"We have the greatest opportunity the world has ever seen, as long as we remain honest -- which will be as long as we can keep the attention of our people alive. If they once become inattentive to public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, judges and governors would all become wolves."
Thomas Jefferson
(1743-1826), US Founding Father, drafted the Declaration of Independence, 3rd US President
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Reader comments about this quote:
Honesty? What politican today knows what this is?
 -- cal, lewisville, tx     
    With the invention of the Internet, everyone has a printing press. If we are to get the attention of the people, we must use it.
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
    Such greatest of all opportunities is now only seen on the most distant horizon of men's hearts. Now that the once sovereign has been dummied down, concept definitions of honesty, freedom and liberty have been changed, and the vast majority of people have become inattentive to the laws of nature and nature's God's public affairs, the once representative republic has devolved into packs of wolves.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
    "The People" not only tolerate the rascals, but will re-elect them. We see this over and over as in the cases of Marion Barry and Bill "Slick Willy" Clinton.
     -- jim k, austin     
    This quote applies to all politicians nowadays worldwide. That's what they have become, wolves and wolverines! Where is HONESTY and TRUTH!?!?! Or really are these two words utopia?
     -- Albana     
    Unfortunately, the producers were busy producing while the leaches busied themselves being attentive to public affairs, and the squeaky wheel got the grease.
     -- Theodoric, M.B., York     
    Wow! That's great - so apt for today's Wolves. We go to our houses or worship and achieve zilch - all we do is commune with others who only wish to keep the status quo. The problem with America is that its represents over 60%. Can you believe what's going on in Iran - the young Persians (70%) want freedom.
     -- RBESRQ     
    We have been fairly attentive for a long time, correcting error and corruption as we go. Will there ever be an end to error and corruption, NO! Must we stay attentive and correct error and corruption YES! The biggest and most insidious lack of attention has been our budget deficits and National Debt, brought on by the Reagan/Bushes snake oil salesmen philosophy. We will correct this error and corruption also. Lets get started.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
    So Jefferson is admitting that if he is not closely monitored by "the people," he'll become a "wolf." That's quite a grim confession, from a dark soul.
     -- Richard M. Salsman, Durham, NC     
    He and the other founding fathers gave us the tools to use to keep our freedom, but we've become too compacent to use them anymore. The lazy and greedy now have the keys to the treasury. Wonder what Thomas and Ayn Rand would jointly say about the U.S. as it is today!
     -- Jean L., Dover, NH     
    So Jefferson is admitting that if he is not closely monitored by "the people," he'll become a "wolf." Just as Gandolf refused the power of the ring.
     -- Bilbo Baggins, The Shire     
    _Jefferson was, as usual, quite honest in his appraisal of unsupervised politicians and judges, although his wolf metaphor may not be his best. Like many other predators, wolves provide a control on prey populations, and their removal of weak individuals improves the viability of the herd - but please don't confuse me with a social Darwinist. __I like Albana's suggestion of "wolverines", which in some parts are still called "gluttons", but I prefer "looters" to describe the last few generations of "Congress and Assemblies, judges and governors". I'm curious about Jefferson's omission of the federal executive branch, since his letter from which this quote originates was written in 1816, long since that branch had been established. (http://www.jeffersonlegacy.org/Winter2003.htm)
     -- A.WOODS, Gloucester     
    Jefferson may just be our greatest founding father for his insight regarding behavior as cited in this quote. The reference to wolves is unfortunate. A. Woods is correct regarding their functioning method. I have read that there in no documentation of a healthy - non rabid - wolf ever attacking a human. They did take care, literally, of the founders of Rome.
     -- J. B. Wulff, Bristol     
    Interesting insight from Mr. Salsman
     -- Waffler, Smith     
    Mr Salsman and Anonymous. Jefferson simply pointed out the potentiality of all men to become wolves. Notice he said YOU and I.
     -- Anon     
    Anon sadly you may be correct. It is sad is it not to think that we all have an equal opportunity to be creeps. Thus is their really any hope for the world.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
    Great quote. I've found it all over the web, but I can't find a citation. When and where did Jefferson say this?
     -- Chris Jenner, Cary, IL     
    If the truth shall set you free, what will lies do? Honesty and Liberty are ever proportional to each other. Jefferson humbly admits that unchecked power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Something that is lost among all those professing to know what is good for us and if only they had the power would force it upon us. Another reason why unchecked democracy will eventually be our ruin -- especially if a large majority believes themselves to be right by sake of their numbers and that they can do whatever they want. No sooner have the Libs gotten power, have they blamed Bush for an unpayable debt -- the solution: double it! Hypocrites and liars! Another reason that no matter what the majority, they have no right to steal the fruits of the labors of the people -- and they ain't taxing the rich and giving it to the poor, idiots, it is the rich who have the power and the poor are becoming more and more indebted and poorer with every legislative act. How stupid can you get...
     -- E Archer, NYC     
     -- warren, olathe      
    Thomas Jefferson was predicting a future that is true for us today.
     -- gal4God, Kissimmee, Fl     
    Broad minded and of great depth of understanding as Washington and others. The fragility of liberty and freedom is just that. Honesty and moral fiber with a stedfastness of the will to protect and not to plunder the children's wealth. They had something that was not lost but taken away from the sovereign's, Freedom personal, and financial Liberty. Now it seems we are reduced to slavery once again. Where is the smoking gun. ?
     -- watchman 13, USA     
    Sorry to say, Thomas Jefferson, but the people have become inattentive to public affairs and therefore have blindly allowed all the freedom devouring wolves to enter.
     -- Mary - MI     
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