A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 19, 2019
“An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people”

"An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people” is a saying that has been printed on several images. It has been credited to American founding father Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), who supported education but did not say this quotation.

“Thomas Jefferson said, ‘An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people’” was printed in a letter in the Courier-Post (Camden, NJ) on August 28, 2009. “‘An Educated Citizenry Is A Vital Requisite For Our Survival As A Free People’” Thomas Jefferson” was posted on Twitter by Awake on May 11, 2010. The quotation has been debunked by Monticello.org, a website devoted to Thomas Jefferson’s works.

[This entry includes research by Bill Mullins on the American Dialect Society listserv.]


Wikipedia: Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, philosopher, and Founding Father who served as the third president of the United States from 1801 to 1809. Previously, he had served as the second vice president of the United States from 1797 to 1801. The principal author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was a proponent of democracy, republicanism, and individual rights, motivating American colonists to break from the Kingdom of Great Britain and form a new nation; he produced formative documents and decisions at both the state and national level.

Monticello.org
An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people (Spurious Quotation)
(...)
Status: This quotation has not been found in any of the writings of Thomas Jefferson.
Comments: This quotation seems to have originated in an article of the same title on PicktheBusiness.com. It is an accurate paraphrase of Jefferson’s views on education, but the exact phrasing seems to belong to the author of the article, and not Jefferson. The article title appears to have been mistaken by others as a direct quotation from Jefferson’s 1816 letter to Charles Yancey, which is mentioned in the article, but the exact quotation does not appear in that letter or in any other known Jefferson writings.
- Anna Berkes, March 30, 2010; revised August 24, 2011

Monticello.org
Extract from Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey
Monticello Jan. 6. 16.
if a nation expects to be ignorant & free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was & never will be. the functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty & property of their constituents. there is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves; nor can they be safe with them without information. where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.

Monticello.org
Genesis of the University of Virginia
Thomas Jefferson, to a degree greater than many founding fathers, believed that people are the guardians of their own freedom.  To his oft-repeated expression of faith in the ability of the people to govern themselves, however, he attached a caveat: The citizenry, in order to become “safe depositories” of their freedom, must be educated.1 Simply put, he stated: “Wherever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government.”
(...)
The next year (1787—ed.), still in Paris, he wrote to Madison: “Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to; convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty.”

Newspapers.com
10 May 1923, Austin (TX) Statesman, pg. 8, col. 1 ad:
The words of Thomas Jefferson have certainly come true: “An educated citizenry is indeed the foundation of a real DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT.”
(Luedecke-Moffatt Co.—ed.)

1 October 1925, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “West Texas Dream Fulfilled as Texas Tech Opens; Expect 1,000 Students Will Enroll” by John Sneed, sec. 1, pg. 16, col. 4:
Marvin Jones, Congressman, declared in his speech this is to be just a family reunion and after praising Texas Tech, said that the greatest curse of the world is ignorance and that an educated citizenry is the safeguard of the Republic.

30 December 1926, The News and Observer (Raleigh, NC), “Hits at Rule of Balance Sheet,” pg. 2, col. 7:
(Remarks of Dr. W. S. Bernard of the University of North Carolina.—ed.)
“An educated citizenry is more necessary to the culture and development of the State than anything else under heaven.”

Newspapers.com
28 April 1946, Kingsport (TN) Times, “Corner Window” by W. J. McAuliffe, pg. 4, col. 7:
Thomas Jefferson used to say that successful democracy depended on an educated citizenry.

Newspapers.com
18 October 1949, Streator (IL) Daily Times-Press, “Allen H. B. Is Given Lesson By Mrs. Ethel McCann,” pg. 4, col. 6:
... she became with a quotation by Thomas Jefferson, ‘The very foundation of a democracy is an educated citizenry.”

Newspapers.com
29 August 1962, Medford (OR) Mail Tribune, pg. 4A, cols. 4-5:
To the Editor: When Thomas Jefferson said “the safety of the Republic lies in an educated citizenry,” he evidently meant more than mere scholasticism.
(...)
The safety of the Republic still lies in a morally mature and educated citizenry.
L. G. Weaver
301 Haven st.
Medford, Ore.

Google Books
Thomas Jefferson
By John Ferguson and Tim Benton
Bletchley, UK: Open University Press
1972
Pg. 30:
(c) Democracy needs an educated citizenry if it is to work.
(d) Education will lead to material advance, the reduction of pain and poverty, and greater practical knowledge.
(e) Education will lead to moral advance, the reduction of vice, and

Google Books
An American History
By Rebecca Brooks Gruver
New York, NY: Knopf
1985
Pg. 197:
One of the best educated men of his time, Jefferson believed that only an educated citizenry could make wise decisions.

Google Groups: misc.education
Student Aid Cuts : Senator Kennedy Needs Your Letters Now! Disabled
Beth Kevles
6/13/95
I’ve noticed that the discussion seems to be focusing on public education as charity, the rich subsidizing the education of the poor. I’d like to re-examine that premise, since my understanding of the purpose of public education differs from that of recent postings.

I see several purposes to public education.

1.  According to Thomas Jefferson and many who followed him, an educated citizenry is essential to democracy.  The more poorly educated a person is, the less likely he or she is to make good decisions at the voting booth, and the less likely to participate effectively in a democracy. Hence, it is in the best interests of the group (the country) to ensure that all citizens acquire a decent education, even at the public expense.

Twitter
vaxen_var
@vaxen_var
A Nation’s best defense is an educated citizenry Thomas Jefferson
8:51 PM · Feb 5, 2009·Twitter Web Client

Google Books
Congressional Record
Pg. 15558 (June 15, 2009):
Thomas Jefferson once said that an educated citizenry will ensure a free society. He was right then. That is right now.

Twitter
Brian Romans 🏔🌊
@clasticdetritus
Thomas Jefferson: “An informed and educated citizenry is necessary for self-government.”—note that it does not say ‘misinformed’
11:43 AM · Aug 21, 2009·Twitter Web Client

Newspapers.com
28 August 2009, Courier-Post (Camden, NJ), “Letters to the editor,” pg. 15A, cols. 4-5:
Thomas Jefferson said, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”
(...)
ROY LEHMAN
Woolwich

Twitter
CDS Group
@VideoMinutes
“A democratic society depends upon an informed and educated citizenry.”
— Thomas Jefferson #opengov Pennsylvania http://tinyurl.com/yb6gmr6
10:19 AM · Feb 11, 2010·Twitter Web Client

Twitter
Awake
@asleep_awake
Replying to @retsooWmartreB
@rushlimbang “An Educated Citizenry Is A Vital Requisite For Our Survival As A Free People” Thomas Jefferson
7:36 PM · May 11, 2010·Twitter Web Client

Business Insider
19 Famous Thomas Jefferson ‘Quotes’ That He Actually Never Said At All
Walt Hickey Sep 17, 2013, 1:45 PM
(...)
5. “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”
While an accurate interpretation of Jefferson’s opinions on education, the origin of this “quote” is an article on PickTheBusiness.com. The Internet was not available to Jefferson nor any of his contemporaries, as far as we know.

Words Alive
Thomas Jefferson Didn’t Say That & Why It Matters
Words Alive May 8, 2017
BY CHRISTINE RICHARDSON
(...)
Speaking of which, have a think about this familiar quote: “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” This quote is often attributed to Thomas Jefferson. However, there is no evidence he ever said it. Why is this important? The meaning of the quote is very powerful and is said to nicely summarize Jefferson’s views on education. But, he never actually said it. We know this because of historical records kept by libraries and archives.

Washington (DC) Free Beacon
Dem Rep Celebrates Education Week by Tweeting Fake Jefferson Quote
David Rutz - NOVEMBER 19, 2019 2:45 PM
A Democratic congresswoman on Tuesday celebrated American Education Week by tweeting out a quote erroneously attributed to President Thomas Jefferson.

Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D., Tex.) tweeted an image of Jefferson overlaid with the quote, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityEducation/Schools • Tuesday, November 19, 2019 • Permalink