Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty (Quotation)

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

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Quotation: "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."


  1. "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance."

Sources consulted: (searching on the phrase "eternal vigilance")

  1. Papers of Thomas Jefferson Digital Edition
  2. Ford's Works of Thomas Jefferson
  3. Lipscomb-Bergh Edition (via Google Books)
  4. UVA EText Jefferson Digital Archive: Texts by or to Thomas Jefferson from the Modern English Collection
  5. Thomas Jefferson Retirement Papers

Earliest known appearance in print: 1800 (in the form above)Cite error 4; Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no name must have content[1]

Earliest known appearance in print, attributed to Jefferson: 1888[2]

Other attributions: Patrick Henry, Junius

Status: We currently have no evidence to confirm that Thomas Jefferson ever said or wrote, "If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed."

Comments: This quotation may well have originated in Ronald Reagan's statement for National Library Week in 1981, in which he said, "If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, as Jefferson cautioned, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed." Reagan does not specifically attribute this wording to Jefferson, so we believe that Reagan's paraphrase has become mistaken for Jefferson's exact words.


  1. To establish the earliest appearance of this phrase in print, the following sources were searched for the phrases, "eternal vigilance" and "price of liberty": Google Books, Google Scholar,, Internet Archive, America's Historical Newspapers, American Broadsides and Ephemera Series I, Early American Imprints Series I and II, Early English Books Online, Eighteenth Century Collections Online, 19th Century U.S. Newspapers, American Periodicals Series Online, JSTOR.
  2. A Friend of Temperance, "Non-partisanship;" or, "Do not take temperance into politics" (Philadelphia: Dunlap & Clarke, 1888), 124.

See Also

Further Sources