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Digression o' the Day for March 5, 1999

There was some discussion in class about the identity of the person who said, "That government is best which governs least," or words to that effect. 


There was some discussion in class about the identity of the person who said, "That government is best which governs least," or words to that effect.  John Adams was offered in class.  At least one person on the Web thinks that it was Thomas Paine.  See the very, very bottom of this page.  The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, by the way, describes Paine as, "English political theorist."  The Web's overwhelming favorite as the of this quotation, however, seem to be another Thomas: one Thomas Jefferson, known to us now, of course, chiefly for funding the Lewis and Clark expedition.  Yet none of the print sources that I consulted (Bartlett's, the aforementioned Oxford Dictionary, and a couple of others) attributed this quotation as an original matter to Adams, Jefferson, or Paine--or indeed, to anyone.   A quotation from Napoleon, who along with Jefferson was the topic of the Digression O' the Day for Wednesday, February 24th, opens this set of historical quotations partly organized by topic


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This page was last updated on 03/05/99.