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An alleged quote by Founding Father and former President Thomas Jefferson is circulating on social media.
The post in question features a photo of a crowded arena attended by folks in red caps. The words "TRUMP" and "2020" border the top and bottom of the photo. And inside the picture is this quote attributed to Jefferson:
"The government will one day be corrupt and filled with liars and the people will flock to the one who tells the truth."
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.)
The quote, or any variation of it, could not be found in a search of the Papers of Thomas Jefferson. A search for it in the Jefferson encyclopedia and collections of his writings and speeches online yielded no results.
"This quotation has not been found in the writings of Thomas Jefferson," Monticello research research librarian Anna Berkes wrote on the Monticello website. "It seems to exist mainly on Twitter, but we have been unable to trace its existence before 2015."
We reached out to Berkes to check if she has come across any variation of it since. She told us the quote still can’t be located.
"All signs point to it being entirely spurious," Berkes wrote in an email. "Usually with a genuine quote, you’ll see it appearing in books by historians or previous compilations of Jefferson’s writings; this one still doesn’t seem to have any paper trail at all."
Berkes also wrote a blog post in 2011 to help people know how to spot fake Jefferson quotes. Among her tips: Jefferson almost never used contractions nor did he use the word "you" as an indefinite pronoun. Berkes also warned readers to be wary of quotes that have no citation as to when and where it was said and those that can only be found in non-historical literature.
There’s no evidence to support that Jefferson said or wrote this. We rate it False.
Facebook post, Nov. 6, 2019
Monticello.org, The government will one day be corrupt (Spurious Quotation), Accessed Nov. 7, 2019
Monticello.org, How to Spot a Fake, Nov. 22, 2011
Founders Online, Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Accessed Nov. 7, 2019
Snopes, Did Thomas Jefferson Say ‘The Government Will One Day Be Corrupt and Filled With Liars’?, May 10, 2019
FactCheck.org, Posts Put Words in Thomas Jefferson’s Mouth, Oct. 15, 2019
Email interview, Anna Berkes research librarian at the Jefferson Library at Monticello, Nov. 7, 2019
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