Back to Africa Check

No, Thomas Jefferson didn’t say criminals and government were ‘enemies of the people’

A meme shared on Facebook in Nigeria and South Africa claims Thomas Jefferson, president of the US from 1801 to 1809, warned that “the two enemies of the people” were “criminals” and “government”.

The text reads: “The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first.” The words are attributed to Jefferson. 

Jefferson was one of the founding fathers of the US and the country’s third president. He was the primary author of the US Declaration of Independence from British colonial rule.

But is the quote by Jefferson?



Not found in Jefferson’s writings


Monticello was a house and plantation owned by Jefferson. It is now a World Heritage site, museum and research institute dedicated to the memory of the president.

In 2009, Monticello and the Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia published an article, updated in 2014, debunking the quote as “spurious”.

According to Monticello, the quote is not in any of Jefferson’s writings. The institution found that it first appeared in print in a book published in 2002. 

They suggest that the origin of the quote may be a combination of a phrase Jefferson used in the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, where he commented on his interpretation of the US constitution, and a phrase by the author Ayn Rand in her 1963 essay, Man’s Rights

For more on what these two quotes were click here. Africa Check




 

For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false

A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”. What should you do? First, don't delete!

Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.

Publishers guide

Africa Check teams up with Facebook

Africa Check is a partner in Facebook’s third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.

The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.

You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.

Further Reading

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
limit: 600 characters