Extract from Thomas Jefferson to John Adams

it would seem as if they could not see their way clearly to do it. no government can continue good but under the controul of the people: and their people were so demoralised and depraved as to be incapable of exercising a wholsome controul. their reformation then was to be taken up ab incunabulis. their minds were to be informed, by education, what is right & what wrong, to be encoraged in habits of virtue, & deterred from those of vice by the dread of punishments, proportioned indeed, but irremissible; in all cases to follow truth as the only safe guide, & to eschew error which bewildering bewilders us in one false consequence after another in endless succession. these are the inculcations necessary to render the people a sure basis for the structure of order & good government. but this would have been an operation of a generation or two at least, within which period would have succeeded many Neros and Commoduses, who could have quashed the whole process.

RC (MHi: Adams Papers).
Thomas Jefferson
John Adams
Date Range
December 10, 1819
Quotes by and about Thomas Jefferson