercising that right to dissent, it’s a patriotic act.

http://urbanlegends.about.com/b/2005/02/15/misattributed-dissent-is-the-highest-form-of-patriotism.htm

April 4, 2008 at 11:42 am
(20) Bluerevolts says:

Correct to above website:
TomPaine.com
http://www.tompaine.com/Archive/scontent/5908.html

As you can see, many mistakes happen when transcribing.

“There is nothing more frightening than active ignorance.” ~Goethe~

“”The opinion of 10,000 men is of no value if none of them know anything about the subject.”~ Marcus Aurelius~

May 9, 2008 at 1:31 am
(21) Zeitgeist says:

The amount of obfuscation from a couple posters is incredible…

The Man never said this….whether he would agree with it or not is imaterial…

I’m sure when he sent the marines to the barbary coast…he would have viewed such “dissent” as treason against liberty itself.

There is no middle ground between liberty and tyranny….

Any statments made by him regarding the KING of england and his oppression of the colonies cannot be construed to take meaning of anti-war activists who stand squarely AGAINST an elected representative Govt of “the people” when applied to the people of Iraq and it’s ELECTED representative Govt that seeks liberty for it’s own people…

Defense of tyranny in the form of islamic fundementalism is by default TREASON against liberty itself.

“War is sometimes a necessary evil when the result will bring liberty to an oppressed people.”

MY quote.

Now THAT..I believe he would agree with.

October 20, 2010 at 4:44 am
(22) Aaronious says:

Are you implying Iraq is an Islamic Fundamentalist nation? I would agree that fundamentalism of any religion is treason against liberty because fundamentalism, by nature, seeks to subvert any and all peoples to its ideals.

May 14, 2008 at 11:40 pm
(23) Val Baul says:

Awesome discussion! Glad to see some people passionate about patriotism – regardless of who said it! But most importantly, I love the quote about 10,000 men and their opinions being worthless if they know nothing on the subject! I would use that to describe the people that voted for George Bush in the last election. I’m still using the quote because I think it’s true and amazing – I don’t care who said it, but I’m glad someone did!

May 18, 2008 at 6:18 pm
(24) JLee says:

Grab a dictionary. Dissension =/= Dissent. Dissension refers, according to Webster’s, especially to “partisan and contentious bickering,” not dissent, which is “to withhold assent” or “to differ in opinion.” Jefferson wasn’t referring to the evils of “dissent” at all, but dissension.

And if anyone believes dissent is still the same thing as dissension, I think that’s flatly wrong. Dissent and the discussion that flow from difference of opinions are essential to well thought-out decisions. Dissension on the other hand, where it’s no longer about the substance of the issue but all about scoring points and personal interests (I think of it as tribalism), is unproductive and unhelpful.

Harping on the evils of “dissent” in the political realm is basically an advocacy for despotism. The evils of “dissension” on the other hand… that’s fairly straightforward. There’s already been too much confusion on this subject, let’s not add to it.

November 6, 2011 at 5:25 pm
(25) Todd G. says:

Good point and thanks for clearing that up.

May 21, 2008 at 4:42 pm
(26) Steve P. says:

“Dissent is the highest form of Patriotism” Without it we would still be ruled by the English. Does anyone really believe we should believe and support what ever the oil brothers ” Dick and George” tell us? Please tell me it isn’t so!

May 26, 2008 at 8:38 am
(27) Tito says:

This is rather silly. To understand modern politics you need know only this: Dissent is patriotism when you agree with it. The rest of the time it is fascism.

June 17, 2008 at 4:11 pm
(28) Philip says:

Ok, so here it is:

Dissent is how the general public, other than voting, contributes to the political process. Thomas Jefferson “dissented” when it came to the British, and was involved in the American Revolution. Today, a coup d’etat is neither realistic, nor is it reasonable. But through dissent and protest, the American public can change the way this country is run. Think of the civil rights protests. That is probably the only mass protest that worked, succeeding in changing the way government views different aspects of society like segregation, which eventually led to a more egalitarian society today.

In short: Dissent is still patriotism, though no longer should it need to be revolutionary (hopefully).

July 2, 2008 at 12:47 pm
(29) James says:

Jefferson may not have said the attributed quote, but his support of dissent goes WELL beyond letters of protest. Below is a quote from his correspondence with James Madison concerning the U.S. Constitution and his comment concerning Shays’ REBELLION:

“The late rebellion in Massachusetts has given more alarm than I think it should have done. Calculate that one rebellion in 13 states in the course of 11 years, is but one for each state in a century & a half. No country should be so long without one.”

July 13, 2008 at 12:10 am
(30) Steve D says:

Unbelievable. It took 22 comments before someone came along who knew that “dissension” and “dissent” are two completely different words, with two different meanings. It just makes me shake my head.

July 24, 2008 at 4:31 pm
(31) samanthat says:

It doesnt matter if he ‘would agree with it’

HE DIDNT SAY IT.

Its still a misquote. so the best you could do in a political argument is say ‘I have evidence enough believe a man who has been dead for 200 years and has no idea to what im applying this quote would proably agree with it.’

SAM:)

August 26, 2008 at 5:18 pm
(32) Lottie says:

If the quote is only two years old, how is it that I’ve been hearing it, verbatim, since I was a kid (I’m forty-one years old)?

September 12, 2008 at 5:17 pm
(33) gwn says:

This article is very irresponsible and is surely playing to what many of you want to hear. Anyone could easily find the saying goes back at least to the 60′s, not 2 years.

September 16, 2008 at 8:27 am
(34) de says:

“Anyone could easily find the saying goes back at least to the 60’s, not 2 years.” — any ACTUAL examples please?

November 9, 2008 at 10:49 pm
(35) Chris says:

Isn’t it ironic that the very same crowd who so proudly displayed this saying on their bumpers while their opposition was in power are now going to quell as much dissent as they can under the auspices of the “fairness doctrine?”

December 11, 2008 at 8:57 am
(36) Ryan says:

Hey Chris, Overgeneralize much?

December 11, 2008 at 7:06 pm
(37) Ron says:

“Dissent is the highest form of patriotism”

I guess no one tried to explain that to God.
Dessent is what got us into this mess here on planet earth. I do believe there is a place for it in certain circumstances though.
Ron

December 18, 2008 at 11:50 am
(38) Rob says:

“War is sometimes a necessary evil when the result will bring liberty to an oppressed people.”

MY quote.

Now THAT..I believe he would agree with.”

Post #20, I highly doubt that TJ would agree with Imperialism or so called “liberty” at the end of a rifle.

December 31, 2008 at 12:40 pm
(39) Jeff says:

Perhaps the attribution is incorrect… As the pen behind the declaration of independence, it is clear he found at least one situation where the people should oppose government. And, of course, some were unwilling to stretch so far. A few other quotes…

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

A little rebellion now and then is a good thing.

I am not concerned so much with who said something… as I am in the truth of the statement. Ours is not a system of conformity, but freedom. The “patriot act” clearly limited freedom. And to quote Winston Churchill….

Those willing to sacrifice a little freedom for a little security will soon find they have neither.

The simple truth of a statement of a statement is what makes it profound – not who actually said it.

December 31, 2008 at 2:13 pm
(40) Jeff says:

Post #20, The quote is weak…

War is sometimes a necessary evil when the result will bring liberty to an oppressed people

… I do not think you can appreciate liberty that someone else gave you. And you can not impose liberty on others – that is an oxymoron.

Our forefathers understood rights come with responsibilities and courage.
It is a problem in our own country… we assume all rights for ourselves and little of the responsibility: Voting on issues without bothering to study them… Seeking damages simply because you can, when little suggests you should… touting national superiority(not military) without doing anything to verify it, without doing anything to preserve what good we do have, without doing anything to really contribute.

Our freedom – yours and mine – was the luck of birth and timing; The USA has had a good run – being a long-standing economic powerhouse, having a flexible system that we have a chance to influence, and acting as a major influence in ongoing world events.

That was yesterday and remains for a fleeting today… Short of a little depth and responsible action, it may not accurately portray tomorrow. Japan, China, and India have all given us economic disruption; We grow fat, lazy, and stupid… and comicly think we will always deserve the pole position. Other countries are already able to make some of the important rules… oil-producing countries for instance…

We are lately a lot better at consuming and destroying and offending then we are creating, restoring, evolving, collaborating, or elevating: Change is inevitable and change comes from dissent. But there is no reasonable pride to be found in resting on the accomplishments and courage of others. And freedom not personally obtained is usually unappreciated and quickly lost…

What are you/we doing to make anything better here? We hardly should be arrogantly trying to solve others problems at the point of a gun and presuming we know best – our own track internal and global record is not so breathtaking of late.

July 7, 2009 at 3:56 pm
(41) Scott says:

I just heard Jesse Ventura say it. He didn’t attribute it to anyone but said it as though it was his own. Ventura also said another good political one-liner- “If you don’t hold your elected officials’ feet to the fire you will get bad government”

July 24, 2009 at 10:19 pm
(42) Ana says:

If you watch the recent HBO mini-series “JOHN ADAMS”, the character of Thomas Jefferson says this during the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, so the urban legend is getting deeply rooted!

August 8, 2009 at 10:06 am
(43) GENE MADAIO says:

SO THEN LETS NOT DISSENT… LETS JUST ALLOW OUR LEADERS TO DO WHAT THEY DO BEST ..LIE – CHEAT – STEAL… AND WE SHOULD JUST KEEP OUR MOUTHS SHUT.. SEEMS TO ME THIS IS EXACTLY WHY WERE IN THE MESS WE ARE IN NOW…THE CONSTITUTION IS BREATHING ITS LAST FEW BREATHS PEOPLE… WAKE UP…HURRY…

August 10, 2009 at 4:20 am
(44) C.M. Hatem says:

“I am sick and tired of people who say if you debate and you disagree with this administration, somehow you’re not patriotic and we should stand up and say “We are Americans and we have a right to disagree with any administration!

It’s not TJ but it’ll do in a pinch.

August 13, 2009 at 12:02 am
(45) OMMAG says:

The issue today with this quote is who has been abusing it.

Sick and Tired…

October 30, 2009 at 7:33 am
(46) Anders says:

So what if TJ never said it. Today it’s appropriate for all good men and women to fight against this insane witch hunt for “terrorist”. Like the inquisition where they made women (and men) admit having had sex with Satan, they same way they get “terrorist” to admit all kinds of things (under toture). So who cares about who said what?

November 8, 2009 at 2:23 am
(47) Peregrin says:

Interesting to note that those who argued so mightly against dissent two years ago are now its strongest supporters.

November 20, 2009 at 5:52 am
(48) Meriadoc says:

And vice-versa.

December 27, 2009 at 9:33 am
(49) Miguel says:

The earliest usage of the phrase we have found is in a 1961 publication, The Use of Force in International Affairs: “If what your country is doing seems to you practically and morally wrong, is dissent the highest form of patriotism?

http://wiki.monticello.org/mediawiki/index.php/Dissent_is_the_highest_form_of_patriotism

February 15, 2010 at 8:55 pm
(50) (A)=(E) says:

This goes back far further than the late great Zinn. This “quote” has been going around for ages. I too take issue with the article saying that Zinn said it to “justify his opposition to the War on Terror.”, that makes it sound like he just came up with it to oppose the war. This is a veiw he has had for a very long time, maybe the first time he articulated it.
This may end up being one of those quotes that we will have to attribute to the ever wise Anonymous. It doesnt seem that a original source can be tracked down, the oldest that someone posted said it in form of a question, suggesting the existence and popularity of the saying prior to printing.

February 19, 2010 at 7:34 am
(51) WSR1961 says:

#36 Liberty and security quote is actually attributed to Ben Franklin, not Churchill (who made plenty of other quotable statements and doesn’t need a freebie)

June 21, 2010 at 3:08 pm
(52) Average Joe says:

David Emery you need to get the facts and quit stating your Conservative opinion.
The fact is that the quote is an interpretation of a Thomas Jefferson Quote
“The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive.”
Thomas Jefferson.
The interpretation of the Jefferson quote has been around since at least the early 60′s when I first heard it.

October 17, 2010 at 10:50 pm
(53) Kyle huber says:

“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

He would agree with it and you should too Mr. Emery.

February 2, 2011 at 12:52 pm
(54) Jenifer says:

The closest I have found….sure once can deduce he meant it…..”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

March 18, 2011 at 10:21 am
(55) Jim says:

Mr. Jefferson is a true patriot. The evidence of his passions is well documented. “We the people,” and may I add, “not the King of the people;” was his passion.
Dissent: To disagree with or reject the doctrines or authority of an esablished church.
Mr. Jefferson and others believed “We the people,” was the only way to have a true freedom. “The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time,” Thomas Jefferson.
“Adore God. Love your neighbor as yourself, and your country more than yourself,” Thomas Jefferson. Nuff said.

March 23, 2011 at 4:06 pm
(56) Rick says:

i heard it several times in the mid- and late-60s. Zinn may have originated it, but it was certainly prior to the 21st century.

April 2, 2011 at 4:56 pm
(57) cire says:

Most, including Mr. Emory, are wrong on this issue and have misattributed this quote once again. The original source of the quote was from ’61, in regards to the vietnam conflict … Zinn, I’m sure, was aware of the original source.

http://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/dissent-highest-form-patriotism-quotation

http://www.worldcat.org/title/use-of-force-in-international-affairs/oclc/21414360

April 11, 2011 at 9:16 pm
(58) Kay says:

There’s no way this quote was made in 2003, the first time I heard it was in first grade and I’m 25.

May 20, 2011 at 3:42 pm
(59) V says:

If the statement is only 2 years old then how come it was used in “the rock” in 1995. 16 years ago.

June 5, 2011 at 9:37 pm
(60) ty says:

I don’t really agree with the quote, so I doubt it was said by Mr. Jefferson, lol… jk. The highest form of patriotism is the spirit of resistance to government.

July 7, 2011 at 12:02 am
(61) Brad says:

So the collection of knowledge from Thomas Jefferson is reduced to what he wrote down or what was recorded? To hell with what he told his friends and family? To hell with what tradition tells us? Screw your revisionist history. I’m not saying he said it, but to suggest that since you can’t find it on your little internet sites, he didn’t say it, is ludicrous. And since your citation for it’s earliest use comes in a publication, I have to assume it was uttered well before that time. Whether he said it or not, it doesn’t take away from it’s truth.

August 25, 2011 at 8:11 pm
(62) dr greg says:

It’s clearly older than Zinn’s use w/i the last 10 years, in that I heard it at least as far back as the early 1960′s. If it’s not Jefferson’s then it would be interesting to trace it back to where it did in fact come from.

October 27, 2011 at 7:02 am
(63) Winghunter says:

Knowing Jefferson’s views from his actions and statements for posterity it is obvious he would first ask who are the dissenters and what are their intentions.

If their intentions are specifically anti-American then they’re obviously traitors.

December 19, 2011 at 4:14 pm
(64) Rick says:

Funny, is it not dissent, which caused the revolution

December 19, 2011 at 4:17 pm
(65) rick says:

Also, Jefferson did say this “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to … remain silent.”

February 17, 2012 at 7:15 pm
(66) Kevin Ryan says:

Good Lord. Zinn said it as a statement. It is NOT misattributed, even if the phrase first appeared as a question in that 1961 publication. Zinn said it as a statement. Period. Taking his statement and trying to say that publication said/printed it first is MISATTRIBUTING it!

May 5, 2012 at 5:46 pm
(67) Rafa says:

I thought it was Ben Franklin who said it

May 22, 2012 at 4:29 am
(68) Rafa says:

I thought that was a Ben Franklin quote.

July 7, 2012 at 12:43 pm
(69) Dan says:

Its much older than 2 years. I remember it form childhood and Jefferson scholars though they dispute that it it from Thomas, have traced its common usage to the Vietnam era.

July 26, 2012 at 10:06 am
(70) zarah doan says:

why should it matter who said it if it pertains to what you feel or believe? Is it because we need it to come from someone ‘ great and well known’ to make it a valid point, otherwise it isn’t?

May 13, 2013 at 1:37 pm
(71) August West says:

One point to make here: No one can prove that Jefferson did NOT say these words. To those who allege it’s a misquote, that’s merely opinion, and not fact. He may or may not have said these words, and that’s all we will ever know, as with the other controversial quote I’ve seen attributed: “This country is IN NO WAY founded on Christian principles” – Thomas Jefferson

July 3, 2013 at 6:12 pm
(72) Rob says:

It actually rings truer and with far more credibility coming from Howard Zinn than from Jefferson, given the latter’s ownership of hundreds of slaves

October 24, 2013 at 12:03 am
(73) Cliff says:

Though Jefferson may not have originated the quote, it seems quite clear that in general, he would have agreed with the sentiment.

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