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Did Thomas Jefferson say that freedom is lost gradually from "uninterested, uninformed and uninvolved people"? That’s what one viral Facebook post claims.
The post, which has gotten over 19,000 shares since Sept. 3, 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 Founding Father and third U.S. president is widely quoted on the internet and, unfortunately, there are a multitude of misattributions. So add this quote to the tally – there is no evidence that Jefferson said it, and multiple Jefferson researchers told us they’ve never come across it.
The quote does not turn up in various collections of Jefferson’s writings and speeches. Officials at the University of Virginia Press, which works in conjunction with Founders Online, told PolitiFact that they see no evidence it was said by Jefferson.
"It is very unlikely that this is a verbatim quotation from anything Jefferson ever wrote himself. The style and phrasing is uncharacteristic, and as you can verify from a search in Founders Online he very rarely used the words ‘uninterested’ or ‘uninvolved,’" David Sewell, managing editor of Digital Initiatives at the organization, wrote in an email. "And in fact they were much less common before the 20th century … Especially ‘uninvolved’ in the sense of ‘not active in affairs/politics’ — that is very much a modern usage."
While this particular statement isn’t included in the list, Monticello research librarians told us they couldn’t locate the quote in any of Jefferson’s writings or in print media.
Lisa Francavilla, managing editor for the Thomas Jefferson Papers at the International Center for Jefferson Studies, said the quote is being parroted all over the internet.
"We have never been able to find any source that confirms that these are words written or spoken by Thomas Jefferson," Francavilla wrote in an email. "It is therefore what we call ‘spurious’ or ‘misattributed.’ We have been unable to confirm a date of origin for it."
We rate this False.
Facebook post, Sept. 3, 2019
Monticello.org, Spurious Quotations, Accessed Oct. 2, 2019
JeffersonPapers.Princeton, search, Oct. 2, 2019
FoundersOnline.gov, search, Oct. 2, 2019
Associated Press, Recent editorials from Texas newspapers, June 13, 2017
Email interview, David Sewell University of Virginia Press for Founders Online, Oct. 2, 2019
Email interview, Lisa Francavilla managing editor Thomas Jefferson Papers at the International Center for Jefferson Studies, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc., Oct. 3 2019
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