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)[1][2]

Earliest known appearance in print, attributed to Jefferson: 1888[3]

Other attributions: Patrick Henry, Junius

Status: We currently have no evidence to confirm that Thomas Jefferson ever said or wrote, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty" or any of its variants.

Comments: This quotation was well-known in the nineteenth century, and was in fact used by a number of famous figures, including Frederick Douglass and James Buchanan. It is most often traced back, ultimately, to John Philpot Curran's statement, "The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."[4]


  1. x
  2. 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.
  3. A Friend of Temperance, "Non-partisanship;" or, "Do not take temperance into politics" (Philadelphia: Dunlap & Clarke, 1888), 124.
  4. See Suzy Platt, ed., Respectfully Quoted (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1993), 200.

See Also

Further Sources