Example: [Collected via e-mail, June 2012]
"If the people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in a sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny." - Thomas Jefferson
Origins: Notes on the State of Virginia was the only full-length book by Thomas Jefferson which was published during his lifetime. Initially finished in 1781 (with additional updates in 1782 and 1783), the book was presented in a format which had Jefferson responding to questions about Virginia which had been posed to him in 1780 by François Barbé-Marbois, the Secretary of the French delegation at Philadelphia. The completed work was first published anonymously in Paris in 1785; the first English edition appeared in London in 1787.
In response to a question about the various religious groups that had made their way into Virginia, Jefferson wrote:
Since the late 1990s, the sentence highlighted above has been transformed into the statement "If the people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in a sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny" and proffered as a Founding Father's sagacious warning across the centuries about the dangers of government-run health care. But that isn't what Jefferson wrote, nor is it what he meant. Jefferson wasn't cautioning against the government's meddling with private medical practice and likening it to tyranny; he was suggesting that legislating morality was as futile as legislating what a person might swallow. His larger point was that we are the keepers of our own souls (in the sense of being free to practice whichever religion we choose), and the that state has no more right to govern our souls than it has to govern our bodies (by, for example, choosing our medicines and diets for us).
Last updated: 25 July 2012