False
Facebook posts
Quotes Thomas Jefferson as saying that "a government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have."

Facebook posts on Tuesday, June 4th, 2019 in a Facebook post

No, Thomas Jefferson did not say big government is ‘strong enough to take everything you have’

A post that recently popped up on social media is putting words in the mouth of former President Thomas Jefferson.

The quote goes: "A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have."

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

According to officials at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, the words cannot be found in his writings.

"Neither this quotation nor any of its variant forms has been found in the writings of Thomas Jefferson," Monticello says on its website.

That said, several politicians have used the phrase in speeches and interviews throughout the years, often without attribution.

According to The Big Apple, an online dictionary run by etymologist Barry Popik, different variations of the quote have been around since at least the 1950s.

Its first known appearance in print, Popik found, was an unattributed entry in the 1952 book "Remember These Things" by Paul Harvey. It showed up a year later, also unattributed, in the Texas newspaper, "The Morning Avalanche."

In 1954, then-U.S. Rep. Gerald Ford used a similar line and repeated it as president in 1974. (Ford’s assistant, Robert Hartmann, reportedly said that Ford claimed to have heard the phrase "early in his political career" from Harvard McClain at the Economic Club in Chicago.)

The list goes on from there, with variations of the phrase being attributed to Ford, others or no one at all.

Our ruling

A Facebook post claims Thomas Jefferson once said or wrote that "a government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have."

But the quote could not be found in any of Jefferson’s writings and appears to have originated sometime around the 1950s. It has been attributed to Ford, among others, throughout the years as it became a popular saying for politicians starting in the 20th Century.

We rate this claim False.