Warren Throckmorton reports that the group ForAmerica, which was founded by right wing looney L. Brent Bozell, has been spreading a fake quote from Thomas Jefferson all over Facebook. This one isn’t about church and state though, it’s about the scope of government:
Throckmorton links to the Monticello website, which debunks this quote:
Quotation: “My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.”
“My reading of history convinces me that most bad government has grown out of too much government.”
Sources consulted: Searching on the phrase “bad government” and “too much government”
Papers of Thomas Jefferson Digital Edition
Thomas Jefferson Retirement Papers
Thomas Jefferson: Papers and Biographies collections in Hathi Trust Digital Library
Earliest known appearance in print: 1913
Earliest known appearance in print, attributed to Jefferson: 1950
Other attributions: John Sharp Williams
Comments: This exact quotation has not been found in any of the writings of Thomas Jefferson. It bears some slight resemblance to a statement he made in a letter to John Norvell of June 14, 1807: “History, in general, only informs us what bad government is.” However, the quotation as it appears above can definitely be attributed to John Sharp Williams in a speech about Jefferson, which has most likely been mistaken at some point for a direct quotation of Jefferson.
He also notes that when an atheist group used a fake Jefferson quote last year, they owned up to it when corrected. Will ForAmerica?