Extract from Thomas Jefferson to H. Tompkinson (Samuel Kercheval)

Some men look at Constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, & deem them, like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. they ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. I knew that age well: I belonged to it, and labored with it. it deserved well of it’s country. it was very like the present, but without the experience of the present: and 40. years of experience in government is worth a century of book-reading: and this they would say themselves, were they to rise from the dead. I am certainly not an advocate for frequent & untried changes in laws and constitutions ... but I know also that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind ... we might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

PoC (DLC); at foot of first page in TJ’s hand: “H. Tompkinson, esq. a pseudonomy for Samuel Kerchival.” Published in PTJRS, 10:220–8.
Author
Thomas Jefferson
Recipient
Samuel Kercheval
Date Range
Date
July 12, 1816
Collection
Quotes by and about Thomas Jefferson
Quote Category