"The mobs of the great cities add just so much to the support of pure government as sores do to the strength of the human body. It is the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigor. A degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution."
Thomas Jefferson
(1743-1826), US Founding Father, drafted the Declaration of Independence, 3rd US President
Notes on Virginia Q.XIX, 1782. ME 2:230
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Reader comments about this quote:
 -- Mike, Norwalk      
Cities are just huge pens people are driven into to make them more easily controllable and dependent where the science of behavioral modification can be easily tested. No need for rat mazes.
 -- Anon     
    I knew Jefferson liked his logical straight laced Monticello environment but never read or heard him be so perversely inclined and prejudiced against cities. His chose of words calling them mobs, sores etcetera is unfortunate. Without the "mobs" in London, New York, Philadelphia, Paris etcetera just where in the hell does he think he would have sold his tobacco and enslaved his slaves all for profit. I love living in the country and the wilderness but am not so naive to think everyone can do it and I would not want them to. Cities have been the cradle of civilzations for milleniums.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
  • 1
    Waffler, most men know that no man is perfect and that a society of men brings out many of those imperfections, but your highlighting of the imperfections of a for the greatest part a just man is childish. A little research shows his feelings about slavery and his attempts to keep it out of the Constitution but because of southern pressure couldn't do so. Now if you had mentioned modern day economic slave owners such as the international banking crowd you would have shown some mature growth of character rather than the stunted childish character you seem to be stuck in.
     -- Anon     
  • 1
    Waffler, even folks from Chicago admit that the people buried in the graves there have been voting for over 150 years after their deaths. Their names are still on the voting registration rolls. And even you know that Sodom and Gormorah were tame as compared to NYC and LA.
     -- cal, lewisville, tx     
  • 1
    This quote seems to blame the deterioration of the constitution on the "mob", when in fact the our last President has done the most to dismantle our laws and the Constitution. Is it possible that Jefferson was making a warning that some mixes of huge populations under certain circumstances can lead to civil unrest, as in Watts, Harlem and Detroit in the 60"s? Not intending to discount what the protests did for minority rights. Perhaps Jefferson is merely warning against the power of "mobs" to the constitution under certain circumstances. Imagine the class system that is indigenous in all cities, would seem like a mob to one of "upper class" standing, who could not relate to the lack of refinement by the underclass. "The manners and spirit of the people" I think references more what the composition of the population of the city, whether homogeneous in beliefs and character, whether contributing or sustaining those values. Public education is a tool to attempt to teach value sharing but is an obvious failure for numerous reasons, perhaps for the better??
     -- Juggs, Any Town     
  • 1
    Can't the Great Man who believes in and respects everyone's right to express their opinion express his own?! He hated cities, that's all. The quote is not about slavery, but I endorse totally Anon's words to Waffler.
     -- Elisabeth, Astoria, NY     
  • 1
    My hometown of New York City is a perfect example. While it is a great melting pot, it is for the most part the playground of mobsters each trying to monopolize a segment of society. Little is produced here, and what is consumed is often other people's fruits and earnings, with entire islands made up of garbage. There is nothing here untouched by man -- it is all contrived and the creation of men which is worshipped above all else -- it creates the idea that we are but little peons in a big world that needs to be controlled by other people. Everyone is beholden to someone, you have to pay to sit down, and every square inch is claimed as someone's turf. Sure it's great for 'culture' like museums, concerts, plays, etc., but fantasy is more the order of the day than reality. The city never sleeps, and it eventually chews you up and spits you out.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
    Waff, check out Chicago and Detroit for two examples. And almost every city that is a total mess was run by a liberal .
     -- jim, Austin Tx     
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