FACT CHECK: Did Thomas Jefferson Say, ‘Information Is The Currency Of Democracy’?

Aislinn Murphy | Fact Check Reporter

A post shared on Facebook claims that founding father Thomas Jefferson once said, “Information is the currency of democracy.”

Verdict: False

The expression does not appear anywhere in Jefferson’s writings.

Fact Check:

Jefferson is such a popular target for misattribution that his estate at Monticello keeps a list of “spurious quotations.” (RELATED: Did Thomas Jefferson Say, ‘Democracy Is Nothing More Than Mob Rule’?)

The quotation appears on that list, along with numerous other sayings falsely attributed to him. “We currently have no evidence to confirm that Thomas Jefferson ever said or wrote, ‘Information is the currency of democracy,’” reads the Monticello website.

“The earliest known attribution to Thomas Jefferson (in print) is dated 1987, although this may have happened earlier,” the website continues. “Print sources more commonly attribute this quotation to Ralph Nader.”

Nader, a political activist, included the expression unattributed in remarks he made in 1971, later published in The New York Times.

Nonetheless, The Daily Caller searched a collection of Jefferson’s quotes and letters, as well as the “Papers of Thomas Jefferson,” but found no record of the expression in either.

John Boles, a retired Rice University professor and Jefferson biographer, told The Caller via email, “No, Jefferson did not say this. It is spuriously attributed to him.”

“I have never come across that remark,” confirmed Gordon Wood, author of “Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson,” in an email to The Caller. “But it fits with his sentiments.”

Another expert, Robert McDonald of the United States Military Academy, told the Caller in an email that Jefferson had expressed a similar sentiment in an 1816 letter from Jefferson to his contemporary Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours, which reads, “Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.”

Aislinn Murphy

Fact Check Reporter
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