Many of the quotes attributed to the Founding Fathers in two of Rand Paul’s books are either fake, misquoted, or taken entirely out of context, BuzzFeed News has found.
Paul’s first two books — Government Bullies, which was an e-book best-seller, and The Tea Party Goes to Washington — lay out the conservative manifesto he hoped to bring to Washington following the tea party wave in 2010.
A heavy theme in Paul’s books is that the tea party movement is the intellectual heir to the Founding Fathers, with Paul often arguing he knows what position our country’s earliest leaders would have had on certain issues.
The final line in Paul’s book The Tea Party Goes to Washington is a fake sentiment attributed to Jefferson:
The Constitution is very clear about it. The Tea Party’s job is to keep making things clearer, and this is only the beginning. It is not a job that will be finished overnight or even in an election cycle. Thomas Jefferson believed that the price of liberty was eternal vigilance — and now the Tea Party must prove it.
“We currently have no evidence to confirm that Thomas Jefferson ever said or wrote” this phrase, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation has said of “the price of liberty was eternal vigilance,” which Paul uses twice in his book.
Earlier, Paul used another fake Jefferson quote:
In their wisdom, the Founding Fathers— whose Constitution was supposed to restrain our rulers— would have likely made the same prediction. Jefferson wrote, “My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.” This has certainly been true of too much government intervention, as well as attempts to administer too many government benefits.
“This exact quotation has not been found in any of the writings of Thomas Jefferson,” writes the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.
Writing on the Patriot Act, Paul again cites a fake Jefferson quote.
“This sort of invasiveness is also precisely the reason we have a Second Amendment protecting our right to keep and bear arms, or as Jefferson wrote ‘The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.’”
As noted by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, “this quotation has not been found in any of the writings of Thomas Jefferson.”
Later, writing on Obamacare, Paul cites a different fake Jefferson quote.
When Thomas Jefferson wrote that a “government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have,” he could have easily been referencing Obamacare.
“Neither this quotation nor any of its variant forms has been found in the writings of Thomas Jefferson,” writes the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. The foundation notes that it has been attributed to Gerald Ford, though an assistant to Ford said he heard it from someone else.
Another quote cited by Paul from Jefferson appears to be a misquote.
“To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical,” reads the Jefferson quote at the beginning on one chapter.
As noted by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, this quote comes from Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and the original actually reads, “to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.”
Paul also uses a fake George Washington quote.
Such is the nature of government, which is precisely why the Founders viewed military use, even when warranted, as something that should be definite and limited. George Washington told us: “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force…. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.” Science tells us that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Yet today it seems we are much less hesitant to use government action, whether abroad or domestically, than the Founders could have ever imagined. The Founding Fathers also would not be surprised to see that trying to solve problems with continuous government action creates its own set of problems. Not surprisingly, the majority of what our federal government does today, abroad or domestically, also continues to take place well outside the parameters of the Constitution.
The quote, as noted by professor Eugene Volokh and Fred Shapiro, editor of the Yale Book of Quotations, is also fake.
“This is undoubtedly apocryphal, like many other quotations attributed to Lincoln or Washington,” said Shapiro. “No one has ever found any evidence that Washington said it.”
Later in the book, a quote from Benjamin Franklin is used out of context. In the context of the quote as used in the 1750s, Franklin was actually speaking in support of not only taxation but also defense spending.
Who’s to say the Tea Party won’t become the government’s next target under the PATRIOT Act? Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety,” and Americans who continue to support unconstitutional intrusions into the private lives of their fellow citizens will inevitably learn the same lesson.
As noted by Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the editor of Lawfare blog, the letter from Franklin concerned a dispute between the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the Penn family.
“He was writing about a tax dispute between the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the family of the Penns, the proprietary family of the Pennsylvania colony who ruled it from afar,” Wittes said recently on NPR.
“And the legislature was trying to tax the Penn family lands to pay for frontier defense during the French and Indian War. And the Penn family kept instructing the governor to veto. Franklin felt that this was a great affront to the ability of the legislature to govern. And so he actually meant purchase a little temporary safety very literally. The Penn family was trying to give a lump sum of money in exchange for the General Assembly’s acknowledging that it did not have the authority to tax it.”
Paul also mischaracterized this quote in his second book, Government Bullies, on two separate occasions with slightly different variations.
Writes Paul in his book, “as Benjamin Franklin famously said and our Founders knew well, those who trade liberty for security get neither.”
Then, Paul cites a fake Thomas Jefferson quote again to lead off the chapter “Living Everyday in Fear of Your Government.”
“When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny,” Paul cites Jefferson as saying.
But again, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation notes they “have not found any evidence that Thomas Jefferson said or wrote” these remarks.
Paul’s chapter “Paved With Good Intentions” also starts off with a mischaracterized Jefferson quote.
“If people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as the souls who live under tyranny,” Paul attributes to Jefferson.
As noted again by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, “This quotation has never been found in Jefferson’s papers in its above form, but it is most likely a paraphrase of Jefferson’s statement in Notes on the State of Virginia, “Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now.”
Paul’s chapter “How Can We Solve the Problem” starts off with a quote from former President James Madison that is likewise disputed.
“If tyranny and oppression come to this land it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy,” Paul quotes Madison saying.
In the past three weeks, Paul has misattributed a quote to former President Abraham Lincoln (a quote he again repeated in a speech today) and used a fake quote from Founding Father Patrick Henry. Previously, Paul used a fake Thomas Jefferson quote in his Senate victory speech.
Paul’s campaign declined to comment, and the book publisher did not respond to request for comment.
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