FACT CHECK: Did Thomas Jefferson Say, ‘Democracy Is Nothing More Than Mob Rule’?

Aislinn Murphy | Assistant Managing Editor

An image shared on Facebook claims that founding father Thomas Jefferson once said, “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”

Verdict: False

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which runs his Monticello estate, says there is no evidence that Jefferson ever said this.

Fact Check:

Jefferson penned many notable quotations on politics during his lifetime. However, there is no evidence that he actually spoke or wrote these words.

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation found no record of the saying in Jefferson’s collected writings, listing it as a “spurious quotation” on its website. It has been falsely attributed to the nation’s third president since at least 2002, according to etymologist Barry Popik.

“‘Democracy is mob rule’ was not said by the founding fathers of the United States, although they did make some similar critical comments about pure democracy,” he wrote in a blog post.

A similar phrase appeared in the writings of the Greek historian Polybius. A more modern variation reads, “Democracy is mob rule, but with income taxes.”

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Aislinn Murphy

Assistant Managing Editor