FACT CHECK: Did Thomas Jefferson Say, ‘Dissent Is The Highest Form Of Patriotism’?

David Sivak | Fact Check Editor

An image shared on Facebook claims that founding father Thomas Jefferson once said, “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.”

Verdict: False

The expression appears nowhere in Jefferson’s writings.

Fact Check:

Sayings are so often misattributed to Jefferson that his estate at Monticello keeps a running list of “spurious quotations.” (RELATED: Did Thomas Jefferson Say, ‘When Injustice Becomes Law, Resistance Becomes Duty’?)

A quick Google search reveals that this quotation appears in that list – Monticello investigated it more than a decade ago, finding the words nowhere in Jefferson’s collected works. “Its true origins are uncertain, but the saying may have entered popular culture during the Vietnam era,” it writes on its website, to signify opposition to the war.

In a 1969 speech at Columbia University, New York City Mayor John Lindsay said, “The fact is that this dissent is the highest form of patriotism. It is the peaceful American way to turn the nation away from a self-defeating course.”

Variations of the quote date back to the early 1900s, according to research by etymologist Barry Popik. “Many times the highest form of civic patriotism lies in criticising your town for all you are worth,” reads one variation that appeared in The Zanesville Signal in 1925.

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David Sivak

Fact Check Editor
Follow David on Twitter Have a fact check suggestion? Send ideas to [email protected].


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