The Bible is the source of liberty (Quotation)

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

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The statement, "the Bible is the source of liberty" has not been found in any writings of Thomas Jefferson.

The first known appearance of this quotation, attributed to Jefferson, is in the book Our Public Schools - Christian or Secular, by Renwick Harper Martin.[1] It could possibly be an inaccurate paraphrase of the famous line in the Declaration in Independence, "...they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." However, "endowed by their Creator with...Liberty" is not equivalent to "the Bible is the source of liberty."

This quotation has also appeared as the prelude to a longer quotation: "The Bible is the source of liberty. I have always said, and I always will say, that the studious perusal of the sacred volume will make better citizens." This complete quotation appears, attributed to Jefferson, in the published transcript of a Senate Subcommittee hearing in 1954.[2]

The second part of this quotation (starting with "I have always said...") has a much older pedigree. Daniel Webster, in a letter he wrote in 1852, described a conversation he had with Jefferson some twenty-seven years earlier, in which (Webster says) Jefferson said, "I have always said, and always will say, that the studious perusal of the sacred volume will make better citizens, better fathers, and better husbands."[3] This letter first appeared in print in


  1. Renwick Harper Martin, [Our Public Schools - Christian or Secular,] (National Reform Association, 1952), 39.
  2. Christian amendment. Hearings before a subcommittee, Eighty-third Congress, second session, on S.J. Res. 87, proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States recognizing the authority and law of Jesus Christ. May 13, 17, 1954. (Washington: GPO, 1954), 45
  3. Daniel Webster to Professor Pease, 15 June 1852. [ Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1903), 16:656.