FACT CHECK: Did George Washington Say This Quote About Liberty?

Aislinn Murphy | Fact Check Reporter

A Facebook post credits founding father George Washington with saying, “It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon the supposition he may abuse.”

Verdict: False

There is no evidence that this quote originated with Washington. It may actually have been penned by British statesman Oliver Cromwell in a 1650 letter.

Fact Check:

Washington, along with the other founding fathers, has become a popular target for misattributed quotes. (RELATED: Did Benjamin Franklin Say, ‘Tell Me And I Forget, Teach Me And I May Remember, Involve Me And I Learn’?)

His estate at Mount Vernon has received so many inquiries over the years about quotes attributed to the nation’s first president that they now keep a running list of “spurious quotations.” An internet search revealed that this specific expression appears on that list.

“The library verified that this quote was not from George Washington,” writes his Mount Vernon Estate, “though [it] has not [been] able to trace its actual origins.”

Indeed, there is no evidence that Washington ever made the statement attributed to him in the Facebook post. The Daily Caller found it nowhere in his written works or recorded speeches.

The expression may actually come from a 1650 letter written by Cromwell to Sir Walter Dundas, who was the governor of Edinburgh Castle at the time. A 17th century British statesman and military leader, Cromwell led the parliamentary forces against the monarchy during the English Civil War and later ruled the Commonwealth as lord protector.

“It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy, to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon a supposition he may abuse it,” wrote Cromwell. “When he doth abuse it, judge. If a man speak foolishly, ye suffer him gladly.”

Aislinn Murphy

Fact Check Reporter
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